Stop Being Defensive Over New TLDs And Market The Heck Out Of Brands, Online And Off: FT

Posted in: Domain Names at 17/01/2012 16:25

There is much huffing and puffing from trademark holders over the coming new Top Level Domains for which ICANN began seeking accepting applications on 12 January for three months. The Financial Times is the latest to enter the fray with a column titled "Suffix wars are best left to politics and porn."

The columnist notes that "almost everything about the introduction of new internet domain names stinks of self-interest." The article says "the intermediaries that work with Icann, and have helped clip the coin of big brand-owners for the past 15 years, must know they're on to a good thing." The article cites the example of Afilias who note the complexity of TLD applications and then spruik their services to assist in this.

It then goes on to say that there were two events in 2011 that dispelled any notion that ICANN has its heart in the right place. These are "the unseemly speed with which Peter Dengate Thrush moved from chairing Icann to chairing Top Level Domain Holdings" and the approval of .XXX, with the registry, ICM Registry offering "companies the opportunity to block anybody else attaching their brand to the suffix, in return for a fee of up to $200 to cover costs. Owners of 80,000 trademarks paid up."

The column notes that the costs for brand owners to run their own TLD may be $500,000 per brand. "But it's not hard for consultants to convince paranoid executives this is small change compared with the risk to a multinational's reputation from cybersquatting, piracy and fraud. Extract small change from enough companies and soon you're running a lucrative protection racket."

The idea that companies should register all permutations of their brands is given short shrift though, with the column describing this as a "never-ending task" and that "what happens in front of the dot is limited only by a potential troublemaker's imagination. In any case, branding on the web is moving on. Entering and re-entering possible domain names used to be the best way to find a site. But search engines do the guessing now. Even if search is not the key to exploring Webs 5.0 and 6.0, it is hard to imagine typing of precise addresses will be."

The column goes on to note that there are safeguards for new any TLDs and that "companies that decide not to participate in the latest initiative ... can object if others register their brand, and the loser in any dispute carries the cost."

The columnist then says that "instead of fretting about threats, chief marketing officers should drop their defensive posture and do what they're paid for: market the heck out of their existing brand names, online and off."

The FT column is available in full from www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cf21aad0-4057-11e1-9bce-00144feab49a.html.

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