Why Buying Negative Domains Puts Your Brand on Offense
So, this story caught my eye because of the domain registration aspect of it. The story seems at its core to be written to embarrass or implicate the President as opposed to giving business owners good sound advice. There is a definite lesson for business owners to learn from this story.
The people managing the Trump brand must be applauded for proactively protecting it. The purchase of negative domains is a smart choice with huge implications that small business owners should understand and act on.
As any successful small business owner knows, not all customers are above reproach. Some have an unrealistic expectation or standard. Or, they have gone out of the way to create a circumstance. I was waiting tables back in college and I will never forget the family of 14 that orders 14 lobster dinners. When they were done, we watched them open a matchbox and let a few roaches out on the table, call the manager over and demand their dinner for free. That was so 1980s. But in 2017, the issues are far more complex and far reaching and longer lasting. The internet has a memory, and as anyone can tell you deciphering the truth at times can be difficult.
History of Domain Registration
Back in the 90s domains were expensive. From 1992-1999, domains were provided by Network Solution on a private government contract. In 1998, ICANN was born to oversee the deregulation of the domain market and by 1999, there were 15 companies approved to be a domain registrar, with ICANN making the rules to keep the peace and protect the consumer. During this period, you didn’t see people registering thousands of domains. And frankly, businesses weren’t too savvy about this.
2000: The Year That Changed How to Buy a Domain
In 2000, domain buying changed forever. The marketplace became competitive and the 15 new registrars hit the street. Register.com, Domain.com and of course Networksolutions.com were now selling domains and pricing dropped almost immediately from $75 a year to $35, and then into freefall. Standard domain registration still costs $11 for the rights to buy them from the registry and then resell them back to you. But you will find them anywhere from free on up to $40 depending on the company. Often companies use domains now as a free promotional item, ACTWD being one of them.
With cost no longer a consideration, this change brought with it a lot of other challenges that no one ever really considered.
- Domains were bought as investments – Many folks thought domains that were not previously registered was because of cost. Windows.com, Business.com were amount the few biggies and they became instant lottery tickets.
- Domains were bought to extort money – Domains were often purchased to elicit a payday. People would pay high dollar to recapture a domain that was important to their brand. This is known as cyber squatting.
- Domains were bought to confuse – Domains were sometimes bought to cause brand confusion and misdirect people to erroneous pages.
- And some domains were bought – to defame, complain or disparage.
ICANN did step in and make some terms of service that stopped people from buying domains to confuse people or allowing them to squat on domains that they were not entitled to. However, in many cases it did force a legal action. In most cases, the resolution left the domain with the original owner, not the perceived owner.
For example, a Texas senator’s name was used for a domain that in fact pointed to a website for another political party. It is our opinion that registering any domain related to the brand is the right move. If you can think of it, so can they. Read on.
After Market Domains
The next cottage industry that sprung up in this wild west of domain ownership era is what has become known as the aftermarket. These are domains that expire accidently and are picked up by someone else. Now initially, it was not uncommon to grab a domain within a day or two of it expiring.
ICANN has also passed regulations to deal with this as well and I’ve written about domain redemptions in the past. But once a domain falls out of redemption it can be auctioned. These auctions can be expensive.
And There are Those Who Suck
And then there are individuals that buy out domains with the word sucks in them. Some corporations do own those names. Famous people, even recent former presidents seemed to have allowed those domains to remain unclaimed, or missed the boat. It is stunning to me how many corporations do not have their name and the word sucks, stinks, fraud or scam after it in their domain portfolio, and therefore not within their control.
A Good Defense is an Aggressive Offense
So, for any small to mid-size business that reads this post, please register your domain with any negative connotations that can affect your bottom line. If you are a down line marketing company, retail energy provider or greeting card company, you might want to consider your company name and pyramid scheme or adding the word fraud, scam or sucks. Be as vindictive as you can and come up with any variant. The more variations you can come up with the more protected you are against a disgruntled employee or customer who can make a lot of trouble for your company.
As for the Trump Organization, kudos to them for being proactive and shutting down rogue websites that bear the name. It is not an indictment or admission of guilt. Rather, it is a proactive blunting of someone who may want to harm his family’s company. The only thing it makes him is smart. Best of all, he is leading by example and teaching the nation’s businesses a lesson in branding that all business leaders need to learn regardless of their size. Love him or hate him, this is the proper course of action for anyone in charge of protecting a corporate brand.