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What eCommerce and Killing Elephants have in Common

Last Updated on Apr 1, 2011 by Jeff Lew

The internet was ablaze this week with the reaction to Bob Parsons, CEO of Godaddy, and his controversial video blog post. Parsons uploaded a personal video where he was elephant hunting with his crew. Apparently, Parsons was helping village farmers by killing the elephants that were damaging sorghum fields in Zimbabwe.

The video went viral within weeks and has now become a mass explosion of indifference led by the animal rights group, PETA, which was one of the first to close its Godaddy account. Not only have hundreds of customers ceased doing business with Godaddy, but Godaddy’s nemesis, Namecheap, has capitalized on the opportunity to offer disgruntled ex-customers with discounts along with proceeds going to savetheelephant.com.

Godaddy is known for their controversial style, yet this may have crossed the line.

Unfortunately, you cannot turn back the clock after damage has been done. Branding is a serious matter, and should not be taken lightly.

The Difference between Viral and Offensive

Tactics such as these can generate a lot of “buzz” for a business.  Unfortunately, some business owners do not know where to draw the line. Somewhere in the quagmire of their marketing strategies, they lose their sense of decency and morale. As a business, you must uphold a certain level of respect. No, not everyone will like you or even value your opinions, but you should do your best to please your audience.

Social media gives your audience the opportunity to get to know you as an eCommerce business owner so they can develop a relationship with you. As a result, it is VITAL that you refrain from doing anything to jeopardize those relationships. In a world of crazy, zany viral videos and tactics, you must know your boundaries.

How much is too much?

This question most likely cannot be answered exactly. Too much for one person is not enough for another. The key is to appeal to the masses in your specific industry. If you think something will offend a MASS of people, it’s not worth the risk, especially if you are an established eCommerce store. If you are just starting out, it could create some buzz, but it is still a gamble.

There is Power in Numbers

If you are wondering whether to post a questionable video or a blog for viral purposes, show it to a team of people–some whom you know and trust and other un-biased witnesses–and gauge their reaction. If the majority sees it as distasteful, discard it. It’s not worth the potential backlash and associated harm to your brand no matter how good the idea may seem to you.

Whether this was meant as a publicity stunt or simply a good ol’ home video is still to be seen. Also, regardless of the opinions out there (indifferent or appalled), hundreds if not thousands of Godaddy customers have taken their business elsewhere.

Any Press is Good Press?

Some would argue that Bob Parsons’ video was good publicity. That may be true; however, I doubt that Bob would be stressing on his Twitter account the real reason for his video if there wasn’t so much backlash.

Take a look at Bob’s tweet posted on Thursday: It sounds like there is some backtracking and explanation here for sure:

Bob Parsons Twitter

The moral of the story?

If you are questioning, don’t do it. Consider the effects and pass your marketing idea by a team of people (biased and non-biased). And, if you are an elephant hunter or you perform in any other type of controversial activity, it’s your prerogative, just don’t post your video for everyone else to see.

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