By Roland LaPlante
[Roland LaPlante is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias, a domain name registry services and DNS provider. In this guest article he gives five reasons why a brand might want to get its own top level domain name.]
This week at the 39th international ICANN meeting in Cartagena, the ICANN Board is expected to make a decision on the final rules for applicants of new top-level domains (new TLDs). The opportunities that new TLDs can create to enhance an online marketing strategy are important considerations as corporations and marketers now face a timeline in which they must cement the details of their proposal.
New TLDs shouldn’t just be thought of as something specific to generic category names that Internet users will want to register millions of names in. Instead, here are 5 reasons why major brands should consider getting their own new TLD:
Social media and word-of-mouth marketing is “the new blackâ€ as far as marketing is concerned. A new TLD can actually give marketers the opportunity to reinforce their brand with every Web address. Imagine the viral possibilities of an army of fans with blogs, email addresses and Twitter links promoting a .brand in every post.
Indeed, many media organizations have already jumped on the bandwagon of purchasing intuitive domain names with ccTLDs just for custom branding in URL shorteners (e.g.: zd.net, Wpo.st, n.pr). These organizations can instead look at keyword optimization with addresses within their own branded TLD (e.g.: technology.nyt) to enhance user search and provide new advertising vehicles.
2) The Social Network
For a corporation with a short brand name, a natural use of new TLD simply could be as a better URL shortener, entirely under their control. But perhaps a more interesting application of new TLDs would be for the major social networking providers. The ownership of Facebook accounts is a good example; page ownership is tied to a personal identity rather than simply associating the contacts of the owner, like regular domain names. All of the processes built into domain management are ideal for managing the identity ownership of personal or corporate social networking profiles and could provide a more intuitive and proven process.
3) Innovative uses of the DNS
New TLDs also now present corporations with the ability to think beyond the traditional uses of the Internet like simple Web sites or email. Technology-specific applications may make great TLDs, for instance a .mail, a .skype, or .aim. By adding technologies like DNSSEC as well as verification of domain owners, a bank could provide for a more secure online payment system. Luxury brands like BMW could even launch new services such as tying a .bmw email address to a new vehicle purchase and communicating service updates directly to the car.
4) Control and Security
Today, regardless of whether a corporation picks a domain name in a .com, .net or another TLD, they are captive to that registry’s rules. These are rules that tell them when and how to register a domain name, how intellectual property can be protected, and what DNS records are allowed. With their own TLD, a corporation can control the policies of who can get a name, and for what purpose. To block spam, they can decide that no email will be allowed in their TLD. To prevent phishing, they can require verification of each registration. They could even decide that their TLD will only be used for verified internal communications like private e-mail systems or Intranets. A New TLD gives the brand owner the option to decide what customized policies and processes best fit the company’s brand identity and security requirements.
5) New Revenue
The most traditional use of a new TLD has been revenue from second level domain name registrations. If a major brand wants to own an online search category like .books, .sport, .baseball – they may look at applying for a new TLD as a way to tackle this piece of their search strategy in a new way, unavailable before to marketers. If their business has a strong fan base, they can look at revenue from selling personalized fan pages. Organizations with distributors could sell addresses as a preferred status (e.g.: mystore.ebay), or launch new advertising channels on premium names (e.g.: books.amazon or movies.hulu).
The cost of a new TLD may seem high to some, starting at $185,000 just for the application to ICANN. But consider that in 2009 Toys R Us spent $5 million just for the toys.com domain name. New TLDs instead give brand owners the chance to have millions of domains under their control, made for a customized purpose, for less than 10 percent of what Toys R Us spent, and probably for less than one typical TV ad campaign.