Problem Avoidance Isn't Problem Management

Seth points out(via Sustainable is Good) that Splenda is buying up hundreds of negative domain names associated with their company, hoping to keep dissatisfied customers from voicing their anger at the brand.

Here's just a few of the many domains that Johnson & Johnson owns associated with Splenda:
splendasucks.net, .org, .biz, .info
splendakills.net, .org, biz .info
splendatruth.com , .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendapoison.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thedangersofsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thefactsaboutsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info


By making this move, Splenda is acknowledging that there are people that don't like their product very much. If a company knows that some of its customers are dissatisfied, is it better to attempt to censor them, or understand them? If you've never used Splenda, and you hear that its company is buying hundreds of negative domain names associated with the brand, does that make you more or less likely to buy their product, or to trust them?


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posted by Mack Collier @ 1:48 PM,

9 Comments:

At 6:14 PM, Blogger anne simons said...

Hi Mack:

This futile effort to control negative commentary is incredibly naive, isn't it? While I think it is simply misguided, I think most people will view this as an attempt to hide something. They've unnecessarily gifted their detractors with ammunition.

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Agreed Anne, attempting to kill this conversation is going to do nothing but fan the flames.

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Drew McLellan said...

Mack,

I wrote about this on Friday -- and I agree with all that you said. When I think about the time and resources wasted on trying to out anticipate the detractors, it's staggering.

And a complete waste. If someone wants to tarnish your image -- they'll find a way.

Why not invest that same amount of money and energy on strengthening the relationships you have with the customers who are in your corner?

And yet, apparently this is a common practice. Boggles the mind!

Drew

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"And a complete waste. If someone wants to tarnish your image -- they'll find a way.

Why not invest that same amount of money and energy on strengthening the relationships you have with the customers who are in your corner?"

Great point, but I say let's get REALLY crazy and actually TALK to our detractors and actually address their concerns. Because those concerns aren't going to go away if you ignore them, in fact they'll only get stronger.

And louder.

 
At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Doug Karr said...

With all due respect, I'm not sure I totally agree. A domain name is a piece of an overall brand - and a very inexpensive one at that. Simply buying up these domain names won't stop people from complaining, nor the company from listening.

It does; however, stop the loonies from sounding a lot louder than they really are. Just an example... if someone had an argument with me, they could get dougkarrsucks.com for $15 and disparage my brand and do much more damage.

If they are willing to buy the domain name, I'm sure they're willing to launch a great site that looks like there's a huge wave of people who hate me. One person could do that, even though most folks appreciate me.

It's pennies on the dollar to stop this from happening. You shouldn't be surprised at the length people will go to to try to ruin your brand.

Splenda isn't trying to thwart bad press, they're trying to thwart the loonies. If you check, you'll find that most major brands do this.

I actually support this.

With Much Respect!
Doug

 
At 11:31 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Doug, a couple of points:

1 - If someone wants to find a domain name to disparage you, they will do it. You might can pick the ones that you think are most likely, but there's always going to be someone that comes along that picks up a 'great' one that you forgot about. Then they start blogging on it, and before you know it, there's still plenty of Google references to how 'you' suck.

2 - By buying up all these domain names, Splenda has suddenly gotten a LOT of attention from bloggers such as myself that had previously had almost no interest in talking about them. Seth's blogging about them, Drew's blogging about them, I'm blogging about them, and not much if any of it is positive.

I think Drew hinted at another good point, when your detractors slam you, your evangelists, if you have any, will rise up to your defense. And that's the point *I* was trying to make, if Splenda would actually address the concerns of their detractors, there's a very good chance that they'll actually convert some/many of them into evangelists for their brand. Actually listening to customers is VERY powerful.

I'll agree that it doesn't cost much to buy an individual domain, but you're setting yourself up for a literal money pit. And again, the community will always outsmart you when you try to cut corners like this.

It would cost Splenda much less to address the problem head on.

In my opinion. Thanks for sharing yours Doug!

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Doug Karr said...

Thanks, Mack. I think you'll find this is a much more common practice than you think. Splenda wasn't the first! In the very early days of the net, this was all the rage.

Check out a bunch of other major brands and I think you'll find they all do it.

I agree with your and Drew's remarks regarding evangelists. It's one of the reasons I encourage corporations to blog and not be as concerned with negative comments (unless they really do suck).

I'd rather supply a public forum for dissent that I moderate than having Joe Schmoe put up Splendasucks.com. Where I do think Splenda should be criticized is that they haven't provided any forum for dissent. Splenda should provide this opportunity - no doubt they won't quiet the folks who disagree with them - but at least they would be aware and could respond.

Doug

PS: What the heck is a Splenda anyways? :)

 
At 9:54 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

As a diabetic, I have to admit that my bias plays in favor of Splenda. They make my eating life tolerable.

I find it highly questionable that such a tactic as this could even remotely be successful, since it's nearly impossible to purchase the nearly infinite permutations on this concept. So, I would question the move based on the most basic level of efficacy, without the need to look into the further marketing ramifications. It doesn't make sense either way.

That being said, I'm not sure why people are against Splenda. Certainly there's no clear impetus for the common man to ever have to consume the product. But it does make life a lot better for those of us who weren't blessed with a pancreas that can properly break down glucose.

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"That being said, I'm not sure why people are against Splenda. Certainly there's no clear impetus for the common man to ever have to consume the product. But it does make life a lot better for those of us who weren't blessed with a pancreas that can properly break down glucose."

JD that's a great point, I think Splenda needs to spend their time and effort getting out the message that Splenda HELPS diabetics such as yourself. That IMO would be far more productive than trying to snap up domain names. There's always 2 sides to every story, and it looks like Splenda isn't doing a very good job of getting their's out.

 

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