There is a way to launch a dot-com company without having to spend millions on Super Bowl advertising, or (if you’re a bit short on cash) by trying to scream above the din of competing Internet advertisers on the cable and network channels.
There is a way to launch a dot-com company without having to spend
millions on Super Bowl advertising, or (if you’re a bit short on cash)
by trying to scream above the din of competing Internet advertisers on
the cable and network channels.
The entrepreneurial classes like to call it guerrilla marketing. To
people older than 23, it’s called PR. Or in even plainer language, a
good old-fashioned publicity stunt that is going to get you noticed.
It’s how online career information provider Vault.com got a feature in
The New York Times - by placing a billboard outside Morgan Stanley’s
headquarters in Manhattan encouraging its employees to ’bitch about your
boss.’ According to Forbes, the stunt boosted site traffic 100% to five
million page views a month.
And then there’s Half.com. I’d never have known that it’s actually quite
a good place to buy and sell used books, CDs, movies and computer games
if the owners had not managed to persuade the citizens of sleepy
Halfway, OR, to rename their town after the Internet start-up. Half.com
the town gets 20 computers for Halfway Elementary School, a prize to be
raffled at the county fair and funds for civic improvement efforts. It
also gets to be noticed by the rest of America, live on NBC’s Today
show. Local businesses, from the Hells Canyon Bison Ranch to Stutzman
Hells Canyon Custom Rods, can look forward to quite a good summer, as
tourists will no doubt want to feast their eyes (and unload their
wallets) upon the first dot-com-munity.
Half.com the company got more on-air minutes and column inches than it
could have bought straight-out in CEO Joshua Kopelman’s wildest IPO
treasure-trove dreams, everywhere from CNN and The Wall Street Journal
to USA Today, Good Morning America and The New York Times. ’Did we do
this to get attention?
Sure we did,’ Kopelman said. ’But there’s also a benefit to the town
economy.’ No doubt, but the people of Halfway are probably kicking
themselves that they didn’t ask for more computers, a couple of
high-speed T1 lines and a chunk of equity in Half.com.
And just as dot-com companies are falling over themselves to break the
bank on the Super Bowl (PRWeek, Jan. 24, 2000), so we will probably see
a few other places changing or modifying their names as dot-com fever
grips their communities.
Of course, it will be a bit more expensive next time around, as city
leaders realize the value of what they have to offer and pitch the idea
up and down Silicon Valley. They may also have to come up with something
a little more original than simply adding ’.com’ to the name of some
speck on the map.
In case you didn’t know, there are 11 towns in America called Commerce:
one each in Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri,
Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. And let’s not forget
Commerce City in Colorado.
Any bets on which one of them will be the first to change their name to
And perhaps the idea can go even further, if you’re prepared to think a
little laterally. PRWeek will send a bottle of champagne (we choose the
brand) to the first person to tell us of the first (verifiable) case of
a newborn child with a name ending in ’.com.’
Stovin Hayter is editor in chief of Revolution, scheduled to launch in
the US this March. Contact Stovin at