From the early inception, domain names were treated like third-class citizens in the corporate arenas and also by all the legislative bodies around the globe. After all, these names were very cheap and very easy to get. People hawked their possessions and took large mortgages to buy domain names

in anticipation of selling them for millions to some global enterprise. Stealing the names of existing businesses became fashionable. Cyber-squatting became the standard.

During this circus, ICANN, and all the other gate-keepers of this Intellectual Property, quietly skated on the fringe and never accepted domain names as hard assets like cars, paintings or songs. Thousands of businesses suffered the abuse, by squatters, including registrars and the legal warriors. There was an outcry and yet no justice. This is what made the early domain names the most misunderstood component of intellectual property, while all along it was the most essential tool of corporate communication. During its peak, the frenzy of registration peaked at a million names a day at $75 each.

Consider this the “”Jurassic Period”” of the Internet. Now that the populace has found something brighter to play with, the battles have moved to Cyber-Branding, which has landed all of us into a new Name-Economy. Names on the Web determine the accessibility of the business and are the new drivers of growth and sales with direct impact on the global economy. Good names have a direct impact on corporate persona and positively influence customers, shareholders, media and public opinion at large.

Corporations around the world have mainly three types of names.

1. Long geographic names; that seriously hurt national and international marketing. These same long names get initialized, cause massive confusion with strange companies worldwide and are almost impossible to find on the Net.

2. Words on a string; names of things combined either accidentally due to mergers and acquisitions or other strange reasons, sometimes making no connections at all.

3. Initials; this come about because the customers refuse to call out the long names.

Diagnostically, solutions are simple and here are three steps:

First, determine whether your names are Healthy, Injured or on a Life Support. It makes no difference, whether these names are of products, services, divisions or the main corporate names. To a customer a name is a name, no matter how it is offered. Healthy names are easy, unique and one of a kind with global protection and a dot-com like Sony or Telus. Injured names are long confusing or initialized, like UCBH, CIBC, BB&T or RBCFG. Life Support names are tangled into serious trademark or obvious name confusion problems. Simple dictionary words also cause a lot of confusion. There are too many Firsts, Uniteds, or Nationals in just about every country and there are too many compass directions — East, West, North, and South and so on.

Next, get a mandate to formally audit and analyze the name so management can take a specific direction to modify them. These names can be for cards, special accounts or for various products or services. Most financial organizations have dozens of different names and many hundreds of domain names clashing each other all over the continents. It’s always better to have few strong and protected names as champions than hundreds of injured players.

Great names will give you great results with much less dollars. Weaker names will cost you ten times as much while bleeding your budgets and exhausting major resources in the process. Names on life support will constantly need oxygen. There’s no point in spending millions on weak names and risk losing the race.

IT is not the only industry facing this impact of names. It’s all over the globe and reaching the farthest corners. The old ideas of building brands using expansive billboards and banners are all now replaced by fluid Web pages, which are being changed as you read along. URLs and domain names are now controlling access to the entire corporations. There are major naming issues that executives must tackle in order to cope with the new challenges of this new name-economy.

Naseem Javed is the author of Naming for Power and Domain Wars
nj@njabc.com

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