As international retailers and brands increase their fluency, engagement and use of social media as a driver that builds brand equity, unsurprisingly many are now looking at protecting their names on Twitter, much like the domain name gold rush of 15 years ago.

You may remember then that “cybersquatters” bought the domain and offered it back to the brands at a significant mark-up which extreme fees were often paid to control the brand in etherspace.

Now, Pepsi is the first to trademark the hashtag #sayitwithpepsi so its presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the social media not even invented yet can fizz with conversation about their range of drinks.

In another sign of marketers’ interest in controlling their brands and conversations online, interestingly Pinterest has just introduced advertising on its UK site that lets retailers bid in an auction for topics, people and keywords via “promoted pins” that appear in a user’s feed. Recently L’Oreal Paris used mini-videos this way, reaching 5 million consumers which raised purchase intent by 31% as a result.

So what do these social media developments mean for retailers?

  • The future is increasingly a virtual one making the challenge of translating a bricks-and-mortar experience to an online one important and ambiguous
  • Building online conversations about retail brands by controlling the keywords brings consistency across markets and social media outlets, and consistency is at the heart of brand-building
  • Get moving. Like the cybersquatters, getting rights to your own brand name in the online world could be compromised unless you take control of it in all its facets.

Allyson Stewart-Allen, CEO of International Marketing Partners Ltd., is an advisor, broadcaster, educator, speaker and author of "Working with Americans: How to Build Profitable Business Relationships." A London-based Californian for over 25 years, she helps marketers and their companies internationalise and become corporate diplomats.