A handful of brands have entered into their contracts with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to begin operating their own registry, a historic event celebrated with little fanfare by the digital marketing community. Within the next few months, we could begin to see the first traditional advertising announcing the arrival of the newest form of brand digital real estate – the brand top-level domain (gTLD).
According to ICANN, a few brands have signed contracts in the first quarter of 2014. These include .BMW, .Toshiba, .Samsung, .Infiniti, .Nissan, and .Suzuki, along with .NYC, .Vegas, .Miami, and .London. Of Google’s 101 applications, some of the first to be under contract include .eat, .dad, .food, .how, .ing, .soy, and .prod, to name just a few. Amazon applied for 76, but does not appear to have yet contracted with ICANN.
What can we expect? For the auto industry, billboards may be the form of advertising to first emerge. Imagine driving down the highway when you might see this billboard: experience.bmw or Chicago.infiniti.
Automakers can begin to launch new campaigns in television, print, and other traditional advertising using their exclusive addresses such as 2014.bmw or springsale.bmw. Local dealerships will be authenticated with their unique address, authorizing only approved dealerships or repair shops. For example: Tricounty.nissan or Smithrepair.suzuki. Most notably, as automakers are building out content-driven advertising on YouTube, they can use their new digital real estate to build out content channels with creative, viral campaigns.
You may soon be sitting in a New York cab when you see the local news on the screen ending with, “Find us online at Channel4.nyc” or “NBClocal.nyc.” The next time you order a pizza in the Big Apple, on the box may be rayspizza.nyc or theoriginalrayspizza.nyc.
If you are a Vegas lover, you may begin to receive promotional materials for your favorite casino at Bellagio.vegas or Caesars.vegas or television ads to drive traffic to whathappensin.vegas. These geographic top-level domains can soon build out unique, memorable addresses exclusively for their businesses and citizens with enhanced connection to the brand associated with these iconic cities. If you live in New York City, you could secure your own personal email address ending in .nyc, available exclusively to those who can prove that they live in one of the five boroughs.
Samsung and Toshiba may soon build out their digital experiences, tapping into the power of the platform. On the cutting edge of technology, Samsung may be the first to build out technology capabilities of the gTLD platform. New products could be rolled out in ads with nextbigthing.samsung or galaxy.samsung or even more generics like smartv.samsung.
Google applied for 101 top-level domains, most of which they use to sell Web addresses to businesses and consumers to provide more unique and personal identity than in the generic .com space. What could you do with your .dad or .how site? Just in time for Father’s Day, ilovemy.dad? Build a site dedicated to him at johnsmith.dad? For some, it’s a logical promotion, such as Hallmark.dad. Google will also be launching .eat, providing endless opportunities for foodies and restaurants to promote iloveto.eat. The possibilities are limitless in a new segmented space. Will they put a dent in .com or will businesses buy this new creative digital real estate and simply redirect? Could it spur creative and innovative thinking among the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs? When a unique digital address is tied with Google Maps, Google Ads, Google Translator, Google Play, Google Plus, You Tube channels, and Chromecast, to name just a few, it may be enticing enough for businesses to build out their digital world in Google’s universe. Amazon will also have its own portfolio of digital assets to piggyback on their success as the world’s largest distributor of stuff through its distribution warehouses and content through its content engine and distribution system via Amazon Kindle and Fire platforms. Google and Amazon will both leverage the data they collect as consumers and businesses migrate their digital address to their universe.
While the digital marketing community is largely ignoring these new domains as simply that, new domain names, when new billboards, television ads, and other traditional advertising begin to appear, promoting these new brand top-level domains as something more than just a domain name, digital marketers will need to pay attention to important cultural shifts. Namely, how are consumers shifting the way they navigate the Internet? Will the brand use of the top-level domain become the new norm? How does search shift as a result? What experiences will consumers come to expect of not just technology companies, but all companies? As they connect their smart TVs to Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire, will the desire to surf channels of the Internet accelerate and provide these brand TLD owners an edge with faster resolution? The series of questions is endless.
Most companies, even some who applied for a brand top-level domain, are taking a wait-and-see approach, understandable given the current climate. But, with the increasing convergence of technology, media, and advertising, digital marketers may want to more deeply understand how brands will use these new top-level domains, not as a domain name, but as a technology platform and competitive edge.