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The future of brands on the internet

On 26 September the ECCT's Intellectual Property Rights hosted a lunch on the topic "dot Brand - The future of brands on the internet" featuring guest speaker Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer of Afilias. The speaker gave an overview of the benefits of owning a top level domain (TLD) or an exclusive private space on the internet for a brand, such as .swatch, and .barclays.


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN) most recent TLD programme awarded 1,179 new domain extensions which included generics, cities, communities and over 550 global brands from a variety of industries, including 82 technology brands (Taiwan's Acer and HTC are among them), 71 financial brands, 72 media brands, 49 online brands and 19 luxury brands. Many of these dot brands are already being used.

In LaPlante's view dot brands will be disruptive and, within 10 years, most large organisations will switch much of their online presence and functions to their own dot brand sites. While LaPlante expressed the view that no one should consider abandoning their current second level domain names at this stage, there are considerable advantages of having a top level domain name that make it worth the US$180,000 fee. The most important are:

1) Control: As the domain owner, you have control over who may have an address in your dot Brand TLD. This enables you to keep out all criminals. You also have control over the terms of content and use. You set the standards, just as you do in your own company. Unacceptable content is unlikely to appear but, if it does, the brand owner can immediately take it down.

2) Security: Given that you control the dot brand domain, you can ensure that only legitimate and approved registrants use it. There will be no criminal registrants and no criminal activity on sites using your dot Brand since you control 100% of the content. This means there will be no spam, phishing or other crimes and no counterfeiting, which is especially important for luxury brands. All this leads to increased consumer confidence in your brand. It is hard to put a price on security, especially for financial institutions. Moreover, with so many TLD extensions available nowadays, it is sometimes difficult for consumers to know if they're actually visiting a company's legitimate site. If the site has a TLD, it removes all doubt.

3) Branding: Having a dot brand helps to build and reinforce brand awareness by making it easy to remember addresses and having the name in every internet reference without wasting space with non-identifying terms like com. Having a dot brand also helps to improve performance on internet search engines.

4) Flexibility: Having a dot brand provides flexibility in terms of taxonomy. You can organise second level domains and content in whatever way you prefer, to match your current organization or according to geographical location, product line, capability or division. Another great benefit is that you have unlimited and secure space for future development. You have the ability to create addresses for every current and future business division or product, which will be a considerable advantage for future developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Global companies which have dot brands are beginning to use them. BMW, for example is using its dot brand to showcase future visions.

For companies that do not yet have a dot brand, there will be another chance to apply in about two years from now. Companies without dot brands should use this time to observe what their competitors with dot brands are doing with their dot brands and begin planning now. In the process, LaPlante said that it is important to involve legal, IT and marketing teams.