There’s always something to howl about

The Lones Group in Bellingham Washington Commits Hari Kari

Warning : This post is purely REALTOR inside baseball

Around here, we live, eat and breathe marketing. Online reputation management and online publicity is what we do to get our clients houses sold and  to find buyers who trust us enough to allow us  to assist them in their home search.  As a student of this stuff, I am flabbergasted by the news that a self anointed expert who in her own words, “started the Real Estate marketing revolution… and we are darn proud of it!” would attempt to extract money from a practicing REALTOR over 2,000 miles away who happens to use the same mascot, a Zebra. Now I understand that hard earned and promoted brands must be protected, but I really cannot see how Daniel Rothamel’s zebra mascot in Virginia, promoting Daniel’s real estate brokerage activity could in anyway damage The Lones Group in Bellingham Washington which uses a rainbow zebra on their website.

The Lones Group in Bellingham, WA and it’s owner, Denise Lones do not even perform real estate brokerage-they sell advice to those who do perform real estate brokerage.  I am not sure I see how Daniel Rothamel, the Real Estate Zebra is damaging The Lones Group and their photoshopped rainbow zebra.  I took a peak at the Lones Group website to see if perhaps they did business in Virginia and that was why they were picking on Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra.  Upon glancing at their testimonial page of happy customers, I only found clients in the Pacific Time zone, most of their clients were Washington REALTORS.  I did note something peculiar about the Lones Group’s happy customers, as listed on their testimonials page. There are 28 testimonials displayed. Six of their happy clients had no website link.  Six more happy customers of the Lones Group had links to… wait for it…dead websites.   Now we find that the company that started the Real Estate marketing revolution has 25% of their happy clients who love the Lones Group’s work are not even linked to this powerhouse marketing firm and are hidden from potential clients.  I may be wrong, but if I were selling the real estate marketing revolution that I started, I would make darn sure that my happiest, bestest clients could be found from my website on the off chance that a potential customer would take a peek at the revolutionary work I had done.  Well, this potential customer found 25% of the happy customers were missing in action in this revolution. Why are they missing? Were they litigated into oblivion? Inquiring minds want to know.

Exploring The Lones Group in Bellingham, Washington calendar posted in their website (just Google The Lones Group, Bellingham Washington) I find that the Lones group calendar is full of events in the State of Washington for REALTORS of that state. I did not find any events announced for the State of Virginia.  I really have to wonder what this lawsuit is all about.  Daniel Rothamel does not compete with Denise Lones in any way shape or form. He just happens to use a sketch of a black and white zebra to promote his business. Denise Lones uses a rainbow colored zebra. Denise Lones should put her attack attorneys on these companies as well, since she paid for the boilerplate:

Lones’ attorneys might even find more satisfaction from any of the above companies.  Daniel Rothamel is a sole practioner REALTOR in Virginia, not a real estate marketing consultant, and has no more to do with the Lones Group’s practice than any of the above Zebra themed companies.

Well, the title of this post was about Hari Kari, implying that the Lones Group is suicidal. Here is my take:  The Lones Group promotes themselves as a marketing consultant to REALTORS.  As such, they, better than anyone else should know that REALTORS as a species bleed empathy,  for their clients and for their colleagues. We are the only industry that cooperatively offers commissions to competitors. We are social critters.  Daniel Rothamel is one of us, and he is being kicked  by a vendor that makes her living from the hard earned commission dollars of REALTORS.

Now, knowing REALTORS as I do, it seem to me that this assault on Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra is Hari Kari.   Just sayin’.

Here is the complaint

List of Zebra Companies: h/t Cheryl Johnson


23 Comments so far

  1. Missy Caulk February 27th, 2011 11:05 am

    Hey Tom,

    Good links to other companies using Zebra. Looks like they might have had deeper pockets than Daniel and have similar marketing companies.

    Enjoyed your take on this!

  2. Eric Michael February 27th, 2011 11:48 am

    I wonder if she’d sue the Chicago Bears or Detroit Tigers if she’d picked a different animal when she “started the Real Estate marketing revolution”?

  3. Jessica Horton February 27th, 2011 11:54 am

    This is really sad.

    But I think all this social media buzz (support) could hurt Daniel even more–it may just feed the flames of bitterness that brought the action…

    An arrogant person will not be able to admit they are wrong and will continue the litigation just to prove they are right. Being wrong and humiliated just isn’t an option for people like that. They can’t back down. Their egos won’t let them.

    The more people talk about it online…the more it could push the plaintiff to keep coming (and the more it cost Daniel to defend himself). I hope that isn’t the case, but there is a reason why cases should be tried in court and not online. #justsayin’

    And based on actual real world experience: Litigation is VERY costly and it can cripple you–even when you are 100% in the right. “Winning” never hurt so badly before (But the lawyers sure seemed to enjoy it for me…).

    My thoughts and prayers are with Daniel and his family on this. I will pray for financial support, sound (and aggressive!) legal counsel, common sense from all parties…

    But mostly for for a wise judge to get to the heart of the matter–and quickly.

  4. Scott Cowan February 27th, 2011 12:44 pm

    I am curious about one thing that I have not heard mentioned in any of the posts regarding this topic. Did the Lones Group ever contact Daniel and request that he stop using the Zebra logo etc. BEFORE they filed the lawsuit?

    It would seem to me that if they were concerned that their branding was being hurt that they would of started off by asking without hiring legal counsel. Possibly they could of resolved this without legal interference? Did Daniel ignore a request? or was he simply served with the lawsuit?

  5. Jim Klein February 27th, 2011 4:46 pm

    Fascinating case; thanks Tom. Hari-kari indeed, and what a remarkable instance. If Ms. Lones can even manage to stay in business, that’ll be pretty impressive IMO. Me, I’m bettin’ that her zebra will finally be one that loses its stripes!

    Or, for a nominal charge, I could help her with a deep and very public apology. That’s the only thing getting her out of this mess, I think.

  6. Cheryl Allin February 27th, 2011 5:21 pm

    Terrific post, Tom. Yes, it’s really sad and gives vendors like me such a bad name – I provide the same type of services and I’m in the same state as the Hari-kari company. I cannot fathom what they are thinking.

    @Scott – I believe I read on one of the many, many posts supporting Daniel that he had received a cease and desist in July of last year and he and his lawyers responded that they patently disagreed with their claims of infringement.

  7. Joe Spake February 27th, 2011 7:13 pm

    The Lones’ blog comes up 8th in a Google search for “zebra blog”, the term they use in their filing. With 12,900 results for that phrase, it looks like there’s a lot of suing to do.

  8. Cheryl Johnson February 28th, 2011 5:43 am

    I have a theory:

    Daniel owns something that the Lones Group probably wants very, very badly. Daniel owns the domain name “”.

    I can see filing this lawsuit as a negotiation tactic, albeit a heavy-handed and unpleasant tactic, to get Daniel to the conference table to effect a transfer of the domain name.

  9. Jim Lee February 28th, 2011 5:37 pm

    I believe Denise Lones started the marketing revolution about the same time Al Gore invented the Internet. 😉

  10. Robert Worthington February 28th, 2011 6:43 pm

    I agree with Jim Lee, Al Gore and Denise Lones go way back. The Lones Group put the nail in the coffin with all bloodhounders, real estate industry watchers, and home gainers; I’m confident these intelligent group of people will never patronize this company. What nerve they have.

  11. Dan Connolly March 2nd, 2011 10:10 am

    Well the Lones Group published a response. Sheds a different light on the story. Now I don’t know what to think! www(dot)thelonesgroup(dot)com/press.asp

  12. Greg Swann March 2nd, 2011 10:51 am

    This is the link to the Lones Group response. She’s right about the bullying. We talked about this privately last week. I thought about writing a scathing post about intellectual property suits in general, but Teri pointed out to me that the savage TwitBook tribe was already in full rain-dance mode, and I didn’t want to be a part of that, not even by implication. I think the Lones Groups is twice stupid in this matter, but there is nothing Denise Lones has done that justifies this kind of craven, cowardly ganging up.

    I hope she loses in court, and, if you do, too, give what you can to the legal defense fund. But a Lord-of-the-Flies mobocracy is a fate far worse than anything Daniel Rothamel is facing.

  13. Carmen Brodeur March 2nd, 2011 10:25 pm

    Super interesting about their star customers. I’ve read tons of blogs on this lawsuit today but you were the only one who delved into their testimonials page. It is beyond lame that this social media marketing genius has dead links. Good luck Lones Group. You’re going to need it.

  14. Jim Klein March 3rd, 2011 8:39 am

    Greg, may I ask for clarification? Are you just saying that the disvalue of ganging up is greater than the disvalue of looking to a gun to get what you want? If so, I guess I can see the point; otherwise not.

    I haven’t seen the Answer, but IMO it would be pretty tough to find a lawyer who couldn’t make quick dispatch of this.

  15. Greg Swann March 3rd, 2011 9:33 am

    >> But a Lord-of-the-Flies mobocracy is a fate far worse than anything Daniel Rothamel is facing.

    > Are you just saying that the disvalue of ganging up is greater than the disvalue of looking to a gun to get what you want?

    The matter being contested is very small compared to the enduring consequences of soiling oneself in a frenzy of self-induced savagery. This kind of two-minutes’-hate groupthink has been directed at me in the past, to zero effect, so I know what it looks like. It is not a path to Splendor.

    > I haven’t seen the Answer, but IMO it would be pretty tough to find a lawyer who couldn’t make quick dispatch of this.

    The mobocracy has made Denise Lones’ legal case stronger, not weaker. The judge will not see the world that is obvious to the senses. He will see nothing but the paperwork. The TwitBook mafia has given Ms. Lones a big pile of paperwork to take into court.

    I think she’s in the wrong as a matter of rectitude, and I would be hard put to defend any intellectual property lawsuit, but what the mob did was far worse morally.

    The real destruction, on the part of each individual mob-unit, was the willful submersion of that person’s own ego. The objective was not to scourge Denise Lones. That was a smokescreen. The objective was to communicate to the other mob-units that the person acting is also a good and faithful mob-unit.

    It amounts to publicly rubbing blue mud into your navel so that all the other monkeys will be able to tell that you are a monkey, too.

    This is anegoism in action.

    And, yes, anti-anegoism is not egoism, which is why I haven’t hit this point even harder.

  16. Jim Klein March 3rd, 2011 10:06 am

    Hmm…I think that’s a “Yes, that’s it,” but I’m not entirely sure. The self-despoiling of mobocracy is clear enough, but this seems to ignore the self-despoiling of picking up a gun to get what you want.

    I completely agree that self-despoiling, as you mean it, is a fine standard for anti-Splendor. This is equivalent to saying that ego-adoration is the positive standard for Splendor. In the case at hand, I keep saying to myself that it’s such a shame that something witty and positive wasn’t done, that would have likely helped both parties…lemonade out of lemons and all that. To me, that would be Splendor…all positive.

    I guess I’m just not following the specific reason that you find mobocratic action so much worse–even by a despoiling standard–than the reaching for the gun. They both strike me as horrid, plus there’s the fact that the gun itself got there in the first place, by mobocratic action!

  17. Greg Swann March 3rd, 2011 10:17 am

    I think that everything from zero leftward on the number line has approximately the same value in the pursuit of Splendor. I’m happy to concede the argument because there’s nothing in it for me, either way. 😉

  18. Renee Burrows March 3rd, 2011 7:55 pm

    That’s funny about the dead websites. WOW! The blogosphere is digging up lots of stuff for Daniel’s lawyers! Hopefully many are donating to his defense as well.

  19. Teri Lussier March 4th, 2011 7:26 am

    And I see this has become Mob vs Mob. My Mob is more morally upright than your Mob. You’re the bully! No, you’re the bully! No, you’re the bully.

    I would remind Realtors that meanwhile, someone in your city is selling a home.

  20. Greg Swann March 4th, 2011 8:27 am

    > I would remind Realtors that meanwhile, someone in your city is selling a home.


  21. Jim Klein March 4th, 2011 9:24 am

    There you two go again, giving the competition all the important secrets.

  22. Teri Lussier March 4th, 2011 6:09 pm


    You mix a mean Kool-aid, my friend. 😉

    >There you two go again, giving the competition all the important secrets.

    We can only hope, Jim.

  23. Eric Badgley March 6th, 2011 3:35 pm

    This is such a crazy story. Whats even crazier is the Lones Group is from my hometown and the city I reside in here in Bellingham Washington. Never have a met or bumbed into Denise but she does have a good reputation here locally with all the agents.

    I was looking at this yesterday now when you google “the lones group” it pulls up many post just talking trash. This is a great example of how to destroy your brand online. From the agents that don’t know her The Lones Group pretty just destroyed any future relations with a lot of agents.

    As the old saying goes “don’t @#$# where you eat”