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The Marketing Plan From Heck – Just Get A Lawyer Involved

In a bizarre reverse of self-promotion, a site that got hardly any visitors is now hugely popular – thanks to the lawyers seeking to shut him down.

This isn’t a new promotional trick (controversy after all is a ‘great’ way to get known), but it seems the lawyers had no clue how the Internet works – try to stifle someone on a blog, and the blogger might just talk about it.

The full details are on this post (and the original blog is here), but basically, it’s this: a Canon parody site on WordPress.com got under the skin of Canon. The result was they involved lawyers to shut it down, and the controversy ended up making everyone visit the fake site.

Understandably, Canon is annoyed – the site is set up to complain about their products by taking stabs at their corporate evangelist – but their heavy-handed methods means they have attracted ONE HUNDRED TIMES the visitors to the site – from a low of about 200 visitors to now 20,000 visitors, all to see what the fuss is about.

Complaints on the Internet can make a difference (see Facebook’s recent reverse on its draconian TOS), and corporations do well to learn the lessons.

The solution? Make friends, not enemies. A guy going to the trouble to parody a company is really mad – and well worth sitting down with and satisfying. Solve the problem and you get a friend – bury your head (and avoid dealing with it), and you get, well, a parody site, and a huge lawyer bill (which has to be paid whether they did things right or wrong, by the way).

As I once said in a post on customer service, you end up annoying close to 300 people for every vocal one you actually hear from. Treat their views like gold – because helping them see your side might just sway 300 potential customers ‘behind’ them.

And on the other side: parody sites WILL cause you stress – decide now if the rewards of getting known are worth the stress of getting known by the wrong people – people with lawyers on retainer…

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  • Ernest said:


    There are some very good web sites that evaluate and criticize Canon: The Online Photographer, The Luminous Landscape, Rob Galbraith, DPReview and The-Digital-Picture to name just a few. Those sites are very popular and have no doubt served to make Canon products better. But the authors of those sites are not anonymous, and they don’t make a site whose whole point is to harass one Canon employee.

    While you and others have a knee-jerk reaction promoting this anonymous blogger, please think about what he’s actually done.

    The real Chuck Westfall is not the CEO of Canon. He’s not a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Instead, he’s the guy who for years has been listening to photographers, responding to their concerns and criticisms, and conveying those concerns and criticisms to Canon in Japan. I know this from reading Chuck’s posts on several web sites over the years. Many photographers know Chuck as being extremely helpful. Mike Johnston has written eloquently about the real Chuck on The Online Photographer.

    The anonymous Fake Chuck comes along, and apparently can’t make a decent photo with his Canon gear (even many though thousands of professional photographers can and do). To compensate for his photographic failings and his anger, he creates a site to abuse and embarrass the real Chuck, the guy who’s been helping photographers. The Fake uses real Chuck’s name and photo, his family members names, and makes threats of violence on his blog.

    That’s simply indecent and tasteless. It’s the way to alienate a valuable resource. It’s the way to discourage Canon employees (like Chuck) from listening and responding to photographers for fear that they and their families may become the victims of an anonymous blog site.


  • David Pankhurst (author) said:

    You make some good points – and I hope my post conveyed that I don’t approve of these types of methods to get known.

    My biggest concern is that Canon, because of a lack of finesse, has now given him more publicity rather than less. A person who had 200 visitors was a single complaining voice in the wind: 20,000 visitors make people sit up and take notice.

    And while I agree that personal attacks on individuals and writing anonymously are both lousy ways to blog, my main point was that businesses have to be very careful with how they handle them because of the possibility of this very issue online – a small vendetta exploding into a big (and public) issue.