Tilting at Domain Name Windmills

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Seth Godin’s blog is one of those must reads that occasionally contains a real gem. Something that makes you stop and think hard.

One recent gem was his More Failed Efforts at Control post about how Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the artificial sweetener ‘Splenda’ have bought-up almost 300, yes 300 domain names with negative connotations about their product.

Seth’s blog links to the Sustainable is Good blog that describes it in much more detail. For example, how when Dr. Janet Hull wrote a book exposing Splenda’s not so sweet side and promoted it on the website Splenda Exposed, they bought up the splendaexposed.net, .org, .biz, and .info domain names.

It is one thing to expect bad publicity about a product like Splenda, but it is another entirely to buy-up almost 300 negative domain names. It makes you wonder if when they are clearly expecting so much trouble, whether there is something fundamentally wrong with their product.

It also makes you wonder of they really understand how people with a mission will find an audience one way or another. Dr. Janet Hull did. There is always going to be a negative domain name with Splenda somewhere in it that the makers didn’t think to buy. Or ones with other extensions. Or ones in other languages.

A quick search for ‘Splenda’ on Google shows what I mean. The first few pages of results all divide into one of two camps: either all sweetness and light from the Splenda camp complete with corporate imagery, recipes and the inevitable online resellers, or all doom and gloom from the anti-Splenda camp with medical reports, negative testimonials and scare stories.

It looks suspiciously like Splenda’s makers have won the negative domain name battle, but lost the war for the hearts and minds of the Internet.

What do you think? Are the makers of Splenda tilting at domain name windmills? Or is this a legitimate defense strategy?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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