Traditional modes of brand building have drastically changed over the last number of years. In the past, brand building consisted of presenting a refined image of a business or individual, delivered in glossy packaging. Brands had a considerable amount of control in presenting the ideal image or idea. Once upon a time, what was presented was generally believed by the general public. Any potentially negative or inappropriate truths were hidden behind a marketing facade driven by a well oiled PR machine. In todays digital age, the whole nature of brand building has dramatically changed. Today, customers, consumers and individuals worldwide have the opportunity to question everything they are presented with. With the proliferation of consumer forums, social media networks and peer to peer platforms, negative consumer experience can be vocalised and spread virally and ultimately trust in brands can diminish. The transparency of the web is naturally a very positive development in the democratisation of the internet and the freedom of information. It has however created a challenge for many brand owners as they fail to keep up with the rapidly changing nature and fluidity of interaction of the internet. Stuck in traditional modes of brand building, they are failing to adapt to this changing digital landscape.

So what are the potential problems facing brands today in the digital space and what are the subsequent solutions?

Hardly a day goes by without an article appearing on the web debating the pro’s and cons of ICANN’s (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) new gTLD program. This program was designed to introduce new generic top level domains like .REVIEWS, .SERVICES, .BUY into the domain name space, the idea being that consumer choice and the nature of search will be optimised to deliver greater accuracy. Some speculate that the release of new domain extensions including .GLOBAL, .CLUB and .BUSINESS will be of great benefit to organisations and consumers alike. Other domain extensions like .SUCKS have been a source of great apprehension for brand owners as they blindly navigate these unchartered waters. No one wants to be associated with a .FAIL now do they?

Many tech savvy celebrities including Kevin Spacey and businesses including Apple, Hershy’s and Microsoft have already purchased controversial domain extensions. By defensively registering these somewhat ‘destructive’ domain names they are preventing any malicious registration by opportunistic cybersquatters. A proactive approach is more cost effective and efficient than a reactive response. In the long run, it is more cost effective to register domain names than to attempt the costly expense of recovering them. The importance of managing digital assets like domain names is clearly demonstrated in the cases listed below.

A perfect example occurred recently with US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Anticipating that Clinton might one day run for president, cyber squatters have held the name for more than a decade, which is valued today at approximately $750,000. is currently retailing for as much as $14,500. Domain names are proving to be lucrative and immensely valuable digital assets not just to politicians and celebrities but also businesses. Indeed nothing confirms this statement more than Taylor Swift’s recent registration of and Maintaining her brand identity online is clearly of great importance as negative association with certain domains could have disastrous consequences.

The power of domain names was also recently exhibited in another recent case when Konrad Juengling (LGBT rights activist) bought up available domain names for various Republicans including Dale Devon, Martin Carbaugh, Don Lehe and Donna Schaibley. Angered by their passing of the “religious freedom’ bill that allegedly discriminates against the LGBT community, Juengling registered and redirected their domain names to a site advocating for the rights of LGBT individuals. Regardless of your personal perspective on this issue, this instance highlights the intrinsic link between brand reputation and domain names. More and more, domain names are being used as political arsenal in online brand battles. It is clear to see that meticulous management of your domain name portfolio is an essential part of digital brand building and indeed digital brand protection.

What proactive steps can you take to make your brand bullet proof?

1. Monitor online trademark registrations in domain name databases globally

2. Submit key trade marks for registration through the Trademark clearing house. This will provide you with up to date notifications when identical domain names are being registered.

3. Conduct a domain portfolio audit. Ask yourself…What domains do you own? Who manages them? Are there any due to be renewed? Are there any domains that you need to register in new markets internationally? Are there domain name to be recovered from third parties?

4. Build a domain name strategy. Harness the positive elements of the new gTLD program for digital marketing campaigns. Develop an effective gTLD strategy to enhance your business and marketing ROI.

5. Register domain names in countries/markets you anticipate you may expand into in the future.

6. Consult with domain recovery specialists to retrieve domains owned by third parties. (Only consult specialists with extensive UDRP experience).

7. Integrate brand reputation monitoring as part of your customer service operations. This will assist in bettering your relationship with your customers and allow your to track your brand reputation internationally.

Maintaining a bullet proof online presence requires ongoing monitoring of both brand reputation and domain names. Failing to enforce a digital brand protection strategy will ultimately affect your digital brand identity at some point or another. A proactive approach will help avoid financial damage or loss of brand equity. Which would you rather be – a .ROCKS or a .SUCKS?

dotNice International Limited – experts in digital brand protection
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