Overloaded with Vanity URLs?

Do you get the feeling that vanity URLs are everywhere?  I'm seeing at least two or three a day, maybe more.  Not surprising - the number of registered domains in the world increased 27% between 2Q05 and 2Q06, according to Verisign, to over 105 million domain names in use.

But I have a problem with vanity URLs...I usually can't remember the addresses!  Vanity URLs are supposed to be clever and creatively relevant ways to drive site traffic - for people with good memories.

For example, while traveling between the US, UK and Ireland last week, I saw new executions for the HSBC local campaign - brilliant.  However, every time I got online and wanted to check out the full campaign, all I could remember was that HSBC did them, but not the URL.  (So finally I snapped a pic before my flight back to Boston and being tormented by trying to remember an address for seven hours.)

According to recent Forrester research, more consumers report visiting sites after seeing an address in something they can take with them - like on a product package or in a print ad.  Those "takeaway" media have about +20% effectiveness over outdoor and radio - more "atmosphere" media.  And for those of us who are forgetful, the cameraphone helps archive images and bridge the gap!

What do you think - do vanity URLs work for you?  [both as a consumer and for driving marketing ROI!]

P.S. I created the short Wikipedia article on vanity URLs in about 5 minutes early on Sunday morning - your help to expand the entry would be great!


re: Overloaded with Vanity URLs?

Good post. As a marketer, the URL typically supports the brand/message. The alternative is sending a web visitor to a page on your site. Health Canada currently has a national campaign going on in which they're trying to get Canadians to stop smoking. The URL is plain and simple - www.stupid.ca. That's pretty brilliant. The alternative would be something like www.canada.ca/stupid. That's a totally different message. I think you need to look more at what the alternative is.ChadPS - As a consumer, I saw the stupid.ca campaign in one of those pre-movie ads and it stuck with me. Hopefully, more people will but-out.

re: Overloaded with Vanity URLs?

From a word of mouth perspective, these urls can be good or bad.Bad: If you want someone to talk about you, they have to be able to remember you. Getting too clever gets in the way.Good: If it's unique and RELEVANT, it helps people remember what to tell their friends.Andy

re: Overloaded with Vanity URLs?

Peter,Good points on the issues w/ vanity URLs, but I have to say that I've always been a fan of them - especially if they offer something unique at their desitination.It's up to the brand to link/not link them to the rest of the site(s) that they support as their primary marketing vehicle, but it's an excellent way to 'track' how effective your media is. Perhaps you'll agree that it's better then the blahblah.com/blah where we put the campaign codes after the slash...no one remembers that.I like the other innovative approach to this where companies (I think Pontiac did this) say "google these keywords" to find us.The final potential opportunity for vanity URLs (and this is better served with a good user generated campaign, but let's stay focused) is to help with the SEM strategy so that when someone searches on a particular brand name (because they can't remember the URL) they're brought to one of the right pages and not sidetracked by some other directory page, or worse, a vigilante website for the brand (search for vector marketing or Iams).From a pure personal perspective, I like vanity/direct URLs on takeaway media (if a brand sponsored a concert, gave away frisbees, and had www.brandnameeventname.com, I'd be more likely to visit as I surmise that it would have information specifically on their events. I'd be very, very sore if the URL just redirected to their main site w/ out mention of the event I just attended.