The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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RootOrange Creates Domain "Leases" for Local Merchants

First published on Technorati - March 15, 2010

 Root Orange

If you have ever tried to lease a vacation property, you know how valuable a property manager can be. Property management companies handle the overhead of finding renters, keeping the unit clean, and ensuring the transaction occurs.

RootOrange, a three person startup that is a contender in this year's SXSW Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator competition, acts as a property manager for domain name owners who are looking to optimize monetization of their valuable - and usually very discoverable - URLs. The company creates "localized" versions of highly coveted, generic domain names, and re-directs a customer who enters a URL from a specific geography to an iframe of the local business' website within the page of the original generic domain name owner's page.

bizsparkMany local businesses struggle to afford popular keywords from Google that would make them discoverable. With RootOrange, small businesses pay just for the regional pool of customers for the generic domain names they lease, bypassing the purchase of the Google keyword. For instance, the legal keyword, "attorney" gets over one million searches monthly, making it a very expensive keyword to buy.  For example, a personal injury lawyer in Seattle can now lease the domain "" from the owner through RootOrange - acting as the property manager -  and all traffic that comes from the greater Seattle market to "" will view that lawyer's web page.

BizSpark judges expressed their concern about Google's reaction to RootOrange's business plan. The search engine company generally discourages a practice called, "domain cloaking," but RootOrange describes what they do as "domain splitting."  Domain cloaking and RootOrange's domain splitting both employ page frames which many web developers believe cause issues for search engine indexing and consumer usability.

Companies hoping to win the Accelerator competition are being judged on creativity, functionality, longevity and caliber of the team. Judges, including executives from ReadWriteWeb and Blippy, grilled contestants on business strategy, revenue growth plans, and value propositions in a forum that looked like a geek version of speed dating. Finalists in the competition, which include mobile application darlings, Bump, Siri, and ShopSavvy, will be announced this evening. A final round of grilling takes place tomorrow, when a winner will be crowned. For both days of the competition, a live stream can be heard here.


Did Google Use Apple's TV Ad Playbook?

For advertisers, the Super Bowl  is as much the “big game” as it is for sports enthusiasts. This year that was more true than ever before, because the televised broadcast brought a record 106.5 Million viewers.   In the post Internet bubble, fewer new technology companies are using the expensive, broad-reaching television broadcast to build brand awareness, opting instead to make their dollars work harder at measurable activities that convert to sales.   That leaves the door wide open for established brands like Budweiser, Coca Cola and Doritos - the ones that can afford the lofty ad rates - to use the time to create entertaining, “talked about” vignettes that enforce the meaning and positioning of their products.

Despite the Super Bowl being a mecca for established consumer brands, Sunday’s game was the first one to include an advertisement for Google’s dominant product, search. Many have commented on why the company chose now to run the ad, and whether the company’s virgin effort at broadcast advertising was meant to prove a bigger business agenda in the advertising community. For me,  the ad was most notable because of its use of the product to tell a brand story.  Among a sea of ads that used slapstick, animals, and underwear, the Google commercial seemed to take a strategy right from Apple’s advertising playbook for its initial foray into television.

Five plays I saw called:

1. Use the product to tell a story.  In the Apple spots, a friendly narrator tells the story of a customer journey, ending with the line “there’s an app for that.”   The Google ad tells the story of adventure, discovery, love and family through searches. Each step in the journey has a solution in the Google results set that advances the customer’s story.

2. The product is the hero.  People are a distraction in Apple ads, and while iPods used to feature silhouetted dancers, most Apple commercials now are about the apps. Except for the disembodied finger, for the iPhone, it’s all about the software.  Google’s spot starts with its iconic home page filling the screen, which is only replaced by its familiar results pages.  The television stands in for the PC, and the audience looks right over the shoulder of the searcher entering terms and phrases, just as I peek into the iPhone the finger points to and swipes.

3. Be gender neutral.  Although the Super Bowl tends to attract advertisers with a propensity for frat humor and belly scratching, Google, like Apple has, tried hard not to offend men or women.  The story in the ad is universal, and while it is clear a man is entering the searches, women in the audience can appreciate the romance of Paris, and the happy ending of beginning a family.

4. Lather, rinse, repeat.  The world believes all touch screens use the gestures that Apple’s iPhone does.  The constant repetition of the gestures within the commercials, played in frequent rotation during popular television programs, trained the audience even before they purchased the device.  Within the Google ad, the searcher performs the same activities several times over – enter search term, then click on results.  

5. Don’t go for the cheap joke. It was an ad about romance, and the cursor skated across - but never clicked on - the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Sure Apple has done its share of cheap jokes in the Mac versus PC story arc, but, in the categories Apple dominates, iPod & iPhone, Apple doesn’t disrespect their leadership position with skeezy parents or slapstick jokes.


My List o' Lists - 7 Lists You'll Want To Follow


The most frequent social media tip I heard when I started this site was that posts with lists drive lots of click throughs because they create quick digestible pieces of insight with little investment for writer or reader. (This comes as no real surprise in the ADHD world of 140 character headlines, does it?) And with the introduction of the Twitter List feature, I can now let others find people and their the relevant small kernels of content for me. 

But first, I need a list for my lists, so I tried a new directory service for Twitter lists today, called Listorius.  Listorius is one of a growing category of tools that help consumers digest the massive amount of content produced on the web.  Remember when we all thought web search would solve all of our discovery problems, because relevance could be data driven and all we needed was the Google algorithm?

As more personal media is produced, hashtags have facilitated content relevance for search engines, but consumers use the '#' subjectively and eradically, often placing underscores, hyphens, or  abbreviations into their tags. Some common words are also brand names - Sidekick, the phone and sidekick, the companion, for instance.  Proper names become symbolic of behavior, as in "she pulled a Palin" or "that was so Kanye", so when I search on Twitter for #Palin or #Kanye, do I want to see more posts about her new book, girls talking about their boyfriends named Kanye or celebrity headlines? Since social media produces a ton of additional content to parse through on top of the long tail of blogging sites indexed for search of the web, these directory destinations have emerged with a consumer value prop to simplify the discovery of content through the filter of like-minded people. (After all, isn't that why it's called social?) As a result,  social media directories create new information frameworks for discovering conversations around a topic.

To show you what I mean, here are some of the topics of digital conversation that I like to eavesdrop on when I have a few minutes to discover new ideas on technology, design, and branding.  Please create and add your own in the comments sections below. Listorious is only a few days old and even the most popular topics only have a dozen or so lists, so contribute your view on the trends and topics you create or track. Make your own lists we can explore together.










Where's That "Smartphones for Dummies" Book?

Smartphones have more advanced operating systems than regular feature phones, and app markets broaden their capabilities beyond what you find out of the box. Unfortunately, Android phone consumers will need a special geek decoder ring when entering the Android market, because there's nothing to keep the developer in the garage from showing their inner Vulcan.  And while we are on the topic of arcane messages, has RIM gotten rid of that "Send a PIN" option or the "Servicebook initializing" verbiage yet?

My LinkedIn Status. Hmmm...


Autofill helps me complete my search for "Am..." Huh?


So is this the benefit of "open development" we're hearing about lately? Does open development let developers feel they no longer need to cover up the sausage making? I am not sure that most consumers will appreciate having visibility to their code right from the very apps they want to use.