Protecting Brands Online

While companies have a lot of work ahead of them to manage their brands online, American Express, Mercedes, BMW, Ford and Toyota stand out among top brands that are protecting and expanding their digital presence, according to a new report from VeriSign, Inc., the provider of digital trust services.

The "VeriSign Digital Brand Index Report" evaluated the Top 25 Global Brands, as identified by Interbrand Corp. finding that American Express had the best overall record, followed by Mercedes, BMW and a tie between Ford and Toyota. McDonald's, Intel, Disney, IBM and Oracle also ranked high in the report.

Mercedes had the highest Digital Brand Protection Index score, BMW had the most impressive Digital Brand Damage Index score and American Express captured the highest mark in the Digital Brand Promotion Index.

The study also found that the Top 25 Global Brands are doing an increasingly better job of protecting the three key global domains that are used primarily in the United States -- .com, .net and .org. Currently, 15 of the Top 25 Global Brands are represented across all three of these global domains. Just eight months ago, when VeriSign conducted its last review, fewer than half of the top brands were represented.

"The Internet economy has entered a new phase of market development," said Internet commerce analyst Mikael Hook of Current Analysis, "in which enterprise organizations are moving beyond the initial facet of establishing an online presence to developing the Web-channel as part of a broader multi-channel commerce strategy. Here, enterprise organizations face new challenges and issues, primarily, the management and protection of trusted product and service brands in a digital environment."

While large numbers of people visit branded websites with .com, .net and .org extensions, people outside of the United States tend to patronize Web sites with local or regional extensions, such as .uk (United Kingdom) and .de (Germany). By expanding beyond U.S. domain names, companies have a tremendous opportunity to expand distribution, improve global brand positioning, reach more customers and sell more product.

"This report underscores the fact that, while brands are critical corporate assets, digital brand management remains in its infancy," said Maigread Eichten, vice president of VeriSign's Digital Brand Management Services division. "The Internet is a global network, so owning domain names that are specific to one or two countries isn't going to suffice. Companies today need a comprehensive approach to not only register domain names internationally, but also manage them on a 24x7 basis."

According to Gartner, a typical large business owns 200 to 500 corporate, product and service identities and spends considerable time and money registering, maintaining and defending them. Handling this work in-house requires establishing a technical infrastructure, hiring staff with global expertise and staying abreast of the ever-changing landscape of technical, government and international rules and procedures surrounding intellectual property rights. A growing number of companies are choosing to cut costs and complexity by outsourcing their digital brand management requirements to qualified service providers.