What brands need to do to ensure that consumers .care

After investing substantial sums to incorporate brand names in generic top-level domains, (gTLDs) marketers could finally debut their new digital assets as early as this summer.

After investing substantial sums to incorporate brand names in generic top-level domains, (gTLDs) marketers could finally debut their new digital assets as early as this summer.

“The question posed to me a lot is why do we need these new gTLDs?” says Brad White, director of global media affairs, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). “It irritates me because it is based on the idea that need dictates innovation. If Apple taught us anything, innovation can precede demand.”

Applicants to ICANN – who are charged a $185,000 registration fee – remain tight lipped about their plans, citing competitive reasons. In interviews with agencies, PRWeek has learned how they can leverage the asset in their digital communications.

FairWinds Partners is a domain name strategy consultancy hand-ling more than 100 ICANN ap-plications for companies such as Calvin Klein, Nike, Staples, Gap, and Walmart.

Innovative portals
Phil Lodico, managing partner for FairWinds, says client strategies for brand gTLDs run the gamut, from geographic domain name opportunities (Brooklyn.Brand for a retailer's Brooklyn location) to new ways of leveraging customer loyalty programs (JohnDoe.Marriott).

Some plans, he adds, are particularly aggressive and innovative.

“Companies are exploring ways to offer customized portals for their customers and adding social and sharing elements to their pages. Others are looking into ways to offer unique content (Drive.BMW) that they haven't previously offered.”

In migrating users from dot-com to branded gTLDs, Lodico says marketers need to educate consumers on the benefits of branded domains. To illustrate the advantages, he references NikeRunning.com.  

“From a very simple branding perspective, the Nike address will be shorter, will more clearly convey they are the source of authentic Nike content, and are likely to be more memorable to consumers,” Lodico says. “In addition, Nike can make its .Nike gTLD more secure by leveraging new technologies and controlling all access points to the domain.”

Branded online identifiers will allow companies to create unique marketing campaign sites that should be more intuitively found online (Campaign.Brand), says Jim Rogers, VP of marketing for Neustar, an enterprise services company, which was hired by New York City to manage its application for .nyc and market the domain to the public.

Branded domains

About 1,917 applications have been filed for gTLDs. Automotive, health and beauty, and retail are just some of the industries well represented.

The auto industry has more than 30 applications, including Honda, Chevrolet and Chevy, and Kia.

Health and beauty has more than 25 applications, and about 20 brick-and-mortar retailers applied, including Gap and Walmart. Here's a snapshot of three companies and the gTLDs they hope to own.

Johnson & Johnson
Branded gTLDs: .duck, .glade, .mrmuscle, and .off, as well as its slogan, .afamilycompany.

L'Oréal Paris
Branded gTLDs: .kerastase, .lancôme, .maybelline, and .redken.
Non-branded gTLDs:
.beauty, .hair, .makeup, and .skin.

Gap
Branded gTLDs: .athleta, .bananarepublic, .gap, .oldnavy, and .piperlime.

Rogers also sees opportunities for the creation of highly individualized websites by customer (CustomerName.Brand). “This is an exciting time where imagination and creativity will in- spire many different approaches and models,” he adds.

New communities
Companies, especially those that operate online, have also applied for non-branded gTLDs positioning themselves as leaders in a category or industry. Google, for instance, has applied for more than 100 gTLDs, including .love and .dog.

In the case of .dog, Google writes in its application that it would sell the domain name to people looking to be part of a community of dog lovers. Consumers might post photos, stories, and memories about their pets.  

“When you sit down and talk to the people who applied for these new gTLDs, you realize there are enormous communities online devoted to these subjects,” explains Jennie-Marie Larsen, CEO of DomainDiction, a France-based marketing consultancy. “There is no reason why they should not carve out their own dedicated space.”

Marketers of new domains will have to position the new gTLDs as premium real estate on the Internet, adds Larsen.

“It will be critical for them to use PR to demonstrate to young teenage girls, for instance, that they need a blog that ends in .fashion rather than .com.”

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