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The Tale of Two Domains and A Donkey
Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

This is the story of how for £10 you can undermine the reputation of a multi-million pound market leader.

Picture this, your company is a major player, it employs over 35,000 people in 52 countries across the globe. You've developed a new brand image and you're poring money into a bottomless pit in your attempt to establishing it.
The letterheads are printed, the office signs in place when someone in your organisation based in the UK enters a suffix to your introductory site...

Mistakes happen
I've heard of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, it's a huge company. No idea what it does but it's big enough to have established it's presence in the general lexicon of media reporting and in the public's consciousness.

A friend mentioned I should go visit a web site for amusement. 'It's great' he said with a wry smile. So next time I browsed the web I entered
. Sure enough the smiles came and in an instant I new this was a perfect example of how the bigger you are the harder you fall.

PwC Consulting where re-branding They were to become, fresh start and all that. They had bought the domain as part of their promotional efforts, but no one in marketing and public relations had thought to purchase the largest second level domain Someone with a sense of humour did.

What is it you do exactly?
My journey began with what seemed an insignificant click of the mouse...

PwC Consulting on their 'About Us' page describes their service as ' of the world's leading providers of management consulting and technology services to many of the largest and most successful organisations, including governments and their respective agencies...'. Unfortunately the description is so broad the casual browser is still left completely in the dark about what exactly they do. Luckily there's a link to a fact sheet for more information. It's a pdf file, but, it doesn't open. Oh dear.

First rule of web design: be crystal clear about what it is you want to communicate. Second rule: check your links. For such a large organisation to fall flat on it's face at the first hurdle is unforgivable. Building trust and reputation is of crucial importance to any business. The critical process of re-branding attempts to establish this. Such fundamental flaws in their re-branding strategy would significantly undermine customer confidence as reports began to spread. After all, I'd been directed to their site during a casual conversation over dinner. Nothing spreads faster over the Internet than a fallen reputation.

Getting serious
The spoof site doesn't say much. It doesn't have to. It's purpose is simply to act as a source of amusement and derision. The serious point here is that businesses need to think very carefully about their domain purchases. Reputations take an age to build and a moment to undermine.

Purchasing 'core domains' (domain names consisting of your on-line name identity) and appropriate second level core domain names is a crucial part of any Internet budget. That said, the Internet community is forgiving when a core domain name is repeated in numerous suffixes representing different companies and individuals. However, this attitude seems to change when a company re-brands itself. People become very aware the repositioning of a business name or image identity is about marketing and public relations. In short, people are ready and waiting for messages that attempt to manipulate and persuade them. The alarm is on standby, the mind sceptical.

Sunny side up
We generally enjoy it when a large organisation walks away with egg on its' face. It's confirmation that the small guy can compete, and it taps into a feeling that the Internet continues to provide opportunities for anarchic and critical response.

The two finger salute and donkey that jumps around is an example of how, thankfully, the Internet remains a context that is open. It's a good thing mistakes will always occur and that some, who have a keen eye for opportunity, point them out.

Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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