Your online brand is quite possibly your most valuable asset, and worthy of protection. You will spend a great deal of time and money to find your brand name, and you want to use it to grow your business. You do not want to go to the effort and expense of building a brand that identifies and distinguishes your goods or services from others, without protecting it and making sure that no one else can erode its value. This is especially true today, where an online brand can become hijacked or undermined in a few short clicks.
Your online brand
The most important thing to realise is that your brand name is not just a string of letters that you can protect with copyright, or even a trademark. A brand is a collection of interconnected symbols. You can protect some of these with trademarks, like your name or logo. Others you can protect with copyright, like your adverts and copy editing. Others require you more physical protections, like your domain name. But they all combine to make up your brand.
As soon as the brand pops into your head, get on the web and starting searching to see how the brand or concept is being used online. Who is using it? In what area? For what purpose? Hopefully there is a space to make your own. If not, consider another brand name.
Domain names first
For an online brand, or any brand that may have an online presence, the most important thing is the domain name. Your domain name is how customers find you online – without it, an online brand is nothing. The domain name is also usually the hardest thing to get. You can check if a domain name is available by going to various hosting providers, such as Hetzner. They can tell you what domain names are taken and what alternatives there are.
No matter what the size of your business, you should consider getting a generic top level domain (called a “gTLD”; e.g. YOURBRAND.com). You should also consider getting a country code top level domain (called a “ccTLD”; e.g. YOURBRAND.co.za or .co.uk) for the particular countries you are trading in. Together, a few well-placed ccTLD’s and a gTLD will help you establish your online brand in specific countries, and give you the chance to expand it internationally in the future. This will help establish your online brand in a specific country.
These are just some initial screening tests to determine whether a potential brand is a possibility. If it passes, there are various other steps to take to establish and protect the brand.
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