Many of the world's top brands will now own their own branded top-level domains, opening up a new world of marketing possibilities.
The first new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) will be available to the general public beginning this month. While the topic is still largely under the radar for most digital marketers, the opportunity to create unique, memorable digital experiences with domain names has finally arrived.
What's so extraordinary about this launch is not just the scale (more than 900 new gTLDs), but that half of the world's top brands will also now own their own branded top-level domain. Most brands are not yet ready to launch their gTLD, but we will start to see ads and campaigns using the new brand top-level domains later this year.
While many digital marketers continue to debate if .com will ever be the old rather than the gold standard, the brands who didn't apply won't have access to this digital asset for at least three to five years, if, and when, ICANN opens up a second round of applications for gTLDs.
Be on the lookout this year for who's in the gTLD space and who's out. Those who are out may be scrambling to compete when their competitors can create new digital experiences using their exclusive brand top-level domain space. Below is just a small sample of the hundreds of brands who applied for their own gTLD and their counterparts who opted out. For a complete list of all applications, click here.
Digital and Technology Leaders
Consumer Goods & Grocery
The above is just a small sample of the list of the haves and the have-nots of the newest digital real estate. While the value of owning your own brand gTLDs may not seem like a big advantage today, over the next few years it could shake out to be a big differentiator in creating online digital experiences.
Brands who applied could use their gTLD to create unique experiences, much like apps, but online. As consumers continue to expand their use of the digital world for all facets of their life and cross devices from phones, tablets, to flat-screens connected to the Internet at home, the ability to create these experiences within your own gTLD platform could be a big advantage. For example, Major League Baseball could build a Now.MLB page that features everything happening right now in baseball. Much like an app, it provides a specific function or experience. Now, at home, using Google Chrome Cast, a tablet, and the flat-screen television, a fan is surfing the net rather than the cable box looking for sports entertainment. Now.MLB is an easy-to-remember landing page into everything happening now in Major League Baseball. Likewise, Sony could build a StarWars.Sony landing page with all things Star Wars. For a gamer or die-hard fan, this becomes a memorable and authentic portal to everything they need across different platforms.
In the fashion industry, new campaigns could be run to drive people from traditional advertising in magazines to digital experiences, with Fall.Gucci to feature the new fall line or readytowear.Chanel to feature the new collection that's now available. For fashionistas, these are digital experiences that are specific and distinct from the all-encompassing home page, where brands often fall short of creating powerful digital experiences.
Not only can these brands create unique, interesting, memorable, and authentic experiences tied to their brand in the digital world, they can also track and mine data across their closed digital eco system (their gTLD). In addition, by tapping into the power of the gTLD, their users may experience faster resolution because it is a closed eco system (everyone in .com is resolving with the millions of other websites), which means creating live, streaming content may be more of a practical strategy. These brands could also potentially improve its organic search as search engines evolve with the 1,000-plus new top-level domains.
For those brands who didn't apply, they may want to look at the more than 900 generics and consider what digital experiences or campaigns they want to create. For example, Burberry may want Burberry.channel to feature its own content in a digital world. Or, J. Crew may want Jcrew.wedding to build out its social platform in the niche wedding space.
While many hold on to the idea that .com will always be the gold standard, the gold rush of the new domains is starting in February. The window to apply for a gTLD will not be open for several years. Those who assume nothing will change may be left without the digital assets they need. Brands, whether they applied or not, should follow a few simple steps to evaluate what domains they could use in an evolving digital life:
These questions are driving forces to your digital strategy. For a motion infographic on the new gTLD space, click here.
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Jen Wolfe is an author, digital leader, and global IP strategist. She has written a series of highly acclaimed books, Brand Rewired and Domain Names Rewired, endorsed by executives from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Warner Brothers, and more as cutting-edge thinking about the future of brands and the impact of the new gTLDs. She interviewed leaders from Yahoo, Verizon, Harley Davidson, Time Warner, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Intel, Interbrand, Re/Max, Scripps Networks, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, International Paper, General Mills, and others to uncover trends in branding and technology.
Wolfe is widely cited by business publications for her expertise on the brand gTLD. She has been named one of the top global IP strategists by IAM magazine for four years in a row and one of the few in the world developing brand IP strategies. She served on the GNSO Council of ICANN and is currently the Chair of the GNSO Review Working Party.
Jen is the CEO of Wolfe Domain Digital Strategy, a company she founded in response to market demands and consults with C-Suite executives in Fortune 500 companies to develop digital IP strategies and detailed plans for the impact and roll out of new gTLDs with an innovative approach to be a market leader in a changing digital environment.
Hong Kong, May 5-6, 2015
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