It's no secret that breaking through the clutter and forging a strong, lasting and loyal connection with consumers is becoming increasingly important—and harder each day to do—in a fast-moving, noisy and crowded market, especially one where consumers can band together on social media to declare a product, a company or an individual good or bad in an instant. It's why companies devote so much time and energy to being authentic: Anything less makes it hard for consumers to care and easier for them to dismiss a brand or product that's not already essential to their well-being.
Now, consider the current generation of targeted consumers. They are young, mobile, inclusive and looking for the whole story—the good and the bad—before making a decision to buy (or buy into) a brand. After all, criticism is all too common in the digital world and often comes at companies from every angle, with varying degrees of intensity, every day.
So when the governing body of the Internet made the top-level domain .sucks available—which meant anyone could buy any name, person, product or company with the extension .sucks at the end of it—it was anticipated that the advertising industry would be an early adopter. Sure, companies that were dealing with crises might want in on it, too (think Volkswagen, Wells Fargo and
In many ways, consumer criticism is every company's worst nightmare, but for this rising demographic of consumers, they see the democratization of feedback—both positive and negative—as expected and essential to progress. Likewise, the term "sucks" is no longer just a pejorative; it is a point of emphasis, a call to action. In the post-ironic world of Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, "sucks" is a knowing nod to the fact that none of us are perfect, and it is the kind of social glue that consumers seek out and that companies should seek to apply.
The advertising world has already awoken to the potential power of "sucks" and all of its built-in potential to build brand awareness and encourage purchase. There was, for example, the Taco Bell ad campaign designed to promote its new hand-held grilled stuffed nacho under the cover of its tagline, "Sharing sucks." There was also the Jolly Rancher ad campaign that broke with last year's NFL season, featuring running back Todd Gurley admitting that "Being a rookie sucks." Then there was Gett, the global, on-demand transportation company that promotes #SurgeSucks for obvious, competitive reasons. And right now on the highways in Texas, Snap Kitchen is running an outdoor ad campaign promoting its healthy cuisine under the watchful eye of billboards exclaiming, "Healthy eating sucks."
These campaigns are vanguards in the movement to speak the consumer's language rather than getting them to speak yours. But they could be making an even sharper distinction by turning what has typically been a common tool in communications—the URL—into a real weapon. This is one of the assets that the .sucks platform offers.
Today, nearly every ad campaign drives back to a URL—a domain name—as a way to root the story to the web. Sometimes they register a new one; sometimes they add to an existing one; sometimes they'll pick a domain name without intrinsic meaning so as not to confuse the campaign message. The .sucks platform changes that by galvanizing consumer sentiment and giving the domain name and related campaign unmistakable meaning and incredible recall potential.
Which brings me to www.badbreath.sucks.
We all know it does. We worry that we have it, and we avoid those who don't take care of it. It is a real problem that can get in the way of even the easiest conversation, let alone one when trapped on a long-distance flight. So what better way to get someone to consider your toothpaste, mints, gum or other brand than to find a common ground that both you and the consumer can agree on?
If you gave yourself five minutes to think about it, you could come up with a list of companies whose brand personalities could easily benefit from leveraging a .sucks URL.
Virgin America could work competitive wonders with www.flying.sucks.
T-Mobile is the obvious mobile carrier who could immediately benefit from www.yourdataplan.sucks.
And Arby's, already on the rebound by taking an off-center approach to advertising in this age of watch-what-you-eat, could just as well say "we've got the meats" at www.mealswithoutmeat.sucks.
At least that's how many of the consumers that companies seek to reach see it. Seeing it any other way, well, just sucks.
About the Author
John Berard is the CEO of Vox Populi Registry, the company that has brought dotSucks domain names to the Internet. The position leverages his track record as an Internet advocate and public relations executive. As an agency executive, he forged a public relations agency in three "company towns," each the center of its own universe essential to corporate success: financial and corporate communications in New York; legal and issues-driven Washington; and the technology focused San Francisco. As an advocate, he was a founding member of the board of TRUSTe, the online privacy rights group, and served on the board of the International Association of Privacy Professionals
About the Sponsor
By building an easy-to-locate central town square available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the dotSucks platform is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism. Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization's customer relationship management program.