March 31, 2011, 6:40 PM — It'll be interesting to see how GoDaddy chief executive Bob Parsons handles the continued fallout from his recent "vacation" in Zimbabwe.
Parsons is taking the kind of heat that in early February forced fashion icon Kenneth Cole to apologize after he lamely tried to use political violence in Egypt to hype his company's "spring collection."
Except Cole merely said something offensive and inappropriate. Parsons is a man of action.
On a trip to Africa, Parsons "heroically" shot and killed an elephant he claims was destroying the crops of a local tribe. Whether the elephant was a nuisance might be debatable, but Parsons probably didn't have to kill the elephant. And he certainly didn't have to have the slaughter videotaped and posted online, along with grandiose comments from Parsons that he "just got back from hunting problem elephant in Zimbabwe. Here's my vacation video. Enjoy."
Enjoy? Enjoy what, watching you gun down an animal and then a bunch of villagers carve it up? Speaking of which, the "hunting" that Parsons did consisted of waiting in the crop field with three other armed guys at night to shoot the elephants when they finally show up. So dark was it, by the way, that "team members can barely see each other." Smart.
What makes it clear that this is all about Parsons' ego, and not some "humanitarian" act of bravery, are the captions accompanying the kill video. It's pitch black, remember, so the viewer can't see anything. But at the moment when the "team" decides to start shooting, a caption must make it clear to all viewers who the real leader is:
"Bob Parsons fires first."
"Bob Parsons fires again. Both shots hit home."
The video next shows still photos of Bwana Bob standing over his kill, rifle butt resting on the dead elephant's head as blood rings its face.
After that comes footage of the tribe butchering the elephant. Some even wear GoDaddy hats, as they normally would every day while trying to avoid starvation and "problem" elephants in the unforgiving African wild. Not to mention the ridiculous prices and poor service poor Zimbabwe farmers have to put up with from those other domain registrars. At least they would if they had electricity.
This was an appallingly tone-deaf episode that has generated protests from PETA and calls for boycotting GoDaddy. Here's some of what PETA said:
Parsons is hiding behind the lame claim that killing elephants helps farmers in Africa whose crops are damaged by the animals. In fact, there are ample effective and nonlethal methods to deter elephants from crops.
After Cole's Egypt gaffe on Twitter, the designer posted a profuse apology on his Facebook page. He weathered a lot of negative comments for a day or two, and then people moved on. Parsons strikes me as more stubborn, so expect this PR fiasco to get worse before it gets better.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.