We all know that choosing the right domain name in the digital age comes with consequences. Your domain is the first step in building digital trust for your brand. Domains can provide a fantastic head start in branding your company with a name that evokes positive, social and viral influence ahead of sales or could work to effectively ‘kill’ your target audience and therefore sales with boredom. But in the past few years, a new trend has emerged, one that says “getting attention”, whether intentionally or subconsciously, is a great way to achieve prominence and get people talking about your brand. Introducing: Semantic Pornography.
For years, most professional marketers and advertisers have lived by the adage that ‘sex sells’. This strategy was and is commonly used when promoting entertainment brands such as Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. But these ‘blurred lines’ have crossed into e-commerce and Business-to-Business. What is interesting to note, is that it doesn’t seem to be hurting the brand reputation of those who choose to use this unique technique. Whatever your moral position may be, ‘semantic pornography’ (new term I hope will get hash-tagged) in digital brand naming seems to be effective.
As Marlon Brando, playing a Japanese translator, said in Teahouse of the August Moon, a 1956 American comedy film satirizing the Americanization of the island of Okinawa following the end of World War II, “Pornography (is a) matter of geography.” In other words, what was once considered unacceptable, is now a powerful technique in promoting serious, professional web sites that help infect, promote and get more bang for your advertising buck (had enough puns yet?).
Case Study 1: The Culturally-Blind Semantic Pornographer
Historically, I am not an avid shopper of products sold via spam e-mail, but how can one ignore an invitation to visit a legitimate e-commerce site that sells electronics products at a discount with the name “Bang Good”. No, I am not kidding. Visit the site for yourself. www.BangGood.com is not a pornography site, but a legitimate Chinese-based e-commerce company that either doesn’t care what American shoppers think when they buy technology goods – or maybe they do?
Case Study 2: The Accidental Semantic Pornographer
Imagine that your company is called Dickson (baby was born this way) and is a leading manufacturer of high-tech data records that measure and record critical temperature, humidity and pressure data. A respected name in its community of influence, did anyone think in the marketing department that it is a good idea to call the domain name ‘DICKS ON DATA’? Behold the power of accidental semantic pornography. It’s certainly getting it on here: http://www.dicksondata.com/
Case Study 3: The Strategic Semantic Pornographer
One of the best domain names in the digital branding world belong to a law firm that strategically and (allegedly) intentionally decided that their digital brand persona matches what some of us would consider outrageously inappropriate. OK, we know there are hundreds of lawyer jokes but would you like your brand to be considered a MOFO? Apparently, the answer is YES if you are the distinguished and successful law firm of Morrison & Foerster of Washington DC. http://www.mofo.com/. Since 1996, according to the site, they have served as a trusted advisor in providing complex transactional law and legal counsel to Fortune 500 companies Why make it hard for people to pronounce your name, which would sound as stodgy as every other law firm? Instead, they just shortened it to “MOFO”. I’m certain their parents are proud. Not to mention, given Washington DC’s insidious culture of politics, one would probably rather hire a MOFO to have your back than a gentler, kinder counsel. But wait, there is more – they even have the MOFO Foundation. http://www.mofo.com/
So, what lessons can we learn from these real and lively domain names?
– Test your digital brand domain name across multiple cultures. In today’s global economy, from New York to Dubai to Frankfurt to Mumbai to Johannesburg, certain brand names may not mean, sound or spell the way you intended.
– Don’t automatically assume that ‘offensive’ is bad for your brand without third party validation. A significant goal of good branding is to evoke emotion and expedite the sales cycle to a transactional behavior. If you are not offending your target audience, but instead are inspiring them, then it’s not a bad thing.
– Master your domain at all times. Understand the intricate connection between your off-line, brick and mortar brand and your online brand. As mobile branding continues to explode, they will become one and the same.
– As Google Search and Facebook Search continue to expand their reach to mobile, make sure your SEO doesn’t lead people to a wrong target market you’d wish you never penetrated.