Oct 24, 2022 - by Matt Serlin

Secrets to Successful Domain Name Management When Launching New Brands

The information provided in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

Launching a new brand is exciting - it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and anticipation. However, planning ahead and thinking strategically are just as important as creating buzz and enthusiasm. Since internet presence for any new brand will be crucial to its success, taking care to obtain the right domain names prior to launch will be one of the most important go-to-market activities. Based on our 20+ years of domain industry experience, here are the secrets to success we’ve learned working with the world’s best-known brands that will help your company avoid common pitfalls and obtain the domains it needs.

Tactics and Timelines
When creativity is brimming and a new product launch is imminent, brand and marketing teams may be eager to register domains right away and tell legal after. However, this is dangerous for many reasons. Brand and marketing professionals may not be aware that acquiring domain names is a potentially risky and expensive process that must be handled carefully. Employees are well-advised to adhere to the company’s domain name policies before “going rogue” and registering domains.

In advance of a new product launch, the brand and marketing people will certainly have domain names on their “wish list”. However, they need to accept the possibility that acquisition of their preferred names may not be possible. Another company or speculator party may already own the desired domain name, so it’s their call if they want to give it up for a price. Even in the best-case scenarios, negotiation and purchase of domains from third parties may take weeks or even months. If the domains cannot be purchased for a reasonable sum, brand and marketing people must be prepared to go with their second or third choice domains.

The Perils of Poor Planning
The risks of brand and marketing people registering domains without checking with legal can be costly. Here is a typical cautionary tale scenario of a brand launch which shows how the domain timing can go wrong and have detrimental effects on the launch. Say the branding team creates its new brands and clears the trademarks with legal. Legal submits the trademark applications. Then news of the brand leaks out, which sometimes happens. Therefore, before the company tries to buy the domains it wants most, domain squatters hear the news and buy up the domains based on the new brand(s) names. This puts the company in the unfortunate position of having to purchase the domains from the squatter for exorbitant prices, since the squatter knows it has leverage on its side.

Planning to Ensure a Better Outcome
Let’s look at a sequence of events which produces a more positive outcome. Assuming news of the brand launch will leak, the company needs to involve the domain professionals as early in the process as possible for a proactive, not reactive, approach. First, the branding team creates its brands and clears them with legal which is a necessary first step. Here’s the change – next, before legal submits its trademark applications (which are public records viewable by anyone including squatters) the core top-level domain names (TLDs) should be purchased with a retail registrar, not a corporate registrar. Retail registers are better at this point because squatters are watching the corporate registrars but the retail registrar volume is so much greater and there is better chance of anonymity for the registrant. Once the company has secured its desired core TLDs via third-party retail registrar, legal can then submit the trademark applications. Subsequently, additional TLDs can be registered anonymously to outwit squatters. The result of the abovementioned chronology is successfully registered domains to support the new brand launch.

Recommended Steps for Launching a New Brand
Tremendous effort and money funnel into launching a new brand, so everyone concerned wants to have a successful outcome. Here are steps which will help the brand, marketing, domain and legal professionals involved to have better results and less risk and stress:

1) Adhere to Domain Name Policy, which should indicate:

  • Who can register domains and under which circumstances;
  • When a registration request should be submitted;
  • How the request should be submitted and where;
  • What domains can – and should – be registered; and
  • Why the policy requirements are in place.

2) Check Domain Availability First - Based on the new brand name(s), do a quick check for domain availability at the outset, even before talking to legal about trademarks. The results of this check may steer marketing down a more fruitful path. Such reconnaissance will also raise the question early on of how important the domain name will be, and whether it’s worth changing the brand name if the desired domain names are not attainable.

3) Registering Core Sites and Defensives – When registering domains, consider whether privacy services and third-party registrars will be required. GDPR compliance regulations obfuscate/protect certain details about domain registrants and owners. However, using the company’s name servers during registration may tip off squatters that a company is interested in certain domain names. Using a third-party retail registrar rather than the corporate registrar can help camouflage a domain purchase from a large company, thereby not showing up on the squatters’ radar.

4) Acquiring Domains - If the company does have to acquire a domain on the secondary market, its team needs to understand how the domain is being used, identify ownership, and make an offer to begin negotiations. Consider using a professional domain name broker to assist in this process, and consider transferring domains to a retail registrar to preserve anonymity. If buying a .com TLD, consider making proactive additional registrations and acquisitions to support that purchase. To seal the deal for a domain purchase, use a written contract, escrow payment, and ensure additional intellectual property (IP) rights are part of the purchase.

5) Submit TM Applications after Core Domains are Secured – Legal should submit trademark applications only after the desired core and defensive domain names have been secured.

Key Takeaways
During a product launch process, emotions run high and domain-related questions may not be at the top of everyone’s list. However, the earlier and more often the domain issues can be addressed and secured, the better off the company will be when it finally launches. There may be pitfalls, including leaks about the brand and unavailability of their top-choice brands. Having a comprehensive domain policy in place, and ensuring employees adhere to it, will provide a strong foundation to help produce success. And above all else, fostering a close relationship between legal, marketing and brands will keep communication flowing and enable strategic planning that has the best possible results.

So go ahead and be excited about the new brand, but also be careful and methodical about how the domains are secured and managed.

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Matt Serlin

With a focus on security, service and support, Matt Serlin joined the company in 2017 to lead all domain operations, including client services and domain name provisioning. Matt has over 15 years of direct domain name experience most recently with MarkMonitor where he was instrumental in building the industry’s first dedicated client services team, which has become the de facto standard for all corporate registrars.

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