In posting a gruesome video of his African elephant hunt that went viral last week, GoDaddy Founder Bob Parsons may have shot himself in the foot, at least from an image standpoint. Parsons spent Friday posting statements and offering interviews in defense of his actions. PETA jumped on the story, instantly closing its GoDaddy hosting account and using the opportunity to fire some PR shots of its own.
But the other part of the story involves the fast action of GoDaddy competitors. First to take aim was NameCheap, which blasted the Parsons video in a public statement. The statement at first reads like a eulogy for elephantkind, detailing the beast’s emotional capacity (who knew?) and the typical mourning ritual triggered by a death in the family. But it eventually moves in for the kill - NameCheap will transfer GoDaddy domains at a price so low that it claims to lose money on the deal. And, it pledges to donate a dollar to Save The Elephants for every transfer. That’s a PR bullseye.
The response of better-known rival Network Solutions was slower, but a bit more creative. Undoubtedly, NetSol was struggling with how to get its pound of flesh from the uproar without getting down in the muck with its rival. So instead of taking on GoDaddy directly, it used spokesperson Cloris Leachman. Or, maybe, as NetSol claims, Leachman is acting independently. Whatever the case, the 85-year-old actress and vegetarian has been targeting Parsons on her Twitter account in spokescharacter as GoGranny.
Tweets like, “Takes more balls to care for and love an elephant than it is to shoot it. You read that, @DrBobParsons?” have been picked up by major media and furiously RT’d by such boldfaced Tweeters as @KirstieAlley, @KathyGriffin, and Atlanta Housewife @kimzolciak. NetSol also trumpets its own offer, a $6.99 transfer deal, complete with a vanity URL. It assures us that “no elephants were harmed in the creation of this coupon.” Cute.
It’s too early to tell if GoDaddy’s business has actually been hurt by a customer stampede to the competition, and maybe we’ll never know. But after only five days, Parsons is definitely on the defensive, and in a commoditized category like domain registration, that makes GoDaddy a soft target.