On the day when the Internet industry prides itself on being funny and trying fool each other into believing something that sounds like it could happen but really hasn’t, you would wish that what GoDaddy’s CEO, Bob Parsons, did was a joke. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look that way does it? His video of his elephant hunt is making the rounds on the Internet and many are none too happy.
Parsons is a free spirit for sure (his bio is here) and he usually could give a rip about what people think about him or his tactics. Who can blame him since he is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War vet (which I personally have respect for). His elephant hunt, kill and butcher video, though, is quickly making him more infamous than famous and if you are the GoDaddy marketing and PR group you probably are having a tough time right now.
Scantily clad girls are one thing because that can be seen on TV at any moment during any day. That’s how GoDaddy made its name. Sure beats saying “Hey, we sell domain names!” However, because of this type of promotion being used by everyone and their brother, we don’t need GoDaddy to provide it more.
In fact, that whole angle is so played out maybe Parsons thought that showing him shoot an elephant then watching Zimbabwean villagers butchering the elephant in GoDaddy hats was the better way to get our attention and buy a few domains from the Great White Elephant Hunter?
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Honestly, I don’t begrudge people needing to survive especially in harsh environments. The idea that these elephants were killing crops and could be eaten if killed is part of nature. Mashable addresses this side of the story quite well and I do get it. What it’s not part of though is marketing. Shock has always been a way to get attention. Ask Howard Stern who has become a very wealthy man by shocking people. But this one certainly crossed the line even when you consider a personality as large as Parsons.
In the world of the Internet there are limits and it will be incredibly important for marketers to understand just where they might be. While I seriously doubt that many big company CEO’s are out trying to put promotional materials on hungry villagers right at this moment this whole incident will need to be look at from the perspective of “How far am I willing to go?”
Now, getting down to the real deal here. Do I think this will impact GoDaddy sales in either direction? I doubt it will make them go up but I also doubt that it will hurt them. What this will do is create an unnecessary talking point for the brand that will overshadow the Danica Patrick’s and Jillian Michaels’ of the GoDaddy world.
What will be interesting is to see how these ladies manage their own reputations in light of this event. Would they be offended enough to walk away from the money they are making? That might be the more interesting reputation play in this whole thing since Parsons and GoDaddy can’t do much more to shock people to get press like this post. Oh and if they are already associated with GoDaddy I suspect they’ll stick around because they have bought into the culture and, especially in Patrick’s case, it’s more than just her brand at stake since her race team is sponsored by GoDaddy. Yikes.
So on that note, we’ll stop giving it attention. The bigger question is what kind of business impact will this have (if any)? Also, when it comes to getting attention and press how far are you willing to go these days? Is there such a thing as bad press? Maybe when you get as big as GoDaddy, then no. But for the rest of the business world, however, it’s not a joking matter.