FairWinds in the Press

December 07, 2012

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Brands Hold the Key to gTLD Adoption Rates

world trademark review 

While in the online and trademark industries the upcoming domain name expansion has been a central pre-occupation, amongst consumers the picture is somewhat different. But new research demonstrates a willingness amongst users to migrate to new gTLDs once they are educated about them – with brands best positioned to shape consumer uptake.

While in the online and trademark industries the upcoming domain name expansion has been a central pre-occupation, amongst consumers the picture is somewhat different. But new research demonstrates a willingness amongst users to migrate to new gTLDs once they are educated about them – with brands best positioned to shape consumer uptake.

Domain name strategy consultants FairWinds Partners worked with market research firmInsightsNow to survey 2,008 internet users between the ages of 13 and 64 about their awareness of, and attitudes toward, new gTLDs. Of those internet users surveyed, almost three-quarters (74%) did not know anything about the new gTLD program. The figure is perhaps unsurprising - despite ICANN’s public outreach efforts, new gTLDs have not become mainstream news. While there was a flurry of media coverage around ICANN’s reveal day, this has since subsided and gTLDs will likely remain low on the mainstream news agenda until closer to launch. But what then?

On launch it appears that consumers will likely be confused by the alternative TLDs available to them - only 27% of users said new gTLDs would not cause confusion. However, reports of confusion dropped by 11% following education about the upcoming change, prompting Josh Bourne, managing partner and cofounder of FairWinds, to comment: “Internet users have sent a loud and clear message that overcoming confusion and gaining trust in new gTLDs is not only possible, but that it may happen relatively quickly.”

Key to this adoption, however, will be the actions of brand owners. After receiving education about new gTLDs, the consumers surveyed were 19% more likely to trust new gTLDs that they know are operated by an established brand than generic gTLDs - when presented with three scenarios involving different industries (ecommerce, banking and media) participants indicated higher levels of trust and lower levels of confusion in the branded gTLDs across all three industries. On average, 70% of participants replied that they would trust branded gTLDs, while only about half (51%) reported that they would trust generic-term gTLDs.

Reflecting on these findings, Bourne observes: “If brand owners educate their customers about new gTLDs and communicate their online presence clearly, they will be able to prevent confusion and will have a better chance of building trust in their new gTLDs among customers.”

This creates challenges for both applicants and non-applicants. For applicants, it will be important to ensure consumers are educated as to the new online presence of the brand, and how they can engage with it. For non-applicants, there will be a similar need to monitor the expanded online space and ensure consumers are not erroneously directed elsewhere when seeking to locate their brands online.

Such tasks are both an opportunity and a burden, but it is clear that brand communications will play a major role in shaping the pace of consumer adoption of new gTLDs. For trademark counsel, this brings a familiar challenge – to ensure that marketing colleagues are both aware of the upcoming change and that they involve counsel in subsequent brand communications.

Read the full article at World Trademark Review.