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17 September 2013

B.S. (Business Spam) Alert: Your Money Or Your Name

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of the one and only Atomic Tango LLC (at least for now)…

Nothing about the email set off my usually hypersensitive B.S. detector. It had landed in my business inbox with the subject line, “Confirm: About “atomictango” registration.” I didn’t recognize the sender’s name, Gerry Gu from p-xi.org, but emails from strangers are common in business, so I opened it and the message seemed friendly enough…

(Mail to the brand holder, thanks)

Dear CEO,

Sorry to bother you inexplicably. We are a China’s domain name registration supplier, and there is one thing we would like to confirm with your company. On September 17, 2013,  we received an application form online from a company called “FengXing Investment Co.,Ltd”  who wants to apply for some domain names and brand name related to “atomictango”. In order to avoid confusion and  adverse impact on your company, we need to verify whether this company is a subsidiary of you or did you authorize them to register the related brand name and domain names? Currently, we have not formally accepted the application of that company, we need to get your company’s confirmation. Please give us a timely response within 7 work days. So that we can better deal with this case. Thank you.

I responded that I had never heard of FengXing Investment Co., and I had not given anyone permission to apply for domain names using “atomictango.”

The reply from Gerry Gu was almost instantaneous: some application forms and a sales pitch to register “atomictango” in China using different web suffixes (the portion of the URL right of the dot: .ch, .asia, .hk, etc.). I deleted this second email without downloading a single form, but now I suspect that atomictango.ch, etc., will soon be registered.

So why didn’t I play ball?

1. I never download forms from companies I don’t know, and I definitely never give them my credit card number. The grammatical errors in the email also didn’t inspire confidence. (Lesson to international marketers: it’s critical to create a strong brand before pitching strangers.)

2. I’m not Coca-Cola, so I don’t have the resources to register my name in every country and with every possible top-level-domain. Indeed, in 2012, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) initially approved 1,574 new top-level domains, including .blog and .pizza. (Hmmm, AtomicTango.pizza — now that’s a business venture I could sink my teeth into.) That’s just the beginning. I suspect someday there will be unlimited web suffixes, and not even Coca-Cola will be willing to register every single one.

3. I don’t do business in China. My .com can serve any Chinese enterprise that wishes to contact me, as this incident demonstrates.

4. “Atomic Tango” is not unique. There’s a French punk band with the same name (they popped up after I started my agency). Maybe now there will be a Chinese punk band with the same name. At least I hope so.

5. Even if you register your name with someone, there’s no guarantee that they’ll protect it — as I discovered with Twitter.

Is there a risk? Absolutely. And that risk is part of doing business in a world where anyone can impersonate anyone else online with a few keystrokes. With my limited resources, I’ll have to live with that risk and carry on with just AtomicTango.com, while letting everyone know that AtomicTango.anythingelse is not me.

No reason to let that bother me inexplicably.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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