The Domain Name Game
Domain Buccaneers Sail the Internet Seas
Looking to Grab the 2 Most Valuable Assets Your Company Has
What’s In A Name?
According to creditunions.com, plenty:
“We are programmed to think, organize and connect by name, starting with our own, one of the first words we learn. Names are special words that hold magic. The very best names are easy to pronounce, appealing to the ear, sticky to the memory and whenever possible, link us to an associated emotion. That means the very mention of a name should be a complete mini-selling pitch of your brand. Pretty efficient.”
A lot of thought goes into picking a name for your business. Since we have been looking at some interesting name problems that credit unions have had, especially Lockheed Federal Credit Union, this line of investigation will continue, and now delve into the shadowy world of international domain name buccaneers. Be aware that SupportCreditUnions.com is just that, an activist group supporting credit unions against the big banks. When we point out the sometimes disastrous mistakes some of the credit unions are making in the Name Game, we do so to warn of the consequences and problems that will follow.
The excellent article that we quoted from in the opening paragraph was written by Mr. John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy at Bancography. His article goes on to list a number of things that are important to selecting a great name, in this case for a credit union. Down at the bottom of his list is probably the most important point: The name should be available as internet domain addresses.
When we look at how the Name Game has been played in the last few years by some of the biggest credit unions, it will become shockingly clear how lax attention to domain names has led to the worst case scenario for some of these organizations. Not that they are in danger necessarily of going out of business, but that they are losing a big chunk of the two most valuable things they posses:
1. The company name, in all its possibilities as domains on the internet.
2. The second most valuable asset, the customers and potential customers.
Look at it this way, imagine your credit union is a ship, a passenger liner. Your ship, with your name on it, is pulling into a major port to pick up passengers. Little known to you, a merrie band of buccaneers has stealthily boarded your ship during the night and infiltrated the crew, even placing their guys in your engine room. You dock at night in a thick fog, and in the morning, as the fog lifts, you see around you hundreds of other ships also at anchor, and they all have similar names as yours. The infiltrators then proceed to escort waiting passengers to these other ships, much to your consternation. The buccaneers have just legally taken your two most valuable assets, all the names similar to yours, and a big boodle of your customers. You’ve just been morphed, and some customers hijacked, and it’s all perfectly legal.
Big Jim: He Plays His Cards So Close To The Vest That You Think They Are Part of His Skin.
Big Jim is tall, about six foot four, a little on the thin side. He’s middle aged, sports a mustache. His sandy brown hair is thinning, so he often wears a baseball cap. In his college days he played football, usually an end or a linebacker. He had speed more than bulk. But an injury changed his life; things happen like that. Athletics took a back seat to the new computer stuff. Big Jim became a computer geek. I’ve known him for over ten years, and during that time Jim never discussed domains or names with me. About a year ago I wanted to get a domain for something, and I started asking questions. After some time it came out that Big Jim was not only a computer geek, but a domain whiz. He had been buying and selling domains since the start of the internet. He keeps it quiet, real quiet. But I listen and learn. And Big Jim knows a lot about domains.
Big Jim’s Mantra #1
Big Jim’s number one Mantra, told to me many times is simple: Protect your (business) name at all costs. Get every single extension, .com, .org, .us, .net, dot everything. Get all the possibilities that you can think of. Then think some more and get all of those. If you don’t do this you are a “freaking” idiot and you are going to get what you deserve. Big Jim uses more colorful language than that, of course, but I’ll leave it there. He says that you have to protect your trademark also with all possibilities that you can think of – Trademarks also have to be linked to domain names. That’s just how it is. End of story. If you think anything else you are dumber than a donkey.
When Lockheed’s Missile Boys Moved North From Burbank, They Took Their Money With Them.
The old Lockheed Aircraft Company was a fixture in Burbank for a long time. My dad worked their during World War II, as a technical writer. He was very proud of the fact that he wrote most of the Tech Manual on the Lockheed P-38 fighter. When the cold war got going in the early 1950’s Lockheed opened up a Missile and Space Division in Sunnyvale, Northern California. In 1957 Lockheed transferred a chunk of dough from the old credit union in Burbank to a new credit union in Sunnyvale. 1,350 accounts were more than enough to start the Lockheed Missile Employees Federal Credit Union. By 1971 they had 22,225 members, and assets of $92 million. The cold war was good for Lockheed, and it was on the verge of the boom years.
In 1981 Lockheed Missile Employees Federal Credit Union became LMSC Federal Credit Union. By the end of 1985 the assets were $435 million and they had ballooned to over 43,000 members. The furious pace of growth, fueled by space and military, continued. In 1995 they again changed their name, now dropping the word Lockheed, and becoming Star One Federal Credit Union. A few years later they got a state charter and dropped the “Federal”, and the official name Star One Credit Union has been in use until today. Assets claimed now are $6 billion and membership is at about 89,000 members. If you live, work, or attend school in Santa Clara County you are potentially qualified to join.
But as the cold war wound down a new boom came rushing in: the great tech/computer boom of Silicone Valley. With that came the internet. And everything changed. The thousands of domains became millions of domains, and 2011 saw something like 300 million domains added for a total now of over 550 million. We are full-blown in the new technological age, like it or not. Look especially at the young people under 30. Everyone is clutching smart phones. Laptops and ipads rule. Ignore all this at your peril.
In the old days, the executives at the big companies like Lockheed protected their name by filing a trademark. That was about it. Copyright a few things and done. But the new age came like a whirlwind, shredding old companies, birthing new products, exploding the human universe beyond the comprehension of anyone at the helm of a company in 1950 could ever imagine. The execs at the helm of Star One Federal Credit Union in 1995 were ill-prepared for what was happening. For this, they can’t totally be faulted. But by the end of the 1990s and the approaching millennium there were plenty of warning signs that things were different. Information was pouring down like raindrops in a fierce storm, and tens of thousands of people came into companies to set up computers and keep track of things, like the company’s domains. In the mid 90s the web site design business took off. What should have been a yellow brick road to company success at times became the yellow goldbricker’s road, as executives spent too much time daydreaming about their next golf game instead of learning the new technology. There were, however, a lot of people who were learning about things computer, and the domain name explosion was an attractive lure. While most of us were struggling to learn Windows 95, others were learning to play the name game. A secret tussle began, worldwide, to buy up and control the great names of businesses and products. Around that time, people like Big Jim got into it, buying up really cool names and sitting on them until a customer appeared with cash in hand, or actually auctioning the names on domain auction sites.
The Star One Domain Name Saga Begins.
In 1995, as Star One Federal Credit Union was growing like weeds, so was the search for great domain names. The obvious name for this is starone.com. The executives at the credit union missed it, and in March of 1995 this great name went to a real estate company in Ohio, where it remains until today, 17 years later. Star One Realtors would be insane to ever let that one go. Which brings us to…..
Big Jim’s Mantra #2
If you have a name with any kind of number in it, you MUST get all possibilities, including both the written number and the Arabic number. This also goes for anything that can possibly have a “dash” in the name. You get them all. If you don’t, as Big Jim says, you are insane, a total walking zombie idiot who doesn’t deserve to be called a thinking human. He actually says more things, but I can’t repeat them here.
Let’s take Star one. Starone.com is in the hands of a realtor in Ohio, so what about Star1.com? It’s owned by one of the domain name boys, and is advertised for sale at $10,000. If you type it into your browser, you might come up with a “holding” website, leader2leader, a tech company advertising file sharing and other web services. When you consider that Star One Credit Union is claiming assets of $6 billion, the $10,000 asking price seems like pennies. You could spend that much advertising on bus bench ads for a few months. So why don’t they buy it?
Maybe Star One Credit Union is fat, dumb, and happy, that’s one answer. Why buy it, they own www.starone.org. That’s enough. But in violating Big Jim’s Mantras, both of them at once for God’s sake, they open up a can of internet worms, because the domain buccaneers are wide awake, and they are looking to take your two most valued possessions and make money off them. With a big company like Star One Credit Union, when you look closely, the buccaneers are like hundreds of mosquitoes who have landed on the company’s body, sucking the booty from its treasure room, interdicting customers and re-directing them to the dreaded enemy, The Big Banks. This is the horror that is now visited on Star One, an invisible attack, ruthless, conducted by shadowy figures around the globe. And all legit. Nothing personal, as my friend Jordan Maxwell would say, it’s just business.
Star One Credit Union’s Old Heritage Not Even Protected. The Germans Move In.
So remember that back in the old days, when they were just starting out, Lockheed had changed their name to LMSC Federal Credit Union. The interesting fact is that until this day, they have not protected their old name. Why bother? That’s a tough question to answer in any sensible way. Big Jim told me simply, “Look, don’t be stupid, you protect EVERYTHING about your name, past, present, and future. You never know what sh*t can come down on your head when you least expect it. What kind of reflection on your company would it be if someone grabbed your old name and made it a porn site? How many prudes would be writing letters or wagging tongues?” When I checked this in the process of researching this article, I found that LMSCfederalcreditunion.com was available. Incredibly, since the 1995 first name change to StarOneFederalCreditUnion, the old LMSC name is still available, for $12.99. And so is the .org, .net, .biz, and many of the other dot extensions. All for chump change, really chump change, like one lunch for one exec. One name that is not available is LMSC.com. This was taken back in 1997 by some Germans who are running a string of websites in Europe, through a web server in Austria. The LMSC.com currently goes nowhere, it’s just in their war chest, for what reason nobody knows. What is known is that Lockheed Star One does NOT own it. Luckily, the German owners seem to be web designers or hosting legitimate companies. Looking at their operation, they don’t look like buccaneers, so good for now. But what about later? Things can turn on a dime.
Even more incredible is that Star One has failed to secure trademarks with their name. A search of the trademark sites shows that both Star One Credit Union and Star One Federal Credit Union are available. The cost of getting these filed is also miniscule: One site offers a starting filing of $159.00 for each of the names. It’s a strange situation, and I for one, am afraid to even mention this one to Big Jim. I’m just writing the story here, but the tirade would be almost unbearable.
End of Part 1
Coming in Part 2: The Nobby Beach Boyz take a bite out of Star One….The Brisbane Blokes also move in…….So You Failed in Spelling? The Buccaneers Make Money Off That, Too……Server Farms in the Bahamas……From Pompano Beach to Panama, From the Bahamas To Brisbane, The “Clicking Sound” you hear is a roar of cash and it’s going into the Buccaneer’s Treasure Chest….Star One Ravaged From All Sides…..Premier America Credit Union Also Under Assault….What Would Edgar Allan Poe Say?…..The Ultimate Question: Who Are These Guys? One Mastermind or a Crackling Gang of Buccaneers, The Crisscross of Clues.