In the second quarter of 2013 the first “Branded Generic Top Level Domain Names” also called “gTLDs” will likely be approved for use on the Internet. For the first time in history the Internet is about to get seriously commercialised, by allowing brands to own and govern their own slice of the Internet.
Brands are about to turn our Internet world on its head in ways that we cannot currently imagine. Now these aren’t just any brands, they are among some of the World’s biggest, most progressive, dynamic and successful brands there are going around globally. Where you once had .com, .net, .gov and a few others, you will soon see the likes of .nike, .tiffany, .abc, .nbc, .afl, .seven, .google and nearly 1,000 more from a variety of countries around the world. Soon your computer screens, smart phones, TV’s, newspapers (and just about every other form of advertising medium) will come alive with chatter from these brands as they prepare to educate the general public about the importance and value of their new purchases. Most importantly though is that they will try and convince you as to why you should own your own personalised .brand like www.johnsmith.nike or something similar. Yes, your favorite brands will soon be able to offer you your very own branded web address. Soon you will see a global education campaign start up to drive your attention to a new look communication tool for brands, E.g. “If it doesn’t end in .nike, its not supported by Nike”.
What this new space will look like and how it will operate exactly is yet to be seen, but one thing that we can be sure of is that anything is possible when you put the most cost effective, global, digital marketing tool in front of the marketing departments of global brands.
There has only ever been one application round conducted for new gTLDs at this stage and inevitably there is going to be a second and possibly more when all the existing applications (including other related applications for generic terms like .app, .love, .sydney) have been approved. Just the applications alone for one of these top level domains cost $185,000 with an ongoing fee of $25,000 per year, not to mention legal and other support costs. It has been widely mentioned that each of these domains can cost 1 million dollars before it is even accessible (added to the root zone).
Until the second round starts (which is likely to be up to 5 years away to approve all existing applications and then approve the next rounds applications), these brands have a unique window of opportunity to find new commercial solutions without their competition being able to do anything about it. This window is critical in gaining leverage of a once in a life time opportunity to build brand awareness and market share in the new Internet world with a select group of businesses.
There is much speculation about the need for these new domains as they really are just a naming convention so “technically” of very little value. However from a branding point of view it is the chance to offer a unique selling proposition to their target market in ways that they have never been able to do before. Although not a technical a game changer, a dotbrand is a massive windfall for brands when it comes to marketing and advertising. The fact that these lucky few brands will have the space to themselves for quite some time is just the icing on the cake. The possibilities are endless and soon you will see just what the minds of these powerful and successful brands can conjure up.
So what can brands like Nike do with their dotnike (.nike) that they can’t do now with nike.com?
Firstly, they will be able to set down the rules and regulations of how the space is operated and who is allowed to own a domain ending in their brand. With a .com the brand is at the mercy of the rules that govern .com and has little if any control over who purchases any .com domains.
Secondly, by owning a branded top level domain, any website that ends in a .brand e.g mystore.nike, can only exist because Nike approved it as an official Nike outlet, so the brand suddenly gains huge amounts of control over the communication of its products and services online. Shoppers can be confident that their new purchase online is from a genuine Nike shoe outlet and therefore the shoes are genuine also. With a .com it is possible that some websites are not genuine but copy outlets selling inferior products.
Thirdly, Nike also has the unique ability to offer personalised domains to their customers for easier communication, better brand exposure and more accurate target marketing. With a .com there is no way of identifying a loyal customer.
Imagine Nike saying to you that you can have your very own personalised branded domain name like Johnsmith.nike. Perhaps you’re a Ferrari car enthusiast, and want to own Johnsmith.ferrari. Imagine what these brands will be able to do with their marketing spend if they could focus it on those customers who they could identify as closer or more loyal to the brand. It would be an army of customers who are passively promoting a brand just by owning a personalised branded domain name, showing it off publicly in their Internet communication. Imagine thousands or tens of thousands of customers doing this globally. Tiny changes like these on a global scale can be worth millions in promotion and brand recognition.
One of the biggest problems with advertising and marketing has always been about trying not to waste money on people who don’t want or who aren’t interested in buying or using your product or service. Imagine being able to rally customers to a promotion on a global scale in one click. Fewer dollars spent to reach the same people to generate more sales. Sound exciting?
Every brand will be looking at these domains as a way to vastly reduce their overheads, increase their brand’s exposure globally, tighten their communications, gain a marketing edge and therefore increase their ROI. What do you think these multi-million dollar companies would be prepared to pay to achieve that considering they spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing this already? The million dollars invested is peanuts…as long as they can conjure up the right strategy to benefit from it. Regardless of the outcomes, you have to be in it to win it.
So we believe brands are going to be hot on the trail of looking for customers to support their brands and build closer, more intimate networks, with the people who actually buy, support and talk about their products and services. This is about active users being actively engaged with the brands they support.
So what is in it for the customer? Well these brands need to take advantage of this new frontier and will likely approach it like a gold rush scooping up vast databases of potential customers with special offers just so they can have you as their brand champion, championing and promoting their products and services. In exchange for that promotion they can afford to offer you discounts, special, unique purchases, VIP passes, points, the list is endless. Your support of a brand means their success and that success is vital if they are going to get the edge they are looking for.
The big question that we think that will be on the minds of those in the boardrooms and at the marketing brain storming sessions will be how? Brands already have contact with their existing customers through email, on their website and social media but how will they educate them to want to have a personalised domain name? Then once they have reached those customers, how will they reach new ones? This could be a costly education exercise as most people don’t even know what a gTLD is let alone why they would want or need a personalised one. Finally, how can they do it before their competitors have their own branded gTLD domains approved and operating?
We believe having the answers to these questions will help leap a brand to the next level. This is where the truly great brands will dominate their sectors and gain massive market share.
SLAM Strategy is exclusively an Internet Strategy company that is focused on these sorts of issues. For more information on branded domains and how to take advantage of new opportunities contact us today. firstname.lastname@example.org