PR Whiteboard

Defensive Brand Strategy .Sucks

dotsucks
A topic related to domain names has been raising eyebrows – and plenty of questions – in marketing circles lately. Soon people will be able to purchase the .sucks top-level domain, and in doing so potentially create problems for brands and their hard-earned reputations.

Specifically, pundits are debating about the decision to acquire – or not – web addresses ending in .sucks as a preventive measure to protect a brand’s integrity and reputation. Should Panera, for example, acquire “Panera.sucks” to prevent others from potentially hijacking brand equity and creating PR nightmares? What should Walmart do? How about Comcast?

Having discussed this topic with the PR and social media management team here at Matter, I thought to share some opinion and perspective:

Acquiring .sucks domains – or anything similar – as a defensive measure is a greater step than any brand needs to take. Anyone doing business in the open market is subject to both support and critique, and steps related to reducing or eliminating high-profile criticism can be addressed in other manners, such as having the type of business/product/services that prevents such public negative critique in the first place. In addition, proposing to a client that they try to defensively acquire a .sucks domain opens a can of worms. If a similarly paranoid approach is employed consistently on behalf of an organization, the client may end up spending in a number of directions to protect their reputation (e.g., .stinks, .ass, .worthless – when they are available/common/etc.)

Some specific situations may require a client to acquire the .sucks domain, but I think that would be rare. I say find an alternate path and build a business that delivers an experience brands, and customers, feel positive about. There will always be detractors for any brand. When the outliers govern your brand strategy, the inmates are running the asylum.

What do you think? Should brands secure web addresses ending in .Sucks in the spirit of protecting their brand? Or is this much ado about .nothing?

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