Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Domain Snobs.

A very wise editor of mine recently wrote to ask me the following question:

"Hey Rob" -- nobody ever sends me a letter that starts with "dear"-- "what's the deal with your AOL account? Whenever I see someone with an AOL tag on their e-mail address, it makes me think that they're kind of small time. Don't you think it's a much look to have your own e-mail addressed to your own domain name?"

This is a question I get asked very frequently. In fact, the only questions that are asked of me more frequently are (in order): "Who's 'Anderson?'"and "Why does it cost so much?" Unfortunately, it would take too long to answer both of those right here, but I'm only too happy to answer number three.

The short and sweet answer to the question is, "Andy, don't be a domain snob." Oops. I didn't mean to say Andy. I meant to say "Mr. X". In any case, it brings up a very important aspect of marketing, which is to say that there is a reason for everything, including why you should and shouldn't worry about things like domain names.

First, there is some validity to the notion that if you have your own domain name, everyone thinks you actually know what you're doing on the web. It's sexy. Impressive. Which is why there is a (the reason there isn't a "frankel&" is because ampersands are code). And yes, having your own domain name does communicate the fact that you have invested some time and effort into your business.

But that ain't the whole story by a long shot. Let's not forget that we're in business to do business with other people who want to do business. And not all of them are as technically -- shall we say "comfortable" -- as you and I are. In my own travels, I have found that in the REAL world, very few clients even have e-mail. To the digitally-challenged, it's still frightening stuff. So in the interest of making things as easy as possible for the OTHER GUY, I maintain an address that happens to be the most popular on the planet: AOL.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Steve "What Have You Done For Me Lately" Case (I remember the lad when he was roaming the trade show floors hawking Quantum Link for Commodore. Yes, I did some advertising for him. But does he return my calls? He does not. Which is why I might take a few lines here to remind you that the Justice Department has extended the deadline for claiming your AOL Class Action settlement refunds to December, 1997), but the fact is that for clients, it's the easiest and most reliable way to send and receive files and transfers without corruption. And if you work as digitally intensively as I do, you learn to value that benefit that only a "closed system" like AOL offers. Since I have to teach my clients to get online, AOL's interface makes the job easiest. Finally, for newbies, it's the least threatening way to get in touch with me: No '@'s", "com's" or "`'s" to worry about.

It also doesn't hurt business to have your name listed in a community of 8 million subscribers.

Another way to look at it is that an "" at the end of your name means you're "one of the people". It's non-threatening. I mean, with an "" at the end of my tag, how many client would ever suspect that I answer my e-mail while sipping champagne at the edge of my slightly-more-than-tepid jacuzzi?

So while the e-snobs may not be impressed, to the great unwashed, an AOL account is the easiest and friendliest way to get them on line. It's the easiest way to get them in the habit of working digitally, which in turn makes it easier to do business with guys like me.

And I'll take profitability over snob appeal any time.

©1996, Rob Frankel

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