Recently I was featured in a cover story Here comes verizon.sucks, but will it help or hurt the company? at Yahoo News together with .Sucks registry Vox Populi, ICANN and Dan Jaffe from the Association of National Advertisers. We discussed the launch of .sucks. Should businesses defend their brand name or ignore this domain ending?
It’s an interesting discussion, and my advise is that you as a brand owner should boycott .sucks. Since the Sunrise launch one week ago already several brands and celebrities have registered “their” .sucks. This is a shame in my opinion, given that .sucks should be the consumer voice platform and secondly, because brands have given in to pay an exorbitant fee of USD 2.499.
Once and for all:
.Sucks is not for you – it’s for your unhappy customers
Any great brand will have to accept that they have unhappy customers. A .sucks platform is a strong consumer voice for sure, however it is also a platform, where you can see commonalities to why your product sucks, and you have the ability to communicate with your dissatisfied customers. Just imagine a scenario where you actually listen to them, improve your product and let them know about it afterwards.
A .sucks website didn’t invent the online consumer critics platform. There are already various ways for unhappy customers to say what they think about you. Blocking your .sucks won’t stop them.
Vox Populi’s exorbitant Sunrise price tag
At first Vox Populi, the .sucks registry, did appear to be on a mission to make sure that only unhappy customers could get their hands on a .sucks. It was rumored that the Sunrise fee would be set at USD 25.000 for trademark holders to scare away every one of them, before they would release unregistered domains to the public at USD 10 per domain. Something happened though, and the Sunrise fee was in the end set to USD 2.499, which is far more tangible for any internal IP department in the larger corporations. CEO John Berard from Vox Populi was quoted at World Trademark Review saying that : “a company with a trademark will derive value from managing its own ‘.sucks’ site”.
If that’s really true, then it does seem like extortion.
Susan Payne, who is the head of legal policy at Valideus, nailed it in the same World Trademark Review article. She commented: “My personal view on ‘.sucks’ is that no brands should seek a sunrise registration. I’d like to see people boycotting that particular registry. If they did – and I realize that this is unlikely – then the registry model is not looking so good. I do recognize that that is a difficult thing when you are an in-house lawyer sitting within a company and know people will be screaming at you if a ‘.sucks’ registration on your brands then materializes. But from my perspective I’d like to see no one register in ‘.sucks’.” The reality, though, is that the concern over being screamed at is overriding cost anxieties – on the presumption that registrations are indeed defensive rather than viewed as an opportunity to host a discussion site centered on the respective brands.
.Rocks wasn’t for you – it was for your fans. The same goes for .sucks. Let your unhappy customers build up a great database about what’s not so great about your product and learn from it. You can even send them the improved version of it as a thank you note. The Internet is about freedom of speech, and everyone has a right to utter what they think about your brand. Learn to embrace it.