Pinterest squatters are snatching up brand identities, the way that cybersquatters grabbed names like Madonna.com and Lufthansa.com. Whether or not a major brand has any interest in Pinterest, it behooves them to protect their identities with a Pinterest usernames.
Pinterest is the social image bookmarking site that lets users "pin" their favorite images from around the Web, recently topped 4 million visitors per day. Major brands like Ferragamo are beginning to take notice and are starting to explore the site's marketing potential.
FairWinds Partners, the digital names strategy advisory firm, has examined which major fashion brands have reserved their brand names as Pinterest usernames – the first step in creating a Pinterest marketing strategy.
Of 285 major fashion brands, which include apparel and footwear brands, plus retail brands that sell apparel and footwear, only 75 (or about 26%) have registered their brand names as Pinterest usernames. Only 40 of these 285 names are still available for registration, and nearly 60% of these 285 brand names have been registered by third parties with no relation to the brands in question. (Presumably, they’ll sell them back to you, for a “fair” price.”
Similarly, Econsultancy’s Chris Lake in February browsed 50 of the Interbrand list of 100 brands to find that 45 had yet to create Pinterest accounts, but only one was still available. The remaining 44 had been taken by the brands themselves, or by squatters. Perhaps Pinterest seemed trivial to those brands. But Lake observed that as of three years ago, Coca Cola had yet to create a Twitter profile. Lucky for Coke the identity had not been squatted, and it now has about a half-million Twitter followers. Coca Cola has created a Pinterest ID, as have major brands like American Express and Volkswagen USA.
But as a Business Insider article describes, the “Coke” Pinterest ID (pinterest.com/coke/) belongs to someone named Jennifer Kersting, and pinterest.com/mcdonalds/ to someone named Shawna McDonald (both likely phony names). Coca Cola had to settle for the longer and less obvious http://pinterest.com/cocacola/.
Fair Winds also looked at the top 100 brands according to Interbrand's 2011 list of Best Global Brands. The trend demonstrated by fashion brands held true: only 28 of the Interbrand top 100 brands have registered their brand names as Pinterest usernames, while 68 brand names have been registered by unrelated third parties.
Business Insider’s Lauren Rae Orsini observes that “You don’t see domain squatting of this magnitude on Facebook or Twitter, since each network has a policy to bump impersonators.”
Why does it matter? Because it takes control away from a brand. At the squatted Pinterest.com/Prada link, the user's "My Style" pinboard displays dozens of pins picturing Prada product, as well as from competitors like Kate Spade, Ferragamo, Kurt Geiger and Elie Saab. These pins have the potential to create confusion among Internet users and ultimately dilute the Prada brand. And only after considerable pressure from the Mitt Romney presidential campaign (and considerable bad press) did Pinterest force a squatter to change the ID of his parodic pinterest.com/mittromney page (which in general, lampooned Romney).
"As Pinterest grows more and more popular, it will become harder for brand owners to secure the best usernames on which to build their marketing strategies. Whether it is on Pinterest or any other social media site, registering usernames that correspond to their brands enables brand owners to reach the widest array of consumers while protecting their valuable brands from infringement," stated Josh Bourne, FairWinds' Managing Partner. "Since registering usernames on social media sites is nearly always free, brands should proactively register as many usernames as necessary across new and emerging platforms. You never know which is going to become the next big thing." (Like Twitter.)