On July 19, 2007, Crocs, Inc. sent a cease and desist letter to our web hosting company which demanded that that they immediately provide the contact information for the registrant of CrocFans.com (me) or immediately transfer the registration of CrocFans.com to Crocs, Inc. If these demands were not agreed to by July 26, 2007, Crocs, Inc. may â€œpursue all available remediesâ€ including â€œinjunctive reliefâ€.
This letter caused our hosting company BlueHost.com to temporarily suspend our account without any notice to us on July 25th. After speaking with BlueHost.com I was able to get the site back up and live after about 15 hours of being down. At that time I learned of the letter sent to BlueHost.com regarding the CrocFans.com domain and Crocs â€œdemandingâ€ of the ownership transfer of the domain.
I thought why would Crocs, Inc. have a problem with a fan site devoted to their products, brand, and the people who love their products? My initial thought was that this has to be some sort of mistake. After reading the cease and desist letter I noticed that the letter stated that CrocFans.com was being used to â€œoperate a website to sell shoes that are very similar to those sold by Crocs, Inc.â€
Well, as many of you know, we have never sold any products on CrocFans.com so I thought that I would pro-actively contact the Crocs, Inc. attorney who sent the letter to my hosting company to clarify this fact.
After leaving a voice mail with the attorney and an initial email helping clarify what the site was and that it did not sell competing products to Crocs the attorney acknowledged that CrocFans.com does not sell Crocs products or products similar to those sold by Crocs.
BUTâ€¦ went on to say that the use of the Crocs trademark in the domain (CrocFans.com) â€œcould be confusing to consumers as to whether the site is sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with Crocs, Inc.â€ Although they did not demand that we discontinue the content of CrocFans.com and that I was free to continue running the website under a different domain name, they still demanded that I transfer the domain name CrocFans.com over to Crocs, Inc.
Being a diplomatic person, I thought I would show my good faith with the Crocs organization and offered to transfer the domain CrocFans.com over to Crocs, Inc. after what I felt was enough time to do the necessary work to transfer a well established website domain to a brand new domain. After spending 2 years in growing the CrocFans.com website into what it is today with the tens of thousands of visitors to the site every month I offered to transfer the domain by January 1, 2008.
Anyone who has had to move an established website over to a different domain knows this is not something that you can do overnight without loosing all of your traffic. There are many steps necessary to ensure all of the work and effort already put into the site can be saved and transferred over to the new domain. I felt 5 months was the least amount of time it would take to do this transfer given the 2 years it took to build the site.
After sending my offer via email to the Crocs attorney, I felt certain Crocs, Inc. would be understanding and accepting of my offer. CrocFans.com has been one of (if not the biggest) online supporter of their shoes and brand for the last 2 years. Weâ€™ve held Crocs contests for people to show their love for Crocs (I paid for the winnerâ€™s prize with my own money) and been interviewed supporting Crocs in a New York Times article. I thought this was a fair compromise.
I guess was wrongâ€¦
The Crocs, Inc. attorney informed me that Crocs, Inc. was willing to give me 30 days (until September 5, 2007) to complete the transfer of ownership of CrocFans.com to Crocs, Inc.
I have responded by respectfully declining their offer to transfer CrocFans.com over to Crocs, Inc. by September 5, 2007.
Needless to say the whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth especially since I have spent a significant amount of time creating a site that supports, promotes, and helps further the Crocs brand to a worldly audience. Although I still like the shoes, I am not as impressed with the company and their management of this situation.
So, where does that leave us today?
I have started moving the website over to the new domain LittleRubberShoes.com. You may have noticed this at the top. Before I get a bunch of emails stating that Crocs are not made of rubber, I know, but that was the best I could come up with. If you have better ideas for the new domain please add them in the comments below.
I am working toward fully transferring the site from CrocFans.com to LittleRubberShoes.com by January 1, 2008. It is my hope to have the same amount of traffic to the site by the first of the year as what we were seeing before we made this change.
Undoubtedly, our traffic will take a short-term dip because of this move, but over time we should be back to where we were before. Iâ€™ve already seen a dip today where we previously were on the first page of search results on Google for â€œCrocsâ€, now I donâ€™t see the site in the first 3 pages.
We need your help. Please update your bookmarks, link to our new site, subscribe to our newsletter, subscribe to our RSS feed and tell your fellow CrocFans where weâ€™ve moved.
We will be announcing a new contest shortly that will hopefully build some excitement around the new domain LittleRubberShoes.com. Stay tuned for more details on this, but expect to see a much bigger and better prize than just one free pair of Crocs like previous contest.
In closing, of this marathon postâ€¦ it is my hope that companies will start learning how to leverage brand evangelists to their advantage. The companies that can harness the power of brand evangelists will not only build their brand but build it without additional marketing cost.
I read an article today that up until last year Zappos.com had 5 people in their marketing department. They are expecting to do a billion dollars in sales next year. They have focused on providing the best customer satisfaction and letting their customers do their marketing for them. Zappos gets brand evangelism.
The cheapest way to get a new customer is not by you talking about your products (traditional marketing). It is by finding ways to get other people talking about your products.
Brand evangelists have been around for a long time. Traditionally, they could only reach one person at a time. The internet gives your brand evangelists much more power and in some cases the ability to reach thousand if not millions of people. Companies need to work with these people who are your brand evangelists; they are your most valuable marketing resource.
I wonder if our friends over at IHateCrocs.com have received a letter?
Please post your comments below.