This is the final paper presented by Alex Anderson, a recent graduate of the Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certification (GDMLC) program. This paper presents the work being produced by students of The Localization Institute’s Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certificate program. The contents of this Paper are presented to create discussion in the global marketing industry on this topic; the contents of this paper are not to be considered an adopted standard of any kind. This does not represent the official position of Brand2Global Conference, The Localization Institute, or the author’s organization.
We are living in the age of ‘always connected’ as a result of ever increasing internet penetration and the availability and use of smartphones. Today, billions of consumers across the globe are connected to the internet whenever and wherever they go. This poses a huge opportunity for businesses that embrace the internet to reach, and engage, potential customers in international markets. According to Internet Live Stats, nearly 40% of the world’s population has Internet access. Once-distant markets are now within the grasp of every ambitious brand through the power of the internet. Keeping up with it all is complex and, as the global digital economy develops, it becomes harder to protect brands online. Threats arise constantly from people who want to profit from your brand by exploiting your domain name. Some may register a strikingly similar name: one that could perhaps be mistaken for a spelling error. Others may even simply purchase your brand name with a different domain extension to benefit from your company’s brand without any effort to build it. Building and protecting your brand online are issues that span IT, marketing, legal and business strategy – and everything starts with the domain name.
Over the past thirty years the Domain Name System (DNS) root zone, where all top-level domains (TLDs) are recorded, followed a relatively simple pattern. General use top-level domains (gTLDs) were limited to a small number of three-character strings like “.com” and “.edu” (Brief History of the Internet, n.d.). Recently, more than 1,300 new domains are being phased in such as “.info” and country code domains like “.me” to define their place within the internet. This aspect of global marketing/localization has not come without controversy. On one hand some companies are buying into this expansion because it is innovative and diverse change; yet others see it as exploitative, confusing, and too costly. Regardless, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is moving forward with this initiative, necessitating companies to consider how they will adapt (Yeager, 2015).
To determine the level of receptivity to new domain names, Domain Name Association conducted a study and measured preferences for domain extensions. Generally, each question offered options ending in .com, a country-specific top-level domain (ccTLD) extension, along with select new domain-name extensions. In countries with mature internet markets (e.g., U.S., UK and Australia), between 50 and 60% said there should be more options; whereas between 66 and 75% of respondents in fast-developing markets (e.g., China, India) indicated the need for more options. Although .com is dominant in the U.S., the total percentage of new TLDs preferred was greater in other countries. This difference might have had something to do with the way the question was posed. While relatively few people are aware of the new gTLD program and its opportunities, a clear majority surveyed believe there should be more domain name-extension options (Global Domain Name Awareness Survey, 2015).
Conclusions can be drawn directly from the results that users are open to the idea and use of domain names using new extensions. What is very compelling is that users in markets with strong economic growth selected a new extension nearly half the time in almost every instance. This was the case even though many of these new extensions are not yet public. Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s global domains division, described the program as “targeted toward the next 2.5 to 3 billion people who are going to join the internet in the next 10, 20, 30 years,” many of whom come from countries where Latin character sets are not commonly used. Additionally, China will have the largest population of internet users globally (674.3 million in 2015) and India is expected to surpass the US for second place (277.4 million vs. 259.7 million, respectively). Coinciding with the launch of new gTLDs is the introduction of internationalized domain names (IDNs) made up of non-Latin scripts, including Arabic, Cyrillic, Simplified Chinese, Thai and several others. The new domains will enable internet users in these countries “to use a single keyboard instead of having to have dual keyboards” when browsing the web (Yeager, Byran, 2015). These trends are evidence that emerging markets are changing the landscape of the internet which will have implications on businesses worldwide. This is a very important subject area in the growing field of global digital media and what it will mean for international strategy moving forward.
As a Localization Manager for a global weather company, I am constantly evangelizing that no two countries are the same and being able to adapt your business to the behavioral characteristics of each market is essential. Because it no longer takes years for a business to go global, it puts an established one like ours in an excellent position to expand into new [international] markets. According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the basis for domain expansion initiatives is to make domains more representative of the diverse nature of the internet globally, introduce more competition among sellers of domain registrars, and create more choices for buyers. This case study created the opportunity to identify trends and gain insight into any domain challenges that may pose a threat specifically to our brand.
Establishing the business case for domain expansion required facts; thus, I got the approval to begin an evaluation. In the process of evaluating our existing portfolio, we discovered a number of items to resolve. First, the existing portfolio, which consisted of 266 registered domains, revealed it was registered and being managed under 5 different vendors. This created unnecessary workload, administrative issues, and areas of vulnerability for the business as follows:
• Keeping track of renewals
• Reconciling multiple vendors (often thru credit card)
• Managing multiple login details and accounts
• Renewal notices missed
• Domain names accidentally expiring
• Domains deprioritized to competing priorities
• Unreliable registrar
Any of the above circumstances could have led to website/email/app outages or lost domains to competitors – plus, added expenses to buy-back domains. Once the assets were identified, further investigation revealed additional gaps in the target markets we were looking to gain presence.
Because we have built brand loyalty, we also evaluated any necessary changes in selected regions of the world. We decided to focus on the major regions of Asia, Europe and the Americas. This was important to bring us current with the trending landscape of emerging users and growing country economies. Our review had the following focuses in mind when we undertook the brand evaluation:
• Ensuring consistency in domain brand within regions where possible
• Providing insight into popular/ best possible domains and IDNS in tiered country targets
• Safeguarding appropriate domain coverage in important markets
Additionally, we found that most of the domains our company had registered and had trademarks for target markets (which was definitely positive); however, there were others not actually covered and/or had already been registered under third parties. Something else we uncovered that was not expected is that if our domain name is weak, others can build a position of strength so we needed to respond to the following items:
• Some domains we had registered in target markets were actually secondary domains to the primary domains being used by users in-country (mistakenly by lack of insight of ccTLDs)
• Some domains we had registered conflicted with the localized IDNS or keyboards of input to users, creating significant barriers when typing because our brand name was not localized into the scripts users in those countries were accustomed to using
• Some of the domains had already been registered and were redirecting traffic to third party websites or local competitors
• Some of the domains had already been registered with no redirects to third parties and no content on the landing page (typical of squatters awaiting payment for the domain)
At the core of our digital portfolio, domain names had to be reinforced to maintain their strength. That meant having the right domains, pointing to up-to-date content, etc., coordinated in a meaningful way. We decided to focus on developing a domain strategy to continue to build our brand in locations where users are not accustomed to ‘.com’ websites because this extension is becoming less familiar to global users in other countries. In the end, we learned as a business that we need to continue to adapt to this changing environment in order to remain a leader globally or risk the loss of current and/or potential users to other businesses who use ccTLDs. The knowledge and insights gained as a result of this case study made our company take a solid look at current best practices. As a result, we are continuing to expand to larger search engines outside of our in-country operations and preparing for ways to future-proof our spot as leader in the weather industry on a global scale.
As more companies get acquainted with domain options, they face many questions. Because an online presence is essential for globalization, companies must make strategic domain decisions. If a company has intentions to grow into the global marketplace, now more than ever it requires more brand recognition and audience adoption. Managers should take into account the following items:
1. Evaluate existing domain portfolio and how is it managed
2. Evaluate any risks associated with your brand
3. Ensure brand consistency in domain branding within regions, wherever possible
4. Identify domains strategic to the organization
5. Ensure appropriate domain coverage in important [target] markets
6. Register key domains before growing global
7. Identify a strategy for recovering third party infringements and identify alternative solutions to domain infringements when laws are not on your side or domains are out of financial reach (rebrand)
If possible, managers should also work with a reputable global domain management company who can evaluate brand exposure, possible implications, and respond to infringements. If you do not protect your brand globally it leaves your company vulnerable, especially when your name is available as a domain on the internet. Therefore, every company with an online asset should consider how this emerging trend will impact their business and begin taking the measures necessary before it becomes costly.
Brief History of the Internet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Internet Society: http://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet
Global Domain Name Awareness Survey. (2015, 02 30). Retrieved from Domain Name Association: http://www.thedna.org/global-domain-name-awareness-survey-feb-2015/
Internet Live Stats Live. (2016, 7 21). Retrieved from Internet Live Stats Online: http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/
Univsersal Acceptance factsheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from ICANN: https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/ua-factsheet-a4-17dec15-en.pdf
Yeager, Byran. (2015). The Domain Name Explosion Hundreds of New Choices Beyond .com Mean New Marketing Considerations. eMarketer .
Alex Anderson is passionate about building personal and cultural connections to global products. Having lived on four different continents, Alex has a unique insight and appreciation of cultural differences. An accomplished localization manager, Alex has played a significant role in the global expansion of AccuWeather’s digital media – including involvement in the internet.org project to help connect the world. From traveling around the globe to perform product demonstrations/installations to currently managing language initiatives, translation vendors, and complex localization projects, Alex is adept at working with cross-functional teams to build products that positively impact lives.