We had a ‘great’ marketing idea for our business. Then we got this Cease & Desist letter.
Here’s our reply to OpenTable‘s lawyers.
Dear Mr. W***,
Frankly I was relieved to receive your request to transfer the domain to your client.
Tock is a small company with only 23 employees. Mind you, they are a brilliant bunch working hard to change the restaurant industry, but our marketing and sales resources pale in comparison to your client’s. One day I was talking with Kyle — he’s our entire marketing department — when I thought, you know what would be funny for the National Restaurant Association show this Spring is if we simply passed out toy dinosaurs that said “OpenTableSaurus.com” on them.
Kyle raised his eyebrow at me as if to say, “I don’t follow yet, but OK. Go on.”
He was intrigued.
Yeah — we could pass them out as a symbol of OpenTable’s antiquated technology. First, everyone loves dinos, right? When you were 10 years old dinosaurs were the coolest things in the world. So restaurant owners would actually take the toys because, well, who doesn’t want a toy dinosaur. Then they’d wonder, what’s with this URL? And when they go to the URL we’ll have a big animated Brontosaurus lumbering about the page that says OpenTable on it… and there will be a few others as well — maybe Micros or Aloha because everyone hates their POS systems too. And then a meteor will drop from the blue sky, obliterate the dinos, and boom you get redirected to a Tock page, showing the future of restaurant reservations software — Tock.
We got pretty excited because it had been a long week of testing out our new consumer flow (which is pretty beautiful and nifty and actually reduces no-shows and sells great restaurant experiences, not just seats) and to be honest we had dipped into the wine at 4 PM on a Friday.
So we bought the URL OpenTableSaurus.com and got to work.
First thing we did? Alibaba for some toy dinos. It turns out there are tons of them to choose from but I insisted on a Brontosaurus only. Cases were made for other species but, no, in my mind it had to be a Bronto.
First and foremost, this is a very large creature, one of the biggest to ever walk earth, estimated at 17 to 19 tons. But more importantly it had the proverbial “Brain the size of a Walnut” powering that big, slow animal. To top it off — a vegetarian. Now I’m fine with vegetarians personally but if you have to power 17 tons with just leaves and grass? Not a good plan.
After a while we settled on this guy:
Perfect right? But after putting in a few RFQs from different manufacturers we realized this would need to be a two-step process. Buy the toy dinos from China, and then get the imprint “OpenTableSaurus.com” on them here in the US. Doable, but not as easy as we had imagined. And a bit more costly.
Nonetheless, we ordered 5,000 of them.
In doing the search we also found that one can buy an inflatable 22 foot tall dino that is nearly 18 feet long. Ok. Now this would be the draw in front of McCormick place to get people over to our non-booth. We’d sand bag it, have a few Tock employees handing out the toy dinos, and really, who’s going to question anyone with a 22 foot dinosaur outside a convention center?
So we ordered one of those too. It looks like this:
Now this is guerilla marketing at its finest. We get the benefits of a booth at the NRA show without actually buying a booth at the NRA show. We drive traffic to our site with humor, but also creatively reinforce the point that OpenTable software was created in 1998, or what I like to call the late Jurassic period of skeuomorphic computer design of the late, early internet.
Now here’s the thing. This was a ‘great’ plan. But really, it wasn’t that great. The toy dinos? Too small, and not that nice. We had trouble finding a suitable company to imprint the OpenTableSaurus.com URL. And that big giant inflatable dino that seemed so affordable? Turns out you needed a constant source of inflation, meaning generators and an industrial air compressor. The devil is always in the details.
As a can-do CEO of a small company, though, I could hardly admit defeat. At Tock we take pride in providing great hospitality to our restaurant partners regardless of the hoops we may need to jump through. It’s really a distinguishing characteristic of our company relative to our competition. And so I could hardly say, well, these dinosaurs won’t work — it’ll be too difficult. Let’s just get a traditional booth at the show, put up some computer monitors and show off our superior software in the most boring manner possible.
But thanks to your letter Mr. W*** you have given me an out. We will donate the dinosaurs, sans OpenTableSaurus.com imprint, to worthy children’s charities. The giant inflatable dinosaur was restocked for a small fee. And on or before February 20, 2017 we will forward the domain OpenTableSaurus.com to the owners of your choosing. Just let me know who should own the domain and I’ll make it happen.
It’ll be a relief.
CEO, Tock, Inc.
PS: If you’re a restaurant that is tired of using software from 1998, raise your hand. We’d love to show you the future.
FEBRUARY 22, 2017 EDIT: We did indeed turn over the URL to OpenTable. However, the website www.DinosaurTable.com is now ours… and never, ever mentions OpenTable anywhere on the site. Check it out!