Using Established Brands To Promote One’s Own Brand: Leviathan?

Nick Stamoulis has been getting a lot of attention online lately. It’s not all good and that’s good.

Nick is an Internet marketer. An effective one it seems. He uses pay-per-click ads to market his services and attract new clients. The problem is, he buys clicks for recognized brand names so that he’ll appear on the SERPs (search engine results pages) of those companies. In other words, type in “Bruce Clay,” a recognized name brand in search engine marketing, on Google and look to the right side of the page. You’ll see an ad for Nick Stamoulis. Bruce Clay doesn’t appear in the ad anywhere, but anyone who understands how pay-per-click works knows that the ad wouldn’t appear on that page unless the advertiser had bid on the name brand as a keyword. Bruce Clay isn’t the only brand name Nick bids on to have his ads appear for search results.

Is That An Unethical Business Practice?

Some people are accusing Nick Stamoulis of employing unethical business practices. Others, such as Lee Odden (scroll down to read the comments) of TopRank Online Marketing, another popular name brand, accuse Nick Stamoulis of being a “bad” marketer. But is it really poor marketing?

Is It Legal? Is It Ethical?

I won’t speak to whether Nick Stamoulis is employing grimy, slimy, or sleazy marketing practices. I happen to think all of that is relative anyway. Lots of things are sleazy in one circle only to be hailed as genius in another. The real question is whether the practice is legal, ethical, and moral. Many of the top minds in the industry say “yes,” including Lisa Barone of Bruce Clay Inc., one of Nick Stamoulis’s competitors. In fact, here’s what Lisa had to say:

It’s probably important to point out that everything Nick is doing (besides placing his telephone number in the display URL, which he’s since fixed) is 100 percent legal and within bounds. The courts have ruled that it is totally okay for companies to bid on trademarked terms (they’ve also ruled it’s okay for the owner of the trademark to sue you). I just wonder if it’s the best plan of action. I have no doubt that Nick is a talented search marketer; he’s clearly got the linkbait down. My fear is that by heading down the path where you piggyback off others success may make you more enemies than you gain clients. If you’re a good search marketer, why not get attention by showing off your skills?

Nick’s response?

And as for “showing off my skills,” I believe I already have.

Any Publicity Is Good Publicity – Or Is It?

Most search marketers seem to be saying Nick Stamoulis’s approach to search marketing is ethical and the courts have obviously ruled that it is legal. But is it effective?

Well, as Nick himself has pointed out, it has got a lot of people talking, particularly the people who are the target of his advertising – his competition. They are discussing him, linking to him, and in fact making him more popular. Does that validate his practice? In some sense it does. But in the best sense it really helps Nick promote his brand. Any time you can get others talking about you, it’s free advertising. Who can argue with free advertising?

It’s a strategy that businesses have been using for years. Even before the advent of the Internet, business entrepreneurs would get people talking about them. Build a buzz and people will swarm to you like you were honey. A lot of great marketers have employed those strategies, and they work. And some folks are always going to not like something, either because they don’t fully understand it, or appreciate it for its virtues (if it contains any), and there will be those who will criticize. Should you care?

My philosophy has always been, he who cannot take a risk should not expect rewards. Is it risky to do something that might cause ill will among your peers and industry colleagues? Sure, but are they the ones you should really be concerned about? As long as you aren’t spreading rumors, trash talking, slandering their name, or acting in malice, business is a playing field. The object is to play well and win, keeping in mind, of course, that winning isn’t everything but then neither is “how you play the game.” What really matters is are you true to your customers and true to your brand without breaking any laws or moral commands.

Here’s wishing you success and satisfaction in the topsy-turvy world of commerce in the coming millennium.

The Old Man

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The Old Man serves as operations manager for SEO Service Provider and Article Content Provider.