January 10, 2011

  • Happy Birthday You Wonderful Old Domain

    I almost forgot to mention that today is the 15th anniversary of schafer.com.

    I registered the domain for personal use back in 1996 and it’s had something on it pretty much ever since. It’s been a resume for me, a list of links, a corporate site for while I was self-employeed for many years, and since 2001 it’s had a blog attached to it (my first blog post was July 4th, 2001).

    Interestingly enough, and entirely coincidentally, today is also my fourth anniversary on Twitter.

    I wonder what the Internet will look like fifteen years from now?

    When did you buy your first domain name and what did you do with it when you first started out online?

March 27, 2007

March 15, 2007

February 6, 2006

  • Major Canadian Brands Launch New Looks

    My guess is there will be lots of Monday-morning quarterbacking about three big marketing events this weekend:

    • Bell pushed their “talking beavers” branding campaign featuring Frank and Gordon into high gear.
    • The Globe and Mail rolled out a new version of their globeandmail.com website featuring a very blog-like approach.
    • Global Television introduced their re-branding during the Superbowl.

    We’ll most likely have analysis on the first two shortly but wanted to give you folks a chance for early reactions. What do you think of the new Bell, Globe & Mail, and Global campaigns? Any thoughts on the wisdom of tying these things so closely to the Superbowl when loads of deep-pocketed American brands are trying to get the attention of the press and public?

    Bell’s new mascots — two talking beavers named Frank and Gordon — have an eponymous website — frankandgordon.ca. I’m glad to see that the folks working on the site heeded One Degree’s recent advice and allow people to drop the “www” and still get to the site. I also really like that they registered the .com version of the domain but still use the .ca in the ads to make it clear this is a Canadian thing.

    Frank. Or is that Gordon?

    Unfortunately, they didn’t read an older One Degree post called How To Add Spell-check To Your Domain Names (go read it, I’ll wait). Now there might be some obvious typo domains that they could have registered (and they may have for that matter — I didn’t check them all), but I know they missed a really big and obvious problem with that domain. Imagine this scenario which is close but not quite what Bell’s marketers imagined happening:

    Jimmy: “Dad, those beavers are funny. Can we go to their website to expand our brand experience interactively?”

    Dad: “Well Jimmy, what do you say we get on the ol’ interweb and Google some beavers.” (Okay I might have just found the second problem.)

    Jimmy: “No Dad, the commercial had their address at the end.”

    Dad: “What was it, Jimmy?”

    Jimmy: “Uh, well it was the names of the beavers — Gordon and Frank. Yeah, it was gordonandfrank.ca.”

    Dad: “Okay, let’s go to gordonandfrank.ca”.

    See the problem? It’s frankandgordon.ca, not gordonandfrank.ca. And Bell didn’t think to register the alternate. What would Gordon say about this clear case of favoritism? So, what do you get when you go to gordonandfrank.ca you may ask? Why (after DNS updates), you get the very page you are now reading.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on February 6, 2006.

August 20, 2005

  • Really Long URLs for Slim-Fast Promo

    Marketing Magazine’s August 15th issue has an article called “The Spot’s Next Shot” that gives details on a new cross-channel campaign from Slim-Fast:

    “I’m not sure whether it is the way to the future, but it’s definitely a breakthrough for the category that we operate in,” says Sinem Uner, brand manager of Slim-Fast at Unilever in Toronto. “I think it’s a much better way to intrigue consumers.” In Slim-Fast’s case, the decision to use short spots on HGTV, Life, Showcase and the Food Network to drive consumers to the Web made sense when research found Slim-Fast’s target market of women 25 to 54 often uses the Internet as an information source.

    What’s more, psychographic data found Slim-Fast’s target group is comprised of often-frustrated dieters who are bombarded with messages on health and weight loss from various media. “When they hear about these things, they’re more likely to surf the Web,” Uner says. Enter dietingsucks.ca, a lighthearted domain name “that taps into our consumer insight and empathy.”

    Along with a minisite at dietingsucks.ca, the campaign featured some of the longest domain names I’ve ever seen used in a consumer campaign, namely ibarelyhavetimetopeeletalonediet.ca and iworkouthardsowhyismybuttsoft.ca.

    While the URLS are clever and probably pique the audience’s interest, I’m sure they had significant drop off in web traffic from people not being able to recall the domains. I couldn’t remember them in the time it took me to open a new browser window after reading the Marketing article so I can imagine lots of people where left playing a guessing game when they got to their computers minutes, hours, or days after seeing the commercial.

    On the other hand, dietingsucks.ca is a great domain for this campaign. One of the nice things about Canadian campaigns is that short useful domains like that are still to be had.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 20, 2005.

August 10, 2005

  • Did Tucows Get Off Easy?

    I’ve been thinking about our “Liberty Village Renamed Toronto’s Porn Alley”.

    Is it just me or did Tucows get off really easy here? In the MSNBC version of the Dateline NBC story, it says (emphasis mine):

    We arrive at the address. It’s a postal drop — just a little mailbox. It seems like a dead end. But when we go back to our computer we find there’s another Toronto company affiliated with “Spunkfarm.” This one is called “Python,” and there’s even an address. Maybe the porn mailer is there. We go to the location, not a mail drop. But it certainly doesn’t look like an office. The space was going to be a Middle Eastern restaurant. Another dead end.

    There is one place in Toronto that might help us: It’s called Tucows. That’s the place that registers those Web site names. It’s what led us to Toronto to begin with. The receptionist is happy to look up the name “Spunkfarm” for us. We get another address — this one very nearby.

    My reading of this story is that Dateline didn’t know what to do after looking at the WHOIS for the site in the story. But when they went to Tucows, the receptionist gave them the real address of the people involved. If Tucows hadn’t handed over the information to an undercover reporter this story may never have surfaced. It seems that Joey’s post nicely deflected the privacy issue by picking on the sensationalistic aspects of the story (which there certainly were). And Tucows CEO’ blog is silent on this (and has been silent all year for that matter). Had Steve Rubel picked this up like it was a Kryptonite lock they might not be off the hook so fast. Joey is clearly a nice guy, a smart blogger, and well-loved by most in the blogosphere. It seems that his post diffused what might have been an issue had he not been there. Maybe Joey is a valuable resource for Tucows much as Scoble is for Microsoft in that they both serve as lightning rods for the blogosphere — taking the hit to leave the corporate message intact. And because they were out there ahead of controversy they are more likely not be jumped on like a blogless Kryptonite or clueless Dell.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 10, 2005.

August 6, 2005

  • Liberty Village Renamed “Toronto’s Porn Alley”

    Oh dear.

    Last night Dateline NBC ran a piece on tracking down porn spammers.

    If you missed the piece, you’ll definitely want to check out the MSNBC version of the show— everyone is going to be talking about this around the water cooler Monday.

    The feature (which long-time anti-spam activist Ray Everett Church points out was shot six months ago) starts when a Texas housewife gets zoo-sex spam and calls John Hockenberry instead of hitting delete. Hockenberry takes up the case and near the end of the second page we find out that:

    Sadly, no owners are listed on the Web site itself, but Web sites have to be registered, kind of like a car has to be registered. And we found the place that keeps those registrations. We were told that “Spunkfarm” was associated with a company in Toronto, Canada.

    Whoever sent Julie those pictures is in a nice place like Toronto?

    There is one place in Toronto that might help us: It’s called Tucows. That’s the place that registers those Web site names. It’s what led us to Toronto to begin with. The receptionist is happy to look up the name “Spunkfarm” for us. We get another address — this one very nearby. We discover that down these dingy alleys of old industrial buildings, and a man on the street tells us that the whole area here is all dot-coms. “Mostly, mostly porn though,” he adds. We’re at Toronto’s Internet porn district. The man takes us around back to the freight elevator and gives an idea what goes on inside this building. There are more companies that seem to see porn within the building. At this point, no one knows we are with “Dateline” or that we’re wearing hidden cameras. We find the building and start asking questions…

    I’m sure Tucows isn’t going to be too happy with being called “the place that registers those Web site names” but I think they might also have to do some spin doctoring on why they’re giving out customer addresses to anyone who stops by reception. I won’t recap the rest of the article, but I will tell you that they do in fact find the spammers and not only are they in Liberty Village but in Montreal.

    While digging around a bit on this I found Brian McWilliams’ Spam Kings blog for his book of the same name. Interesting insider stuff (apparently the guy in Montreal is a “chickenboner”). He’s got some great links to stuff MSNBC didn’t mention. “Republic of T” takes a different approach in “Idiots with Email” pointing out that a spam filter might be easier than calling in Dateline. In the comments there someone echoes June’s inbox license rant.

    It’s interesting how this plays out — the locals find it ironic, while over at LiveJournal some are suggesting “Toronto’s porn alley” should be part of our guided tours:

    “And did you know that there is a whole underground internet porn industry in this one section of the city?!?!?! There were all these old industrial buildings that now house as said before, internet porn. And when we were there WHY did we not go there?”

    Maybe we should replace “Toronto Unlimited” with “Visit Toronto’s Porn Alley”.

    Update: Image taken from York Heritage Properties. I hope they don’t mind.

    Update 2: Apparently they do mind. Image removed.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 6, 2005.

April 27, 2004

  • Gag URL Marketing?

    I’m seeing more offline to online campaigns that seem to be built around gag sites.

    There are currently Mott’s ads running on TV in Canada that show inept Bloody Caesar drinkers getting poked in the eye by celery stalks. The last few seconds of the ad include a discrete URL in the bottom corner sending you to www.celeristis.com.

    The site (a fictional research group looking into this affliction) points to Abrams & Ross who seem to be working on a class action suit for sufferers, and both gag sites point to an article on the topic at the CELERY (a not-so-subtle parody of the ONION).

    I’m not so sure that this strategy will work. My guess is that putting legitimate URLs on screen will get more useful traffic than this and there really isn’t much to make the campaign “go viral”.

    The site really seems to be about getting names for a list. I signed up and here’s what I got about 10 minutes later:

November 8, 2003

  • Kudos: United Way Toronto

    Kudos to the United Way of Greater Toronto.

    Originally the non-profit organization used the very short www.uwgt.org as their official web address. That address was used on all advertising online and offline. This year’s campaign uses www.unitedwaytoronto.com.

    While “uwgt” is 12 characters shorter than the new address, the longer address is in fact much easier to remember.

    UWGT stands for United Way Greater Toronto, but how many of us would know or remember that? In this case, the longer URL means more typing, but a better chance of being remembered. And people tend to default to “.com”, so replacing the “.org” was also smart. Well done.

    Wisely, the webmaster has retained the old URL and pointed it to the new site.

    Unfortunately they forgot to redirect unitedwaytoronto.com to www.unitedwaytoronto.com, so visitors omitting the “dub-dub-dub” will be left thinking the site is down.

September 15, 2003

  • dugg.ca

    People are starting to talk about the subliminal ads in the recent McDonald’s Canada TV ads.

    During the ad you will notice the URL dugg.ca. The URL is carved into a bench in one scene, a licence plate on the grand prize a few times, and a subliminal insert in other shots.

    This might be something that McDonald’s is doing (as suggested by Marketing Wonk in their McDonald’s Has Lost Its Mind post).

    Or it may be more along the lines of Vicker’s vote2day.com offline to online effectiveness campaign last year (which was absolutely brilliant by the way).

    dugg.ca is registered to The Marketing Store.

July 30, 2003

  • Thought

    News.com “Air France wins ‘typosquatting’ case”:

    “French carrier Air France won on Wednesday the right to take over a Web site that uses a garbled version of its name apparently to steer business toward other travel companies and some finance firms.

    The ruling, the latest in a growing number of ‘typosquatting’ cases, was handed down by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which runs an arbitration service for Internet name disputes.”

    I’ve long recommended that companies register typos and common variations of their site, corporate, and brand names and point them to their official site. You should do this to a) help users who want to visit your site but don’t type well and b) to avoid typosquatting. Note that a lot of people won’t realize they made a typo and will assume that YOU have a problem.

July 10, 2001

  • Thought

    Kozmo.com or Cosmo.com? (or Kosmo.com? Or Cozmo.com?)

    Okay, the example isn’t that great now that Kozmo is no more, but I was always struck by the poor choice of name for a netco.

    Online, puns and cute names are a hinderance. While every hairdresser in the world works on some cute pun, think about whether you could find your site if you heard about it on the radio.