Study warns brands about gTLD consumer confusion


Brand owners must effectively educate consumers about their new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) in order to combat the “inevitable” confusion they will create, a study has shown.

Fairwinds Partners and InsightsNow, which led the research, surveyed 2,008 Internet users between the ages of 13 and 64 about their awareness of gTLDs. Nearly three quarters of the participants were “entirely unaware of the existence” of the programme, the study said. Only 4 percent could name an applied-for domain.

While the study said this was not surprising—partly because previous gTLD launches have not been “major” events—this lack of awareness will confuse consumers, it said. The study found that 44 per cent of participants said new gTLDs will “probably or definitely” cause confusion. After learning more specific details about how gTLDs will be used, however, this figure dropped to 33 per cent.

The study advised brands to “effectively define” their gTLDs in order to rise above the uncertainty. This is possible, the study said, but brand owners “need to devote efforts to educating consumers about new gTLDs”.

If brands can educate consumers in a simple manner, they will trust the domains, the study found.

“After exposure to specific gTLD scenarios, there was a clear movement of participants towards trusting new gTLDs, putting them in the majority over those who expressed concerns about them.” 

“On average, 70 percent of participants replied that they would trust branded gTLDs, while only about half (51 percent) reported that they would trust generic-term gTLDs. Similarly, participants were 19 percent more likely to consider branded gTLDs to be legitimate, as compared to generic-term gTLDs.”

The study urged brand owners to “employ marketing and communications tactics to effectively rise above the confusion that new gTLDs will inevitably create. Because of the low level of awareness about new gTLDs, this task will pose challenges for brand owners and marketers.”

The first new domains are expected to be launched in April 2013. 

This article was first published on 13 December 2012 in World IP Review

gtld, fairwinds, brands, icann

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