How far is too far?


Sure – I’ve pissed off, offended and managed to get a bunch of people royally off-side.

I’ve had people cancel their course bookings after receiving their first NET:101 newsletter (couple that with plenty of unsubscribes). I’ve had complaints about my text on images quotes (“filthy and offensive”) and admonishing emails about my satirical social media blog (“very unprofessional”). I’ve embarrassed and disappointed people who’ve tried to book one of my mock courses, and I’ve confused countless others who don’t know why I’m holding a snapper by the tail on the homepage of my website (btw, I’m also confused about this).

How far is too far?

While I don’t set out to deliberately offend, it does fill me with minor delight when it happens. I view it as a sign that I’m headed in the right direction because I don’t think any organisation can confidently hold and articulate a clear brand-position without marginalising a few folk. It’s okay to show everybody the door, watch a minority beat an exit and then connect more ably with those left in the room. I’m also doubly-sure that no-one is asking for more of the same bland website, blog, social media wishy-washy, cliché-ridden, me-too rubbish that’s being bandied about. And anyway, try to please everybody with lowest common denominator output and you’ll end up pleasing nobody – better to save your energy.

How far is too far? Not as far as you probably think… but have fun finding out.

NB: No animals were harmed in the production of this post


Using QR (Quick Response) Codes as a Marketing Tool


QR codes have been around a while. They’re big in Japan and South Korea, appearing on billboards, consumer products, vending machines, magazines, newspapers, or anywhere there’s room to insert the symbols – including within the haircuts of rock stars. Think of them as bar codes for consumers, or ‘paper based hyperlinks’ – scanning one automatically triggers any number of predefined responses or code actions, such as opening an URL, sending a text message or sending vCard contact information (there are many other possible ‘actions’ across various social media platforms, maps, WiFi connections and online video).

While QR codes have been slow to take off in Australia I’ve noticed a recent shift in interest from local marketers, and more importantly the public at large; I would expect to see plenty of them popping up in offline places near you in during 2012.


Generating your own QR codes
This is simple – I use a comprehensive online code creator from Kerem Erkan, but there are many others. There are numerous actions and code customisation options to choose from when creating your own QR code; the final code can then be copied and posted online, or downloaded in various formats and placed within any offline media as you would a standard image or graphic.

The QR code example below has an embedded action to open the homepage of the NET:101 website when scanned.



Scanning a QR Code
This is commonly done with a QR reader app on a smartphone, making them a convenient way to interact with a mobile audience (the reader app I use on my iPhone is Qrafter). Some phones are now coming out with QR readers as native functionality, making the scanning process a quick & easy one.


Customising a QR Code
Marketers are taking QR codes to the next level by applying customised branding. This can be a little tricky, requiring graphic design manipulation without braking the code – here’s a good blog post on how to do this.

The code below is a customised version of the code above – it still performs the same action but presents with softer code edges and incorporates the NET:101 logo and primary brand colour, red.



A few other examples of customised QR code design:






Choosing an Online Friendly Brand Name

brand4 (1)

Before settling on a new brand name ensure you’re able to secure the key online properties that will be associated with it, namely:

Page 1 Search Results

Type the brand name you’re considering into Google (or your favourite search engine) and analyse the page 1 results. Are there exact or similar brand names from anywhere else in the world you’ll be competing with for attention? If yes, how strong is their page 1 presence?  Brand name searches are popular online – as a given, your brand needs to come up numero uno for anyone running a search on it. And ideally anyone searching on your brand would prominently see a wide range of results which are only directly associated with you.

Domain Name

You’ll want to secure the Top Level Domain name for your brand in your primary geographic market, e.g. for an Australian business this would be the TLD (I recommend a country specific domain name over a generic .com). If the domain name you want is already taken, the hyphenated version may be available, e.g., but this has potential for confusion – people looking for your website might use the unhyphenated URL expecting to find you.

If the .com and the .net domains are also available for your brand names, go ahead and acquire these as a defensive play.

Registered Trademarks & Google AdWords

Check to see if anybody has your proposed brand name trademarked.  In Australia you can run a trademark search here and apply to have a brand trademarked for $120 here.

Securing a trademark for your brand prevents others from claiming or using it for their own purposes. Furthermore, Google will not allow its AdWords advertisers to use trademarked keywords to trigger an AdWords ad, or to appear in the body of one. Be aware however that Google mostly relies on others to notify it of any violations; you can alert Google of an AdWords related trademark violation here.

YouTube Channel

Is your proposed brand name already a (popular) YouTube username? Usernames can be up to 20 characters long and can include both letters and numbers; they can also contain capital and lowercase letters. If you have a two of three word brand name, consider capitalising the first letter of each word, e.g. TheBoxPeople. Once you have created your YouTube account you cannot change the username associated with the account – choose carefully.


While it’s nice to get your brand name into your Twitter handle, it’s not essential. The page can still be strongly branded and any Twitter name can get itself known over time. Although Twitter allows usernames of up to 15 characters, shorter names are preferable as they take up less of the maximum 140 character allocation of each tweet. As with YouTube, usernames can contain numbers, and capital and lowercase letters.
While you’re in setting-up mode you might want to look at opening up a dedicated Google account, Google Analytics for your website or blog, a Facebook Page, a Flickr account, a LinkedIn business profile, and Also, activate Foursquare and Google Places listings if you have any physical points of presence associated with your brand.


Image by jvleis