TAM Airlines (TAM) is the largest airline in Brazil, and has been expanding operations. They used to compete with Varig in Brazil, which owns Varig.com as well as Varig.com.br, the Brazilian equivalent, and GOL. Airline web sites are notoriously badly configured for SEO, and these are not exceptions, but TAM airlines doesn’t even own TAM.com. For a major airlines, this is very unusual.
American Airlines naturally owns AA.com. British Airways secured BA.com. Japan Airlines, known as JAL, naturally owns JAL.com. They also own the necessary variants of their names, such as AmericanAirlines.com, and BritishAirways.com.
Looking further, Dutch airline KLM of course secured KLM.com, their natural domain. Northwest Airlines can be found at NWA.com. Even South American airline Lan Airline has secured lan.com for itself, which must have been difficult given the generic value of LAN in the computer field (local area network — the domain surely had very high value). Truth is, if you are competing in the global travel space, you simply MUST secure your brand as the customer perceives it. Most airlines know that.
The Polish airline LOT Polish Airlines owns LOT.com, another strong generic domain that had high value to others. LOT knows the value of that domain as a brand. Delta Airlines is found at Delta.com, despite hundreds of non-airline businesses operating under strong Delta trademarks. Continental Airlines owns Continental.com, even though there are very major companies in other industries also operating with the name “Continental”. Why do you think Continental Airlines owns it? If you are a serious airline, you simply must own your name, no? If you visit a page of the Airline Blog that covers Brazil, you will see numerous contextual ads from travel agents and travel companies putting the TAM brand right in front of the consumers. Do they know the value of the TAM brand more than TAM airlines?
So TAM Airlines doesn’t know this? Or maybe doesn’t care. I would find it very hard to believe that the IT systems company near “Mount Tam” in California, the current registrant of TAM.com, would hold out for a higher price than a major International Airline could afford for an exact-match, 3 letter dot com. I don’t know the owner of TAM.com so I can’t be sure, but seriously… if Pizza.com went for just over 2 million, how could a 3 letter exact match for a significant International airline be too expensive to buy out from a small IT company? The online Pizza business last year was billion$ strong, and expected to double in the near term. Anyone could launch into that revenue stream immediately with a 2+ million dollar purchase of THE generic domain in that market. That’s less than the cost of producing a SuperBowl ad, and there was no trademark at risk. For TAM Airlines, with TAM.com an exact trademark match as well as a consumer brand match across languages, it must be worth buying, no?
United Airlines owns United.com, as we would expect although honestly I would not be surprised to learn someone else owned United.com since it is so generic and such a common trade moniker. Yet, United Airlines owns it. Smart move, or simply an essential necessity? Southwest Airlines owns Southwest.com. Swiss International Airlines owns Swiss.com. Spain’s Iberia Airlines owns Iberia.com. I personally know 2 restaurants in high-tech neighborhoods with that name. There’s no way the name wasn’t an early target for many companies. The United Arab Emirates airline “Emirates” is, of course, at Emirates.com. Australia’s Qantas Airways owns Qantas.com, of course, right? They were also smart enough to get Quantas.com, which is how I know them because my language doesn’t like Q’s without associated U’s.
Like I said I don’t know the TAM Airlines people nor the TAM.com registrant, but I think this expose of TAM airline’s sloppiness is a good reminder that companies should research their brand situations today, rather than tomorrow. I’m betting a handful of domain investors will call the current owner of TAM.com now, looking to bet that it has unrealized potential.
We have a joke here in our offices about domain name valuation. When a client says “We don’t have our brand as a domain name, but we want to try to acquire it. How much is it worth?” the only answer we can give is “We can’t say for sure, but it’s worth more today than it was yesterday“.