2015 will bring new opportunities for digital marketing with thousands of new domain name suffixes coming onto the market. Trademark Clearinghouse worldwide project manager Jan Corstens explains how to make the most of them
Everyone’s fighting for online presence. Domain name extensions didn’t seem to offer much help until recently. But a new programme spearheaded by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is changing the face of the domain name marketplace – by introducing more than 1,200 new domain suffixes to the internet.
Brand specific extensions and even foreign-scripted suffixes are up for grabs over next few years. So what are the opportunities and threats to brands? Here are some pointers to help navigate the new domain name programme:
1) Find out which domains are being released, and when
It’s important for marketers to be aware of the different types of domains that are being released, and how each type could affect their brand. There are five main categories:
- Internationalised Domain Names: where the domain suffix is in a foreign-scripted (.شبكة).
-Brand-specific domains: where brands register a whole suffix, such as .google
- Geographical domains: such as the recently launched .london
- Sector focused: such as .shop or .luxury
- All-purpose domains: such as .world and .link
- Generic domains, such as .club and .cool
Marketers will need to have an idea of when each domain is being released, in order to begin the registration process. This calendar<http://www.trademark-clearinghouse.com/gtld-calendar> maps out rough timescales for all of the new upcoming domains.
2) Identify the opportunities
Brands can use the new domain addresses to increase command of their online presence, and better control their corporate image. A clothes retailer could utilise the .shop, .luxury or .fashion domains for example to help consumers associate the brand with a specific area of expertise, which has a valuable effect on revenue. The new domains allow brands to create striking and memorable domain addresses, and demonstrate high levels of consumer trust. A business could use the .secure suffix to further verify the brand’s identity online. Location and language-focused domains, such as .london, help brands to appeal to a target audience, and allow visitors to know they’re what the site is likely to deliver.
3) Identify the threats
Protecting your brand’s identity and trademark should be uppermost in your mind. The new domain programme presents three main areas of threat which need to be negated. All three threats below pose significant damage to a business’ reputation online, so brands need to be vigilant. Unhappy or disgruntled customers can damage your brand by registering domains such as yourbrand.sucks, or yourbrand.WTF Domains to keep an eye on: .sucks, .gripe, .exposed, .cheap, .adult, .porn
Phishing threats are on the rise, and criminals could register your brand against a new domain to masquerade as you, and steal customer identities or passwords. Domains to keep an eye on include .group, .solutions, .online, .finance, as well as domains that could be registered and used for the sale of counterfeit goods using your brand, such as yourbrand.cheap. Keep an eye on .shop, .deal, .discount.
4) Protect your brand
Brands need to ensure they have complete overview of how their name is registered and used online. The first step is to register their trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). Set up by ICANN, this is a single database of registered trademarks which offers protective mechanisms tailored to trademark holders.
Registering your brand has two distinct advantages. You will have “first dibs” on registering new domains related to your trademark, before the domain registration process opens up to the general public. This significantly minimises the chances of cybersquatting, where third parties seek to exploit your brand name, or masquerade as you online. Second, having registered in the TMCH, brands are notified if anyone else attempts to register a domain using your trademark. You will then have the opportunity to take swift and decisive action if there is a breach of trademark ownership.
The new domain programme is expanding the internet significantly, and the opportunities for brands and their marketers to bolster their online offerings are numerous. That said, there are pitfalls and threats that can prove costly for brands to correct, and they need to be aware of the protective mechanisms that are in place to prevent damage to trademarks and reputations.