My mom is pretty smart, but Dotdash.com still fails the “mom test.”
Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:
- About.com rebrands to Dotdash.com, but in doing so fails the “mom test.”
- SheaMoisture tries to expand its brand, but its core customers don’t like being left out.
- Facebook denies allowing advertisers to target emotional states, but do we believe them?
If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.
Transcript (forgive us for any typos):
Andy Beal: Welcome back for what we think will be another exciting episode of Reputation Rainmakers. Erin Jones is with me and Erin I really thought that AOL and Yahoo rebranding to Oath was going to be the craziest rebrand we’d see this year, but About.com is trying to take that challenge and be the winner for the year of the craziest brand. What are your thoughts on that?
Erin Jones: I feel like there has been a contest this year to try and see who can come up with the most difficult to say out loud name. I think brands are looking at what looks cool in writing and talking about it via email and is anyone saying these words out loud?
Andy Beal: Right, and for those of you not familiar with this, About.com which has been around for practically as long as the internet has been around, an informational site, guides if you like. They would hire guides to write about different topics and it would be like travel.about.com, something like that. They have decided that they are going to have individual brands for the different verticals, which some of which make sense. They’re going to rebrand the parent company from About.com to Dotdash.com. Now this kind of reason why I don’t think this is particularly a smart idea because it fails what I like to call my mom test. Have I told you about my mom test Erin?
Erin Jones: You have and I use that test for almost everything I do professional now.
Andy Beal: My mom is great and I love her and she’s actually pretty savvy, she’s got her iPad, she gets on the internet so it’s not really my mom but it’s any mom. It’s this fictional mom and basically the mom test is can you take the URL of your website, talk to your mom over the phone one time and tell her what it is, and can she type it in to her browser and go there without having to say, “Now how do you spell that, or tell me that one more time.” When you consider that you’ve got a new brand name with a website that could potentially be www.dotdash.com how the heck is someone supposed to know what to type into their browser?
Erin Jones: Say that three times fast too. It’s not an easy one to get out. Beyond the mom test I think I would have a hard time having a customer say it to me over the phone or try to convey it to a web developer. This I think is not just your typical user issue, but even highly technical people are going to stop and say, “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”
Andy Beal: Right, and you hit the nail on the head in your opening comments. I mean somebody sat around a table and thought, “Hey this is really cool, we can be dot dash, that sounds really internety right? That makes us trendy.” They say that there’s a homage there to the dot in About.com and all that kind of stuff, but what you’ve really got here is you’ve got a brand that sounds really cool and somebody’s decided that this will work out well, but it’s going to be terrible in the short term as if you have to like no, it’s D-O-T D-A-S-H, then it’s the period, then it’s C-O-M. I mean it’s just going to be crazy.
The only thing I can think of here is they’re gambling on, in the long run, it’ll be so widespread and so well known that it won’t be an issue. Can you remember back when Google first started? Nobody knew how to spell Google.
Erin Jones: No, I think though Google didn’t start out with a word as simple as about. About.com it can convey anything and having all those different verticals now with their own domains I feel like may have been a better avenue to keep beside from the fact that they’re trying to kind of get away from their name a little bit.
Andy Beal: Yes, I mean I don’t have any negative connotations towards the About.com brand. I think it was pretty strong, it’d been around for a while. You could argue that some of the experts that they had on board were not as good as others, and so did About.com become just a really superficial series of sites that just people trying to make a quick buck off of Adsense. I would say that that would be a fair argument to make, but overall you could have taken About.com and just stuck with it and then just kind of tilted and pivoted the brand to say, “This is what we stand for now.” Yes, you’re right, About.com is probably one of the strongest brands online and also one of those brands where even if you’re not familiar with it and know what they do, you think you’re familiar with it because it sounds like it should be a name that you’re familiar with, does that make sense?
Erin Jones: Absolutely, it carries some authority, it’s About.com. It could be about anything. I wonder about that, and the other thing that I had question about just from my research looking at Dotdash.com, there’s not a lot of actual content on that site, it really pushes you out to their other five or six verticals.
Andy Beal: I think that’s intentional, I think they’ve said that they’re not really going to have Dotdash.com to be a resource for anything in particular. I think they are going to make that just the corporate umbrella. I think they do want to push the branding of the verticals, so that I can kind of give them a little bit of a free pass on. We’re getting to that stage where everybody just wants to do a refresh and come up with a new brand and not really thinking about the ramifications of what does that mean? It’s not like About.com merged with another company or changed direction and needed to rebrand. I mean it’s still doing what it does, but now it’s Dotdash. I’m speaking from experience here about the mom test.
The mom test came about when I launched Trackur back in 2007 thinking to myself well I want T-R-A-C-K-E-R.com but it’s not available, but hey, it’d be really kind of cool if I just use a U instead, so it’s T-R-A-C-K-U-R.com and then I paid the price for the last 10 years because everybody they don’t know how to pronounce it and I also have to reiterate the spelling every time like I just did on the podcast. I couldn’t say go to Trackur.com because you’d go to the wrong one, so it’s come from experience and experience has shown me time and time again it’s worth getting a brand name that you can say it one time, people will know how to spell it, because that’s going to be a lot easier when you do your TV, radio, print ads, whatever it is because it’s going to be a lot easier to remember something that doesn’t have to be spelt out or isn’t out of the ordinary and Dotdash.com I think just fails that test completely.
Erin Jones: Agreed, and I have to be honest I typed in the domain and stumbled over it a little bit. It was like my hands couldn’t keep up with my brain when I was trying to type it out. I found that their 301 redirecting About.com to Dotdash.com now so if I were going to the site I may still be guilty of typing in About.com to get there.
Andy Beal: Now I don’t get involved with my new share of SEO anymore, but their are actually 301 redirect in the non-dub, dub, dub version of About.com, to the dub, dub version of About.com, which then redirects to Dotdash.com. Back in my day a 301 redirect chain like that was never a good thing but I’ll leave that to the guys that are hardcore SEO people to tell me whether or not that is a big deal, whether they should just have both redirecting directly to Dotdash or whether they need to keep the redirect chain. I don’t know but it’s a big old mess. They’ll probably prove us wrong, this is just our opinion on it from this point out. Like I said, they probably counting on over the next few months and years they’ll be a household name and they’ll call us up and laugh at us for even having this conversation.
Erin Jones: I hope they do.
Andy Beal: Good for them. All right, let’s move on to another reputation roadkill of the week if you like and that is Shea Moisture. Do you want to kind of share that story with us Erin?
Erin Jones: Sure, Shea Moisture is a company that’s been around literally since the early 1900s. They make natural beauty products, so a company that’s been making natural beauty products since 1912, which is a pretty big deal considering the natural train has just kind of really kicked off in the last 15 or 20 years. Their products have always been aimed a multi-cultural audience. Recently they created a new ad and really targeted the ad to more of a Caucasian group of audience and really left out their original demographic and the audience is unhappy with them for that. They’ve kind of abandoned their traditional audience to get this new audience, and people are upset.
Andy Beal: I think it was just one of a number of different ads, so it’s not like they just went with this one ad and just kind of completely threw themselves into reputation chaos. I mean there were other ads I believe they were running that were maybe more diverse and more appealing. The problem is this particular ad you’ve got three white women just kind of raving about their products and you’re right, 80% of their products are purchased by African-American women. I mean the question is they’re expanding. I mean is this not a large enough audience already for them? I mean are they getting greedy by trying to expand their brand at the expense of their existing customer base?
Erin Jones: I think that’s a great question. I think that it’s a delicate question. Maybe they should have gone a little bit more slowly and included a more diverse audience in that initial ad or the one ad that they’re talking about. One thing I will give them credit for is they came right out and said, “You guys, we really messed this up.” They let them know that they weren’t trying to disrespect their community. Unfortunately it sounds like the community came back and said, “Well, too little too late, you already offended us.”
Andy Beal: Now, so let me ask you this. It’s one thing to be offended, so there’s brands that can do things where I’m like, “I really was offended by what you did,” but do you think that core customer base is going to just abandon Shea Moisture now? Do you think it’ll be like well we’re really upset with you, we’re going to rant online for a bit, we really want a piece of social media flesh, but do you really think they’re going to abandon buying the products?
Erin Jones: I hope not. A company that’s been around this long has obviously been doing something right for the past 100 years. [crosstalk 00:11:57].
Andy Beal: Go ahead.
Erin Jones: Sorry, I was just going to say I really hope that people were initially offended because they were worried that the company was pulling away from it’s core values, but will realize that the intention was not that and everything can go back to being happy.
Andy Beal: I always like to try and include some reputation listening every example we get otherwise we’re just a couple people coming on and ranting about bad companies. Companies like this need to have what I like to term as ambassadors. They need to setup an advisory counsel, ambassadors, whatever it is you want to call them, especially now. This would be the time to do it, to say okay, we messed up which I agree with you. Kudos to them for not doing a United Airlines non-apology apology. They came out and said that they F’d up and they need to pay attention to their core customer base.
Especially now, one of the things they can do is to have some kind of advisory counsel made up of a good representation of their core customers, that doesn’t mean it’s all going to be all African-American women, there’s 20% of their customer base that’s not African-American. Have a representation there and when they start doing these campaigns, run it by them and say, “Hey, this is what we’re thinking of doing, this is our logic for it, help us to kind of avoid slipping up. Does this sound good to you? Is there anything we’re missing here?” Not only do those customers that are on that advisory board feel special, they feel important, but they also take ownership of the brand, they want to be part of it. They’ll give you their honest feedback because hey, the brand is not just about what you say the brand is, your brand, your reputation is what your customers say, your stakeholders say, the media has to say. It’s not just what the CEO says.
They’ll be able to guide you right, and if there is still a mistake, if something still slips through that has a negative reaction at least you’ve got this 15, 20, whatever number of people on there saying, “Well wait a minute, they kind of did go through us and this is what we’re thinking.” An advisory counsel, ambassador program is a great thing for any company and it doesn’t have to cost money. You can just give them an Amazon gift card or maybe they get to sample up and coming products for free. Whatever it is, but just have something where you can bounce ideas off of them.
Erin Jones: Agreed and even better if these people are already social media influencers. They can go out and say, “I just got this new product that hasn’t hit the market yet, you guys are going to love it.” Get out in front of it with a positive spin before the ads even come out.
Andy Beal: I think that based on the swiftness and sincerity of the apology, pulling the ad quickly, how loudly and quickly that their core customer base attacked them, I think all of these things are going to lead to a swift change of philosophy and I really don’t think we’ll see Shea Moisture do something like this again. However, I do get concerned when companies potentially get greedy by thinking that they can expand beyond their customer base and they then start leaving behind that core group of customers that got them that success and those profits in order to do that expansion. Hopefully they will kind of take a step back, say “Hey look, we need to be a little bit more controlled with this expansion. It’s one thing to grow our product line, but we can’t do it at the expense of our existing customers.”
Erin Jones: Absolutely and I think that they did a good job coming out. They did say, “You’re right, we are different, we should know better, thank you for being there for us even when we made a mistake. Here’s to growing and building together.” I feel like that’s a great opening for them to pull in one of these advisory committees and let people know that they’re not going to get away from their original mission.
Andy Beal: Yes, I agree. Let’s wrap it up. We got an interesting story, Facebook, this is something that you brought to our attention but there was a new story that some research report was leaked showing that Facebook’s able to track the emotional state of teenagers, weight loss, depression, whatever a teenager goes through, and then it kind of started circulating rumors that they were allowing advertisers to target based on the emotion. What else was revealed in that story?
Erin Jones: They talked about how this obviously could have adverse effects on users, especially teenagers. Instead of this information being used for good, having traditional advertisers go after them to sell beauty products or weight loss products. I think a lot of the problem people are having is right now Facebook is saying, “No, we don’t allow this kind of targeting and we don’t have any intention of allowing this kind of targeting.” It’s only been a few years since they got in trouble for altering content to see if people’s political emotions could be manipulated. Who’s going to believe them for denying this now?
Andy Beal: Yes, and I always like to look at what a company doesn’t say because that tells me a lot. They denied that they allowed advertisers to target the emotional state of a teenager or anybody, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook themselves don’t target using an algorithm what they think is going to be the best emotional state for an advertisers products. That doesn’t mean that they can’t just say, “Well we’re going to show your weight loss product to those that have indicated recently that they’re depressed about their weight.” You can’t target that but we know that’s going to get good click through rates and that means we’re going to get to charge you more. It’s interesting, they may have said it but I’ve not seen Facebook say, “No, absolutely not, we don’t even use emotional state for targeting in the back end.” Maybe that’s a clarification they can make or maybe I’ve missed it, but it always fascinates me about what a company doesn’t say when they’re trying to deny something and that kind of stood out to me.
Erin Jones: Agreed, and especially with a company like Facebook we have seen, the more that we talk about a topic on our wall, we get served those kinds of suggested posts and ads.
Andy Beal: Heck, we don’t even have to put it on our wall. We can browse a site or something and next thing you know you come back to Facebook and the ad’s there.
Erin Jones: Right, I feel like I step on the scale and I come back and there’s an ad on my page for it. I don’t know how they do it but they’re really good at it.
Erin Jones: Right, and I feel like a lot of people know that. I mean they put a lot out there, they put a lot of stuff out there and in the name of positivity sure, it’s great but we’re always a little bit leery about if someone decides to start using their powers for evil. I don’t know a lot of people that have the willpower to say I don’t trust you so I’m not putting anything out there. Again like we talked about last week, the benefit is outweighing the cost as of right now.
Andy Beal: Right, and like you said last week we talked about how if you’re not paying for something guess what? You’re the one that’s generating the revenue, you’re the product. You have to assume everything you put on Facebook, every time you select an emotion, instead of liking something you put it’s funny or it’s sad or whatever, Facebook is using that. As marketers we can kind of use that to our advantage. If there’s a particular post that a friend publishes or my wife publishes I’m like I’m going to click that I love this because I’m like I want to send that message to Facebook, this is more than just like, this is love. You got to believe that in the backend everything you do, every emotion you share, every check in. I mean I don’t know about you I check into some place and now I’m getting pop ups that say, hey you were at such and such yesterday, how about writing a review? I’m like I didn’t even check in and you knew I was there, that was creepy.
Erin Jones: Even if you just post from that location, write a post that has nothing to do with that location now they’ll come back and say hey you were at Costco yesterday, let’s tell everyone what you think about it.
Andy Beal: The other one that freaks me out-
Erin Jones: People don’t want to hear about it.
Andy Beal: Yes, the other one that freaks me out is your friend such and such is nearby and often times he’s sitting across the table from me in the same restaurant. I’m like yes no, I’m having lunch with him but how do you know that? It’s kind of weird. Anyway, Facebook we just don’t believe you. You need to do a better job of convincing us that you’re not running these experiments and that you’re not manipulating our emotional state and that you’re not behind the scenes allowing marketers and advertisers to take that data because we have seen it far too many other companies and you’re far too relying on your advertising revenue at this point. You need to do a better job Facebook of changing your reputation in terms of privacy perception.
Erin Jones: I think a good thing that they could start with here is hopefully they’re not selling this information, and maybe instead of selling information about insecure teenagers they could use the information to say, “Hey, you should be feeling good about yourself.” Post some articles on positive body image instead of about you need to lose 40 pounds or you need a thigh gap or whatever the issue of the day is. Maybe they could take some of this and use it for good if they’re already collecting it, but I still don’t know that people would like being targeted to that way.
Andy Beal: No, it is definitely a little bit creepy, even for those of us that know it goes on and understand how it works, it is certainly creepy. Well that’s our show for this week. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have a question or comment or would like to chime in please just head to our Facebook page /andybealorm or head to the Andybeal.com blog where you’ll find this posted complete with the transcript so you can read it again and leave us a comment. As always thank you Erin, couldn’t do this show without you.
Erin Jones: Thank you so much for having me.
Andy Beal: Thank you guys for listening. We’ll hope you’ll tune in again next week. Thanks a lot and buh-bye.