There has been much controversy about what brands will actually do with their new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that's any different from how they currently use their .com domains. While many brands may have applied out of fear of failing to secure critical Internet real estate during a limited time offer, there are many strategies that will provide applicants a competitive advantage in an increasingly digital marketplace. Among these, the number one strategy is providing a greater level of brand authenticity and security to consumers and Internet users.
For example, we saw noticeable movement by the automobile industry with brands such as Chrysler, Toyota, BMW, Ford, and GM applying for their major brands as gTLDs. These auto companies can provide assurances to online audiences that when they access search.ford or localdealer.ford, they have found the one true Ford Motor Company rather than an imposter diverting the unknowing consumer through "typosquatting" or misdirection. Additionally, these auto market leaders can release second-string domains only to authorized parts dealers, repair shops, or others authorized to sell products and services related to their brand as a way to assure consumers that they are dealing with authorized resellers only. For example, mainstreet.bmw can be used only if BMW issues that second-string domain.
We also saw luxury goods companies such as Cartier, Tiffany's, Chanel, Richemont, Coach, and many others apply for gTLDs. These luxury brands can put a dent in counterfeiting by educating Internet users to only visit the official .tiffanys site to buy authentic Tiffany's products. While some challenge that those buying counterfeit products don't care where they buy them, consumers trying to purchase authentic products will know to trust the security and authenticity of the brand's specific top-level domain instead of a .com or another gTLD. Pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Pfizer, and others will also benefit from this strategy, as they too can provide second-string domains only to their authorized resellers.
Finance and insurance companies such as Visa, Capital One, Discover, J.P. Morgan, and American Express, as well as State Farm, Allstate, and MetLife applied too. Companies in these key financial industries can stop phishing and fraudulent activity by educating their consumers to only trust their brand gTLD as a strategy to provide more security to their customers. When digital leaders and big brands advertise, promote, and educate consumers about the benefits and drive behavior, consumers will respond. This means every business with a .com needs to understand when and how this shift will occur.
Interestingly, we didn't see any major celebrities or media moguls such as Ryan Seacrest or Kim Kardashian apply. However, using a gTLD to guarantee authenticity is a solid strategy for celebrities to provide a better user experience as well as ensure fans have not stumbled upon an imposter's site.
Also, very few global chains applied - McDonald's did apply, but other "biggies" like Starbucks, KFC, or T.G.I. Friday's did not. GTLDs offer an immense opportunity for global chains to effectively extend their offers to locations around the globe with unique second-string domains. Whether you did or didn't apply, the time to analyze the impact of the big bang of the Internet is now. The recent ICANN lottery solidified the timeline to launch. The internationalized domains will launch in Q3 2013. And, both Google and Amazon will begin to launch a portion of their gTLDs in Q4 2013 along with Xbox, Chase, Showtime, Transformers, AAA, Sam's Club, and McDonald's, just to name a few. Armed with this information, CMOs need to prepare their strategy for the paradigm shift of the Internet set to begin in Q3 2013.
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Jennifer Wolfe is founder and president of Wolfe Domain, a gTLD digital brand strategy advisory firm providing comprehensive guidance to global brands, interactive agencies, domain registrars, and legal counsel representatives on establishing a holistic gTLD name-anchored brand strategy for the next generation of the Internet. As a forward-thinking, accomplished, award-winning attorney and executive leader, she also serves as managing partner of their affiliate law firm WolfeSBMC, specializing in advising on intellectual property and brand campaigns and new media law. With a depth of entrepreneurial savvy, brand knowledge, and legal expertise, Wolfe brings a unique perspective to creating holistic generic top-level domain (gTLD) name-centric brand strategies that effectively bring cross-functional teams together and serve as a catalyst for business innovation.
March 19, 2014