Posted April 1, 2011 9:36 am by with 19 comments

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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.

  • Is getting people talking about your brand, even in a negative way, better than them not talking about it at all? GoDaddy will be on everyone’s mind for the next few days, but the company might be big enough to weather the storm. I don’t envy the PR department though. Regardless of the reasons for shooting the elephant, and some of them might be very reasonable as the Mashable story says, most people are just going to see that he shot an elephant.

    • @Nick – This is tough one isn’t it? It is likely that his ‘reasons’ were real but did he have to put the GoDaddy hats on the villagers as they are butchering the elephant? That’s the incredibly stupid part in my opinion.

      Like I said in the post I doubt this will hurt sales and it probably won’t get much beyond the Internet industry anyway – none of this ever really does even though we like to think we are that important.

      Perspective is key and good marketers look beyond the shrill cries of the press and see if there can be any real damage. bad ones don’t. I’m not sure which we are dealing with in this case though.

      • Tom

        No Frank. Wearing the hats was only stupid if you look at it in purely public relations economic terms which you (and other exploitive types like yourself) have. However, if you happen to have a morsal of compassion, the “stupid” part was shooting the elephant

        • What are you doing at Marketing Pilgrim if you hold marketers and businessmen in such apparent contempt?

      • Tom

        No Frank. Wearing the hats was only stupid if you look at it in purely public relations economic terms which you (and other exploitive types like yourself) have. However, if you happen to have a morsal of compassion, the “stupid” part was shooting the elephant. Needless to say I will be pulling all my domains from Go Daddy.

  • Fred

    taking my domain biz elsewhere and making sure to let everyone know about it. what a sickening video, still got a lump in my throat

  • I tend to be the type who is more scared of the angry mob than whatever news story of the day invoked it. In watching the video myself, I see that the man was proud of helping villagers who asked for help.

    The only bad feeling I have is that I am in the process of letting a domain expire, as it is something I no longer wish to pursue.

    But, the mob is angry. They read abbreviated second-hand accounts and are, for some reason, angry about poor people having their crops protected and an ample source of fresh meat. Anything said at this point would be called a “lame excuse”, because that abbreviated one-sided story is just so trustworthy. They can’t be educated: if they wanted to then more of them would search for more information on their own instead of having a reaction and standing by it.

    GoDaddy will hopefully focus on the angle of caring about the human beings involved. Put some warm feelings into the angry feelings, since feelings seem to be the highest priority.

    • Tom

      To some of us “mobsters”, shooting an Elephant is…shooting an Elephant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be the judge and juror in determining what must die to save whomever.
      I don’t believe in this case that he is as much a ‘savior’; as you might think.

      Other solutions have to be implimented. Elephant populations are dwindling as are Lions (very significantly). Let’s just shoot everything.

  • We’re pulling all of our domains from GoDaddy as soon as Host Gator can get their act together.

    And the GoDaddy brand personality – which is shaped in part by Bob Parsons – is just one reason why.

  • I guess Bob is running out of creative ideas? I think though no one will remember this Zimbabwe escapade few months from now.

  • godaddycustomer

    If I was searching for a new provider this would eliminate Godaddy, poor taste such as this is not a company to support. Great service I use them now but not a way to bring in new clients. Very unprofessional. If he was just doing community service keep it humble, keep it to yourself…that’s real, that’s integrity!!!

  • Liquid

    With great power comes great responsibility. It was legal but it isn’t his “right.” Humans are not special – we are lucky. Next time, he needs to act maturely & use his resources to educate the village & develop sustainable food, water, & energy solutions. Majestic creatures can be saved, if we use our power responsibly.

  • Dale

    I’m not sure I’m understanding the controversy here. I haven’t seen the video, but what’s the big deal about him hunting an elephant? Is this species of elephant endangered? I hunt all the time. It saves me money and is great food.

  • dean

    It was a stunningly stupid idea – from the actual killing, to the filming and uploading, to the inclusion of the hats.

    Net impact on business: none. Outrage is fleeting

    • “Outrage is fleeting”

      Much agreed there. I guess the best PR move GoDaddy can make is a prayer that the next flavor-of-the-week scandal hits someone else before the end of the work day.

  • I can’t beleive this…This is very very sad…I am going to move all my domains today from GODADDY…

  • Heads up: Prasons is now speaking out via Twitter and interviews. He is defending himself and his actions with, if you will, both guns a ‘blazin.

    This is the kind of courageous answer to controversy that, honestly, makes me very happy.

  • Robert

    What a gutless idiot. He’s going to lose a lot of business. I’m quite sure he’s going to have a lot of defections from his incompetent little business as well.

  • Cheryl

    Another reason to completely dislike GoDaddy besides their absolutely idiotic TV ads (that could only really appeal to people with the brains of a 13-16 year old boy, and shame on Danica Patrick too while I’m at it….). They seem to be making it easy to NOT recommend them as hosting providers.