Launching and extending your brands online

By Peter Shackleton


The growth of brands using ‘made up’ names can be seen as trend borne out of creativity or, more likely, as a direct result of almost all common words and terms being already used either in the form of trademarks, brands, domain names or social media registrations. It’s pretty much impossible to find a ‘dictionary term’ or name that is not already in use somewhere, so when it comes to launching a new brand, product or service it’s crucial to approach the launch with the perspective that it’s likely you’ll find a number of the digital assets you ideally want are already owned/registered by a 3rd party.

At NetNames we’ve been helping major brands either launch new or extend existing brands for a number of years and below is a brief guide to help avoid some of the common ‘landmines’:

• Determine what you need – a bit like teaching granny how to suck eggs, but amazing how infrequently companies have a clear perspective on the portfolio of digital assets they require to launch a brand or a product. Clearly define the social media handles and domains that you require and be clear about those that are essential and those that are a ‘nice to have’. Some brands get by with a single domain, a Twitter and a Facebook handle… those unfortunately are few and far between

• Research – once you’ve determined what you need, research. What is available? If something is registered can it be bought? Is your brand name/term used already in a related or unrelated context? Do trademarks for the term you want exist, is so in which classes and which regions?

• International impact – especially for any brands that are planning to launch across multiple territories (and even if they’re not), an aspect that is commonly overlooked is how a brand name or term translates and transliterates, (even the major brands can get this wrong, just ask Clairol about launching “mist stick” in Germany or Ford launching “Pinto” in Brazil).

• Protection & Trademarks – firstly…….do not apply for a Trademark before you’ve done you’re research!! Apart from the odd exception, applying for a Trademark is not a private matter. Your application is an action that will be in the public domain and easy to track. If you are in a position where you will need to purchase assets to launch your brand, your job will inevitably be far harder once your plans are public.

Secondly, be aware that having a Trademark does not mean you have the Trademark. Trademarks have both geographical and context limitations, so consider the ‘portfolio’ of Trademarks you may require to provide appropriate protection for your brand and, especially with reference to domains, create an appropriate balance between Trademarks and defensive domain registrations where appropriate.

• Don’t do the work yourself – a final but very important point. A degree in forensic science or the instincts of Sherlock Holmes are not required to track a digital footprint. Enquiries about the availability of domains from personal email addresses, or friendly tweets from a seemingly unrelated account to check whether the user needs a handle anymore are incredibly easy to trace and awareness of what you are planning will invariably impact the cost of delivery and potentially the feasibility of the project. If at all possible, get an external/unrelated party to do the research for you.