Apr10

What Impact Will .sucks Have On Branding?

Not many people are happy about the new .sucks gTLD being released soon. What precautions need to be taken in order to protect your brand?

When running a business you should protect your brand reputation first and foremost. This is especially true around the internet, which seems to be flooded with “trolls”, or rather people on the internet looking to cause issues online. Never has it been easier for disgruntled people to cause mischief to the detriment of companies.

Over the last couple of years ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the nonprofit organization in charge of managing domain names, has been releasing a large number of gTLDs, or generic Top-Level Domains. Whereas previously the common domains were .com and .net, we are now seeing a huge variety of gTLD options. The vast majority of these have helped businesses expand their options for purchasing a domain name, but of course there are always exceptions.

ICANN will soon release the new, and somewhat controversial, gTLD .sucks, giving these “trolls” yet another way of causing damage. If the proper precautions aren’t taken, this could be a threat to companies’ brand reputation across the world.

Consider this scenario: you own the domain example.com. Someone who is against your business, whether a competitor or just a pesky troll, buys example.sucks. On this newly acquired domain your foe posts negative or inaccurate information about your business, leaving you with no way of defending yourself. If a potential client happens upon example.sucks before your actual example.com domain, their opinion may already be tainted by too much distasteful information. And just like that, your brand has been damaged.

So why would ICANN consider releasing such a controversial domain? Before we answer that, we should clarify that this isn’t the first gTLD to cause concern. Other gTLDs such as .porn have also attracted criticism about what kind of sites are being catered for. Taylor Swift recently bought the domains taylorswift.porn and taylorswift.adult in order to protect her name being used by trolls for malicious uses. As long as she owns the domain, it won’t end up in the wrong hands.

Other celebrities and businesses are following suit. Microsoft identified the same risk as Taylor Swift and bought controversial gTLDs that could damage its brand. We can expect the same from other companies looking to protect their name. This rings especially true with .sucks, which can poison any brand name. So, why is this being done?

Vox Populi is the registry that owns .sucks. They claim that “dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism. Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization’s customer relationship management program”.

In other words, .sucks isn’t ‘intentionally’ meant to be an easy target for competitors. Instead, it’s meant to be purchased by organizations in order to improve their customer satisfaction. On paper it does make sense. If your company owns example.com and example.sucks, you can use example.sucks in order to assure your customers that you value their custom by posting and replying to negative reviews. As long as you own the .sucks domain, you can use it to benefit your company and turn negativity around. In fact, Vox Populi even calls it a “central town square”.

However, not everyone is buying into this. Especially considering that .sucks domain names aren’t cheap. The standard price for a .sucks domain name will be $249, with premium domains (domains involving common and obvious words) costing upwards to $2,499. At that price most people agree that .sucks is more hassle than the aforementioned  “central town square”.

Even though ‘it sucks’ for many, this new gTLD will be released soon. In fact, it’s scheduled to be made available to the public on June 1. Many brands have the chance to protect their name by purchasing a .sucks domain before June 1, just as Taylor Swift and Microsoft did with .porn. But for the rest, it’s open season.

Let the brand protecting (and attacking, unfortunately) begin.

 

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