A Business Technology Place

Fighting deceptive adword titles

I wrestled with Google this week.
I felt like it was a struggle of biblical proportions. Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis chapter 32. David fighting Goliath in I Samuel chapter 17. But this time it was me, Bob. I wrestled with Google over adword titles that I felt violated their terms and conditions of use and fair business practices. It took three emails, sound logic, and big dose of persistence. But in the end I won out. Wow.

At issue were adword titles using a domain name.
The problem was that competitors were paying for Google ads and using a domain name that they didn’t own as the adword title. If the viewer of the ad clicked it they were taken to the competitor site.

Example: I key a domain into a search bar thinking I’ve keyed it into an address bar in a browser. Let’s say I key “ABCDomain.com”

ABCDomain.com shows as the first unpaid search result. However, it also appears a few other times above the real ABCDomain.com as a paid search result. But’s it not really ABCDomain.com, it just says that in the title. If you click it, you are directed to SneakyCompetitor.com.

Implied affiliation is prohibited in Google’s adword policy.
The battle was strange. I filed the proper adword dispute form to question the practice. My argument was that this practice violated the policy for implied affiliation.

Ads and sites can’t contain language that’s likely to cause confusion about the association between your services and another company’s services. Implying affiliation with another company may include using their trademark or logo in your ad text or on your landing page.

But they kept saying that I didn’t have a trademark or common law protection on the domain name in question. Ownership of the domain was not enough for implied affiliation. Really?

After a second appeal, Google changed it’s stance and took corrective action.
 Then something happened. I was granted a second appeal after sending my third email. In my last email I abandoned the reason of the adword policy and stated that it just wasn’t good business practice from Google to allow this type of deceptive advertising. It took, and my request won out. The little stone from the slingshot had found it’s mark. I’m happy to report the offending ads have been removed.

If you are using adwords then compete with integrity.
It still irks me that some competitors feel they have to use names and marks they don’t own to steal business. Competition is about several factors including price, quality, and value of goods and services in the market place. Don’t let the public confuse my brand marks with what you provide. Let’s compete fairly.

Burger King – the future is now

The Associated Press reports an announcement from Burger King Corp. that they plan to update the look of their stores. The updates include a focus on red, brick walls, chandeliers, and TV screen menus.  According to the report Burger King’s largest customer segment has been young males. This theme would appear to cater towards that segment. It looks like Burger King will possibly see some resistance from franchise owners based on the price tag for the upgrades.
My first impressions after looking at photos of the new template were that it looked very modern and urban.  Being honest, I eat at a Burger King about once every three years. There’s a franchise less than a mile from neighborhood entrance,  but we just don’t go.

Burger King Revamp

A Burger King in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas sports the company's new "20/20" design, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

I’ve always classified Burger King in the same grouping with McDonald’s and Wendy’s being fast food and burgers oriented. This competitive strategy is definitely intended to put Burger King in a new mindset with consumers. It appears  they are targeting more sophisticated customers, their core male following, and customers looking for more atmosphere.

It will be interesting to see if the new competitive strategy for Burger King establishes them as a more distinct brand in the eyes of consumers. Here’s a list of questions for the Burger King of the future:

  • Can Burger King create a unique market play that differentiates itself from other fast food operators?
  • Can Burger King turn a traditional fast food chain into a restaurant with atmosphere where people want to hang out and meet friends?
  • Will Burger King still market and target to families with small kids?
  • Will this change ultimately lead to big changes in the menu offering? By this I mean getting away from the low margin 99 cent menu and more towards a higher priced burger with more choices for side dishes.
  • Will this competitive strategy work in conjunction with their drive-thru business or will it cannibalize sales of the drive thru?
  • What about customer service policies and community involvement? That’s part of how Chik-fil-A has created a unique brand and experience for its customers. Will Burger King franchise owners seek out community involvement to make it more of a neighborhood grille?

In an informal study, I showed my kids (13 female and 11 male) the picture of the new design. Neither of them were moved by it. But I don’t think they are the target audience.

What do you think? If you don’t regularly eat at Burger King anymore would you be willing to try a meal in the new redesigned store? Can a fast food restaurant re-brand itself in the mind of consumers to be something more?