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Old 26th July 2008, 08:46 AM
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What's in a name?

What's in a name?

David Tusing July 26, 2008

It's all in the name, apparently. And if you haven't got it right, your company won't be able to last the onslaught of competition both in the digital and the real world for very long, an expert is warning.

"Without a global brand name, you can never create an icon. And without an icon, you are just another business," says Naseem Javed, author and expert on global naming, corporate image and cyber-branding.

"And without a domain name, you have no cyber presence. Without e-commerce there is no business."

Javed's observations follow a ruling last month by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which decided to remove restrictions on the domain naming system. The ruling by the non-profit organisation responsible for managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses will create the largest boom on the internet since its creation, experts hope.

To come into effect by the second quarter of next year, the new naming rule allows companies to register any word as a URL suffix. Previously, users were limited to a few suffixes including .com, .net or Now, domains names ending with .news or .bank or .dubai will soon be up for grabs.

And that, says Javed, opens a world of limitless opportunities for organisations looking to make a mark in a world increasingly dependent on online presence.

"A billion new users will come online, millions of new interactive gateways will open and thousands of new global brands will emerge. This will make a global impact and bring a new face to the global e-commerce," says the published author of books such as Naming for Power and The Domain Wars.

"This latest approach allows great ideas to catapult into overnight global cyber name brands of extraordinary proportions."

According to a study conducted by Javed's Toronto-based company ABC Namebank, entitled The New-Name-Economy & 2010 Cyber Branding Strategies, there are already about 18,700 companies in the world today that will apply under this new policy, either by choice or forced by competitive elements.

More than one million businesses representing big commercial interests from all countries will enter this arena, it said.

"Already, most big companies are either spending millions on pushing poorly crafted names or spending millions on defending hit and run squatters," says Javed. "The study confirms the role of the dotcom suffix as still being the king and will remain so until the new system is fully entrenched and utilised over the next five to 10 years."

The GCC and the wider region, says Javed, already has a serious naming problem – and if he had a choice he would suggest drastic name changes to some of the big corporations in the region.

"There are a lot of mega projects with disastrous names and they will never make it. They will never get the global recognition they deserve," he says. "Despite all the boom and massive campaigns about Dubai, for example, there are no major internationally recognisable brands to this date, except for maybe the name 'Dubai'.

"Most Dubai names are either highly duplicated family names or dictionary words and seriously lack the global Five Star Standard of Naming (see below). People don't know the difference between Burj Al Arab and Burj Dubai, for instance."

"If any name is based on a dictionary word, it will never make it on a global scale. Any geographic name will never make it as an iconic name and a family name that is shared by many people will never make it.

"Business naming is a very tactical, black and white exercise not to be confused by typical logo driven agency project," he adds.

"It's very dicey, very tricky. There is only one Time magazine, only one Fifth Avenue and Sony and Panasonic, Microsoft… If you create something that the global market does not understand, you are only creating an excess baggage for yourself."

But the world of nomenclature allows for redemption, assures Javed. And what Middle Eastern companies can do now is take immediate action.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, America was something like this. The companies there had to be re-alligned and repositioned for the global market," he says. "The Middle East is going through the same cycle and companies have to re-emerge and rebrand themselves."

In a study conducted recently by brand consultancy firm FutureBrand, the UAE, along with China and Croatia, were ranked the top three "rising stars" to become a major tourist destination in the next five years, while Australia was named the world's top country brand in the Country Brand Index.

But there is hardly time to sit easy, warns Javed, as the cyber naming convention comes into effect. "The early 2009 launch is already very tight. It requires tactical game planning for businesses to fully sort out desired identities and to go after securing them against a global competition," he says.

"What the Icann is doing is providing global players with very powerful tools. Imagine if you owned and developed the .dubai or .gulf domain names. You could add 50 more products to it and dominate that field – or without it, think of how other companies can come up and squash you overnight."

The internet naming authority's historic ruling not only extends to domain name suffixes but will also allow non-Roman language inputs. An Arabic website, for instance, will now be able to have its web address entirely in the Arabic script.

"Corporations have already started serious discussions on how to capture the most creative and powerful solutions," says Javed.

"Initially, domain names took a decade to spread around the globe, but today they are entrenched in every walk of life and they will all descend at once from all over the globe in this new race. The shot has been fired."
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