Features

Creative Vertigo: The ICANN Spin

Written on
Dec 1, 2011 
Author
Naseem Javed  |

ADOTAS – The term gTLD has joined the hardcore lexicon of global branding. Why is this new spin causing vertigo to some? Before you say anything else (like “What?”), just hold on. It makes no difference whether you already are an expert on gTLD or not. The fact is, it’s in your face and we’ll all have to deal with it for a long time. On the internet today, from around the world, there are over 10,000 articles on the pros and cons of ICANN’s gTLD platform, ranging from marketing, branding, naming and global cyber image expansion issues all the way to how it will “destroy big brand management.”  The sooner you can articulate the topic, the faster you will enjoy the ride.

The Dizzying Questions

What would you do if your industry sector world became overpowered by new global gTLDs? What precise calibration can you apply today to determine the long-term future of your name identity? What action plan can you mount if your name identity was unable to carry the marketing load? How many name identities are considered necessary in your organization? Where are the opportunities on new global digital platforms to increase customer touchpoints? Who are the real beneficiaries if there are disfunctionalities in your brand names?

To start, if these subjects are not on the agenda, then obviously digital spinning and new platforms are going to hit the fan. As an overview, the current 200 million domain names are stretched to serve 2 billion online users. Both of these numbers will double to cope with the world’s  increasingly e-commerce-hungry population of 7 billion. Twentieth-century marketing and branding models will not be able to prevent these digital storms — they are being caused by huge additions of online and mobile users the
world over.

A gTLD is simply a new powerful domain name platform intended to create limitless nets for customer touchpoints.  Like any other innovation, it has some limitations and may not fit each and every model. Nevertheless, doing guesswork on this branding lexicon and casually chatting about its role, without understanding its functionality and the global marketplace, would easily prove a lack of education. To have bold opinions, it is important to have full orientation, as half knowledge is the worst kind of knowledge. On January 12, 2012, the world’s largest branding revolution will begin, as ICANN will start accepting gTLD applications. A White
Paper has been issued this week at AARM
(Association for the Advancement of Relationship Marketing) to provide some in-depth perspective to the marketers of the world.

In the meanwhile, to keep with advertising tradition, the advertising associations of the world, under the leadership of  the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) have now finally branded their front as CRIDO (Coaltion for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight); a logo/slogan-based opposition campaign against gTLD. Their opposition is based on fear-mongering, lack of skills on nomenclature issues, and the fear of a massive digital shift toward new platforms. Their ambiguous search for the justification of the value of the gTLD program points to their own confusion about digital compression of a name identity on a global horizon.
The majority of their members seriously lack the transparency in their own name brands to accommodate global expansion.

Unfortunately, gTLD platform will not work for the thousands of established big brand names, as their name-structuring is too cumbersome to fit cyber name management demands. This opposition is a double-edged sword, as the more opposition they raise on mythical grounds, the more visible the limitations of their names. The gTLD is an inevitable game changer and is no different from what earlier domains did to old established sectors.

Regardless, any last-century name without a proper name evaluation report may never discover how to re-calibrate for the next generation’s digital demands. Denials of these facts will only prolong the agony and eventually sink old brand names.

The Creative Vertigos

History requires revolutionary steps of human effort to climb up the ladder of innovation. Higher advancement shouldn’t be hindered by sudden vertigo.  Gutenberg’s moveable type presses dispersed knowledge, and Netscape’s free browser created the first internet revolution, while today’s portable computer devices are shattering old models. These innovations have given well-grounded and deeply rooted sectors discomfort. It’s no longer important what ad agencies think: What’s important is whether or not they can step up to the new heights of global naming complexities and stop living with creative vertigo.

Keeping the same tempo, a consortium of heavyweights from the adult industry, filing an antitrust lawsuit against ICANN, claim their existing adult megabrands are threatened by expected strangulation from the newly approved .xxx gTLD from the ICM registry. They are right. This could happen, and this claim further endorses the hidden powers of a gTLD. It also exposes the limitations of last-century-naming and how the print media age’s dependency on the “glossy centerfold” is being challenged by free-flow digital video platforms with massive customer touchpoints via cyber name management.

The books needed to discuss this subject in detail and to outline tactical nomenclature strategies have not yet been written. However, it is a sophisticated game demanding bold maneuvers and cyber-savvy skills. There will be many other similar fights among various consortiums controlling major sectors of the global consumption over cyber access and market domination via name identity.

Let’s say, on the other hand, what will happen if the U.S. Department of Commerce were to order a halt to this revolutionary project? Firstly, the sudden stoppage to gTLD would crush the credibility of ICANN beyond repair, and secondly, it would  provide sought-after substance to internet stakeholders outside of the U.S. to either hand over future decisions to a U.N. body or simply break up the internet. All that would be a great disaster.

While ad agencies would declare victory, brand owners, by and large, would hardly have little or no idea about what just happened. Most CMOs of the world are still trying to figure out what this is all about. However, the global volume and demand of ecommerce activity for second-generation types of domain name platforms will create intercontinental shockwaves. Multilingualization of domain names alone is a new frontier where hundreds of millions of non-English domain names will dwarf dominant Western name brands. Any victory declared by CRIDOS would be short-lived, as the future is relentlessly headed for creation of new cyber name brands for global ecommerce business names.

In fairness, CRIDOS is trying to protect the USA and western brand names from an eventual onslaught of more powerful and creative names emerging from the rest of the world. What will happen come January, when there are global groundbreaking stories about the winners and losers of the gTLD race, with exciting new branding models appearing on the global scene? The probability of this happening is slim. The real big event will happen when all of the expected 1,000 to 3,500 gTLD applications go online in accordance with the transparency promised by ICANN. This massive race will become open to the public and visible for competitive posturing. What would this do to all the opposing ad agencies? Will they all form a new branded front in support of gTLD? Why not? They’re the gatekeepers of $400 billion dollar global advertising expenditures.

Regardless, wherever there are cameras and spotlights, there are always stars. These big image expansion games for  highly innovative marketing teams will provide the best showcase of market domination via name identity.

The biggest question is not how much this is going to cost your organization, but rather: Why would you strive to achieve this gTLD status of exclusive ownership? The answers are most probably hidden in your corporate vision, in your name identity’s elasticity and its cyber mandates, and lastly, in intellectual sophistication to cope with global marketing challenges. Whatever happens, a gTLD game is a sophisticated maneuver of name identity expansion, and not every major name brand identity or its corporate model would pass the acid test for approval and suitability. Hence, all this creative vertigo in the name of a new branding tool called gTLD.





Naseem Javed is the author of "Image Supremacy" and founder of ABC Namebank.

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