According to the Radio Joint Audience Research body (RAJAR), the popularity of the spoken word in our lives has not diminished. Their most recent report, covering April to June this year, states that more than 90% of adults in the United Kingdom listen to the radio every week. Despite the proliferation of digital TV and our ability to consume all other media on the move, it is amazing to think that so many of us still use what essentially is the same technological platform that was invented back in 19th century by the likes of Guglielmo Marconi and Roberto Landell de Moura.
It's been nearly 100 years since the first commercial content was aired - back in 1920, Detroit-based station 8MK started airing a news programme and the world has never looked back. Today we have hundreds of thousands of stations covering all genres, the vast majority of which are commercial, i.e. those that rely on advertising revenues to remain on the airways. The digital revolution, with around 45% of listeners in the UK using a digital device to access content, certainly saved the commercial models of many stations.
Radio advertising is certainly an attractive proposition for many brands. Radio offers a more intimate audience than TV and allows advertisers to target their audience based on much tighter demographics. However, unless advertising agencies think like a consumer, they could end up causing more damage than good to a brand. Let me give you an example. Driving home on a Saturday early evening I was listening to one of the biggest countrywide commercial stations in the car. An advert came on from a brand I had never heard of before: Habito, which is a digital mortgage broker, launched last year to a big fanfare and gaining rave reviews. "See for yourself at www.habito.com" was the call to action at the end of the ad. But is that the right domain name?
The brand is pronounced 'Hab-e-tow' so potential consumers may type a number of combinations such as 'habetoe', 'habetow', 'habeto', 'habitoe' and so on. In fact, I could think of over a dozen different spellings of the same name. Factor in a few more variants of the Top Level Domain (TLD) such as dotUK, dotNet or even dotMortgage or dotBroker and the number of combinations balloons.
This is heaven for anyone who wanted to divert genuine traffic away from the brand. Registering just a handful of those misspelled - but correctly pronounced - domain names, could enable them to direct the domains to a copycat website and very quickly some unsuspecting direct type traffic will arrive. Not only will that harm Habito's business model in terms of potential lost revenue but it will have a detrimental impact on their reputation: essential for any brand operating in the financial services industry.
The one acid test that we at NetNames always try to tell consumers is: if in doubt, check the domain name's ownership through a Who.is check. Unfortunately, in this instance, the firm are using a privacy registration which does not reinforce consumer confidence, something that is essential for any brand operating in the financial services sector.
Habito aren't the first - many brands have made a similar mistake. Web hosting brand Wix promoted wix.co.uk in their radio ads a few years ago, something that DIY chain Wickes would have indirectly benefited from.
We've all seen examples of badly formed domain names where adding keywords that sound fine when spoken but when pushed together have a completely different meaning (Powergen Italia anyone?). The same issue exists in promoting a website address in spoken form.
In instances like this it may have been easier to simply say "search online for Habito" where rankings from rogue websites are harder to manipulate.