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And About Time Too! 2 August 2000 Edition
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After almost a year of ignoring the obvious, the New Zealand Commerce Commission has finally figured out that Telecom NZ's 0867 system is anti-competitive.

It's refreshing to know that even though successive governments, and so many of their departments, tend move at the speed of frozen treacle, they eventually come to the right conclusions -- occasionally.

Tuesday's decision by the Commerce Commission would also appear to raise questions over the abilities of Maurice Williamson and Bill Birch in their former roles of IT Minister and protector of the Kiwi Share. Both these career-politicians said they could see nothing wrong with Telecom NZ's 0867 system and refused to defend the rights of the industry and consumers. Let's hope that people will remember this for some time to come -- particularly at the ballot box.

However -- it's time for a reality check and a reminder that Telecom have not been found guilty of any breach just yet. The decision by the Commerce Commission to launch a prosecution doesn't mean that Telecom is guilty of anything -- but it does signify that there are sufficient grounds to believe that an offense may have been committed.

And, based on previous history between the Commission and Telecom, I would not consider a successful prosecution to be even remotely likely. Telecom's seeming invulnerability to the Commission's scrutiny continues to bewilder many in the industry.

Marketing Your Website: Branding
So how do we go about creating a strong brand?

Well branding consists of two major elements -- recognition and association.

To be successful, our branding must not only reach people but also register in their minds so that they remember it. This requires that we create a brand that is memorable and that people see it often enough to imprint on their long-term memory.

Perhaps the most important aspect of making a memorable brandname that promotes recognition is the choice of that name and its representation.

I'll use my own site 7am.com as an example and explain how I went about choosing and establishing the branding.

Firstly the name. You have two basic choices when building a new brand -- use a descriptive term as companies such as InfoSeek, FreeNet, etc -- or you can create an abstract branding -- such as Yahoo, eBay or 7am.com.

Some points to consider when creating a brand:

  • Many directories list site names/brands alphabetically so, if possible, choose a name that starts with a number or letter early in the alphabet. It's no accident that this site is called Aardvark and 7am.com starts with a numeral.

  • Three letter acronyms (such as CNN, MSN, ABC or IBM) are often easier to remember than a longer abstract name -- they're also easier to type.

  • Even abstract brands can have some association with the function of the product or service they represent. Yahoo! for example, is the exclamation of someone who has just found what they're looking for on the Net and 7am(.com) is the time of day that most people get their first news-fix.

Personally I would advise new-entrants to the Internet marketplace to try and develop their own distinctive branding based on a totally new name rather than trying to make the name a description of the service. This offers the double bonus that if you decide to change the direction and product or service offered by your online business somewhere along the path to success, your name won't have to change. Re-branding is an awfully expensive and risky business and effectively involves writing off much of the effort and time spend developing the original brand -- it's worth thinking ahead to avoid this problem.

In the case of 7am.com I played with many ideas involving the word "news" but none of them were distinctive enough or still had an available domain name. I finally settled on 7am.com because it was: short, started with a digit, easily remembered, had the domain name (7am.com) still available, and had a subtle link to the service provided although it didn't describe that service.

You might have to spend a lot of time working on your branding -- but remember: it's the cornerstone of your online presence so make sure you get it right.

The representation of your branding is also critical -- and this generally means having a uniquely identifiable logo. IBM's striped white capital letters on a blue background are a good example -- as are Yahoo's bouncy yellow letters.

This area of a readily identifiable logo is one area where I'm still not happy with 7am.com's branding and could stand to be improved significantly. On the other hand, I received many emails of protest when I removed Aardvark's furry little rodent from the new site a few months ago. Readers demanded that I restore the little fellow -- so I did. Now that's the power of effective branding.

One final word associated to creating a brand -- make sure you protect it by way of a trademark or service mark. As soon as you start using your branding, providing nobody else is already using the same brand in your particular field, you have some measure of automatic protection but registering your brand is well worth the money. A registered trademark makes it far easier to substantiate your claims if a dispute arises.

With a raft of new top-level domains due for activation later this year, registering your branding could save you a fortune in trying to prove a case against any cybersquatter that might want to use the same name under a new TLD.

And, should someone decide that your online business is so good that they want to buy it, they will want to see that the brand name is protected by a registered trademark.

Tomorrow... taking your brand to the market.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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