(Guess what the underlined words are in this post?)
NYC - a city so cool that it claims to be the center of the earth. I was in a taxi cab heading for the city after arriving at JFK flight from London. Another week of work in the company of the business team in the Big Apple, possibly with some baseball or basketball thrown in for good measure. It's not all domains, domains, domains in this business although the impending launch of the new gTLD program has seen me fly around the world in all weather conditions to deliver training courses to sale and support teams. Last week Paris and Zuerich, today NYC, next week Stockholm and the capital of Bayern in Germany, Munich.
The gTLD program is a real .game changer for any business. All brands are having to think about the impact the new domains will have on their company in the new digital world. The .CEO, the Attorney, the Marketing team, the Technology group and even the Financial Guru. The online digital world as we know it is about to move into a new dimension.
For those with vision, the new world holds financial opportunities abound. The winners will be those who implement a strategy that both provides online brand protection as well as marketing opportunities the likes of which we have never seen on the web before.
Our use of the web has changed over the years. For instance, more than 50 percent of the data we use today is video. We all watch on average five hours of online video per month whether it be via download music video or an online movie. Youtube today is the third most visited web property, now receiving more than two billion hits per annum, whilst the most searched phrase on Google is no longer related to porn or any other adult-related term. We are all now accidental journalists, using smartphones to record events we see in everyday life, having all become an expert in photography, uploading more pictures to online social network enterprises such as Facebook, flickr and msn. Technology means that families on the other side of the world can keep in touch with a webcam through Skype, another example of a company that has built a digital brand that has become synonymous today as a noun just like Hoover or Xerox. And then of course today there is the brand that everyone associates with everything that is cool, hot and wow, Apple.
So back to today. On landing at JFK airport I had to wait for nearly an hour for a taxi. I would have paid a premium to book one as I queued in line to pass through immigration. Unfortunately try I did try and could not find a website on my Apple iPhone that allowed me to do this. But in the new domains world, I will be able to search for "taxi.nyc" or "nyc.taxi" and book one straight away. No fuss with trawling through search rank results to find the content that Google thinks is most relevant to me. Direct navigation will be the way forward. And if I haven't yet booked my hotel, then a simple visit to nyc.hotels whilst I'm on the way into the city will enable me to quickly find the best deals on Broadway.
The geographic possibilities are endless. Hair.nyc for your emergency hair styling issues, coffee.nyc to find the nearest caffeine parlour, tickets.nyc to grab a ticket for a show on Broadway and beer.nyc for your nearest bar. Of course, there is the possibility to reverse these to enhance the opportunities that a NewYork.hair or NewYork.beer can provide. The marketing team in every company should already be all over these opportunities. The possibilities for the future of their brand are endless. The launch of transliteration domains will support a huge growth in web usage across the world, reaching online users that have never before been able to use the internet in their local language.
The ability for a company to strengthen its brand with sector specific registrations is also a great opportunity for a business. NetNames.domains, car.insurance or Hilton.hotels are examples of how the new program can benefit a brand. Interestingly enough, Hilton had originally applied to run .Hilton as a new gTLD but recently decided to withdraw their application despite the marketing opportunities it could bring to them.
But it is not all about the opportunities for global domination for a company. In those dark corners of the web there are those who scheme and plot to attack brands online and offline. The protection of digital assets has to be first and foremost in the definition of any strategy for the new domains. The new gTLD program will present risks to a company that need to be mitigated against.
Firstly there are brand reputation issues. Negative sentiment domains such as .sucks, .adult and .gripe if in the wrong hands could seriously damage any brand online. Imagine a major brand owner waking up one day and finding a .sucks website has appeared online, containing material, whether true or not, that is potentially very damaging. Or a .porn website, associating their brand with strong adult themes? The threat is enough to make even the sharpest brand protection attorney shudder.
For a brand that is focused in the financial or bank sector, the threat of phishing should be a massive worry. It will be all too easy for someone to register .brand, .group or .institute domains to give the impression of authenticity and trust. Unfortunately, most web users are still far too trusting and could be easily fooled by an authentic looking website and a relevant domain name, handing over their secure personal details all too easily.
Finally, for those who trade online, the constant threat of brand infringement through counterfeit goods is all too real. Unfortunately new domains such as .shop, .store and .discount will be a haven for cyber criminals to set up replica brand websites and sell counterfeit brand goods. It doesn't take too long or too many IT skills these days to create a replica website and start to divert online traffic from its true destination. The damage can be done before a brand knows it's happened.
For all of these threats the solution is very simple. A domain strategy that will identify the opportunities and threats with the new gTLD program, allowing a company to understand where and when the problems could occur and what they can do to mitigate them. Brands can keep One Step Ahead by starting to plan today. The introduction of the Trademark Clearinghouse allows a brand owner to protect their valuable digital assets by submitting their trademarks into a central database that every new online gTLD registry will have to connect to. This new mechanism will provide some online brand protection for a company but it is still only one measure a business should consider. Combining this new layer of security with a strategy that highlights which domains to register or block is the first step in the brave new online world that every brand owner should be thinking about today.
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames
8 April 2013