Considering the idea of using a sub-domain name for marketing? If you do, consider the following:

Note: I provide constructive criticism based on my experience, what I have seen and why I think it’s a problem. I do this to help others.

Today, we take a look at parent company Mondelez who is marketing a new offering for its Oreo brand for the holiday season, gifting Oreo’s.

Mondelez is making a hard push to better the companies ecommerce efforts and are spending a good deal of money to do so.

Oreo announced via a press release “OREO, Launches Direct-to-Consumer Gifting Site for the Holidays”

Which continued with the follow:

“Just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year, OREO is introducing gifts.oreo.com, a totally new online gifting experience for consumers featuring festive OREO tins filled with White Fudge Covered OREO cookies, a seasonal favorite. The new eCommerce pilot program will allow Mondelēz International to further build its direct-to-consumer credentials and is the latest initiative in the company’s global e-commerce strategy, which aims to grow revenues to at least $1 billion by 2020.

“OREO cookies have been part of people’s holiday shopping and snacking for generations. And a key part of our eCommerce strategy is to offer unique gifting opportunities for our fans while ensuring a seamless shopping experience from start to finish,” said Jennifer Hull, Global e-commerce Marketing Platforms Lead.”

What I see people do

Problem #1. The hyper-link is ok when it’s a link and somebody clicks it. The bad, people talk, A LOT! What about word of mouth? Using a sub-domain “gifts” prior to the main brand domain name kind of thing is “ok” if you even know what a sub-domain is AND if you cover ALL bases for those who do not and will mix things up a bit. Keep in mind that people will visit websites in different ways, not all by clicking or tapping a link.

Cover the missteps

1.) Resolve / redirect the singular sub-domain name Gift.Oreo.com! Did Mondelez do this? NO, resolves to a dead page! If a consumer does not click a link and attempts to type it because a friend mentions it, there is potential that they will type Gift.Oreo.com instead of Gifts.Oreo.com as advertised (Strike 1, lost visitors, no cookies for you)

gift.oreo.com

2.) Own and use the exact domain name but without the . between the sub-domain and domain name. Gifts.Oreo.com can and does result in users forgetting the period and typing GiftsOreo.com. Did Mondelez do this? No! (Strike 2, still no cookies) The domain is unregistered and available for registration!

giftsoreo.com

3.) Own and use the typo of the domain without the . between the sub-domain and domain. GiftOreo.com. Did Mondelez do this? No! (Strike 3, no cookies yet) Also available for registration.

Remember Jennifer’s quote from above and her mentioning that they are “ensuring a seamless shopping experience from start to finish”. That statement becomes not so true to people who do any 1 of the 3 common missteps mentioned above that should be covered when marketing with a sub-domain name and they covered zero of them.

Why even use a sub-domain to direct people to act on something or learn more?

I personally do not enjoy seeing a sub-domain used in advertising. Why?

They create at least some confusion. Was that a dot? Two dots? Why is there a dot in the domain? Is that a domain name? Trust me, it’s not common and it creates some confusion using sub-domains, so I wouldn’t even suggest doing it.

Sub-domains are not visually pleasing. gifts.oreo.com is busy and it shouldn’t be. Add in the plural problem and you have double trouble. Highlighting keywords with capital letters helps the eye separate them: Gifts.Oreo.com which pops more than gifts.oreo.com where it appears to run as one but I’d avoid marketing with sub-domains.

What would Jamie do?

GiftOreo.com is the domain name I would have used in the press release. It speaks to the consumer TO gift Oreo’s and that is what Mondelez is trying to do. I would also register the plural domain, GiftsOreo.com and 301 redirect it to the singular domain. It would not be my first thought to use the plural (gifts) as they did. Not sure why really as the site is only offering 1 type of cookie to gift.

If it is a corporate decision to direct traffic to the main Oreo.com website, I would do a Server Side 301 redirect on GiftOreo.com using:

  • Title: Gift Oreo Cookie’s Today! Yummy
  • Meta Description: Give the gift of OREO this holiday season. Spread the joy with the gift of White Fudge Covered OREO Cookies, delivered from you!

Doing a server side redirect allows for the domain name GiftOreo.com to be indexed by search engines, with a title and meta description (consider the title and meta as a sales pitch to get the user to click). This helps you “take the top” of search engines and rank several of your websites / domains. The marketed domain and the sub-domain on the main domain name Oreo.com. Winning

GiftOreo.com is simply easier to remember for consumers to share the idea via word of mouth. Not having a . helps eliminate confusion.

What’s the big deal about the cookie gifting?

All that is required to have the cookies shipped to somebody is that persons email address or mobile phone number.  Well, and $19.99 from you! Or, as Oreo puts it: “Our patent pending gifting technology allows you to purchase and send OREO gifts without needing to know the recipient’s address. Simply enter the recipient’s email address or mobile number during the order process and we’ll send them a link to the gift via email or text message. Your recipient can then click the link, enter their shipping address, and the gift will be sent to them.”

Don’t let them BS you on the whole fancy “Our patent pending gifting technology” ploy… they are using Jifiti, which is a gifting start-up.

Risky in general but I’m sure tested. It relies pretty heavily on email (which is a mess) and text messaging, the person “accepting” the gift after they “digitally open it”…. oh boy!

Reality, the fancy tin box will consume limited space in your home and you really only care about the damn good cookies. Just buy the $3.00 bag of Oreo’s at Walmart and it gives you a reason to visit with the family member or friend personally instead of the mail service. Heck, buy a second bag and talk about the $19.99 tin you almost gifted to them but now you have $13 bucks left to buy a domain to start something cool!

Note: I did send an email on Dec 6, 2016 to Jennifer Hull suggesting they register the domain names mentioned in the article, but no action has taken place.

About Jamie Zoch

Jamie Zoch is a domain investor, dad and dedicated husband who founded DotWeekly.com in 2008 to bring unique and helpful views on domain names. Jamie is very passionate about domain names and helping others learn and prosper.

11 Responses to Marketing With Sub-Domains, Not A Great Idea
  1. Nice analysis. Always enjoy your posts.

    Subdomains do work in the right context. For instance, when I ran marketing at Fanatics.com I employed a sub domain strategy for paid advertising on a team level ie Yankees.Fanatics.com, Bears.Fanatics.com, Longhorn.Fanatics etc.

    Typically generated a higher CTR and CVR

    • R P,
      I certainly see sub domains as a helper in long tail search, online ads but not much in an effort that would be looking at type-in traffic of any sorts.

      • If you spend money advertising subdomains it’s important to buy the string as a .com as well and forward to the subdomain to avoid traffic leakage.

        When a lessor leased out my dog breed domains and created “shop.” Subdomains I bought the full string as .com.

        It’s important to remember many large companys’ IT infrastructures can allow for marketing dept to create subdomain mini-sites more easily than new stand alone domains.

        This is one of the main reasons for weak TLD adoption. Changing out a root URL that’s infrastructure has been built upon for 20 yrs is not easy and not cheap.

  2. Damn it, man! And I just ordered you a $20 tin of oreos minutes before reading the article …

  3. Nice analysis. The Oreo company is not using subdomains correctly. We have created something called digital taglines, dot slogans and tagline ads that are very innovative usesage of subdomains. Many articles can be found here including eight articles links listed in the first post. (http://www.cybrands.com) . Our tag line registry is at http:www.tagline.tech . Thank you for letting me post this but I think it’s important information.

  4. I don’t know the demographic group you are refering in your analysis. But over the last 5 to 10 years even older people who are not that familiar with the Internet, get it right if you tell them “gifts dot oreo dot com”. That is nothing new.
    I happen to hear a italian oldies channel on vacation in europa (which i was told was mostly heared by people past retirement age) and even they managed to get domains correctly to the listeners (with subdomains or paths with forward slash) in italian.

    I am also not sure that the traffic that you loose because you did not account for missing dots would have been less than you would have lost any way in the ordering process because of internet illiteracy.

    • @minirich,
      Here is some factual data proof that people DO forget the dot in a sub-domain. This is via Wayback machine but is an article I wrote on DotWeekly back in May 2011: https://web.archive.org/web/20120106073148/http://www.dotweekly.com/walmarts-way-of-explaining-direct-navigation (scroll to read the story). My story focused on Survey.Walmart.com and SurveyWalmart.com was getting at least 6K visitors a month.

    • I get traffic to MyBodybuilding.com all day long because established, long-term users of Bodybuilding.com’s website mistype the http://my.bodybuilding.com/ website that Bodybuilding.com created for its users. So, this behavior happens with established users and not just prospective users mistyping from a press release or radio program.

      A more extreme example: I get traffic to MyFIU.com all day long as well as university students mistype their http://my.fiu.edu/ web address to sign up for classes, check grades, etc. Note that they even mistype the domain extension — .com instead of .edu!

      Net/net: The only subdomain to use in marketing is the original “www” subdomain that 25 years of marketing and advertising has beaten into consumers’ minds (or leave it out and just use the domain name with no “www” subdomain at all). The only extension to use is “.com”, as those same 25 years beat that extension into consumers minds as well. Even Warren Buffett has invested in Verisign stock, and for good reason: .com is the gold standard extension with huge brand equity, and deservedly so.

  5. I use sub-domains on serving.com and have a cluster set-up to describe individual name use. I was pleasantly surprised to find clicks from these to my Adsense account. They may not work as well as the prime domain but they do work..

  6. I use sub domains for Twitter and Facebook Groups. These are for Geo Domains ie names of towns and areas. With Twitter, they don’t include the http:// or the www. … so the Sub domain looks like this eg electrician.rossendale.info … This re-directs (301) to the webpage on the site for http://www.Rossendale.info … It not only tells the user what the service is, it tells them where it is. If you wanted the full URL for this, it looks long-winded … and there is a double rr in the middle. Matt Cutts from Google says sub-domains are okay .. good enough for me. Regards Ian


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