Archive for September, 2013

Bring your .brand to life

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, previews his upcoming presentation for the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress on why your TLD strategy is paramount to making or breaking your .brand.

By Tony Kirsch

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

With the first new TLDs slated to be delegated in only a matter of weeks, effective development of your TLD strategy is your most important asset to guide you on the path to the successful implementation of your .brand.

Your strategy will be the most significant weapon in your Top-Level Domain arsenal to drive the launch of your .brand, and you’ll only get there with preparation and engagement. For the vast majority of .brand applicants, ICANN have recently informed you that you have passed your application. You’ve come this far. Now it’s time to get the traction and key stakeholder buy-in that is required to justify the investment to date, and support the initiative into the future.

No matter the motivation for applying for your .brand TLD, effective use of your ‘slice of the Internet’ has the potential to be a significant competitive advantage… when activated and incorporated into your digital presence carefully and strategically.

So what is a .brand TLD strategy?

Your TLD strategy is fundamentally about integration; firstly within your organisation, secondly into your existing digital environment, and thirdly, with all of your external stakeholders.

Other new ‘generic’ TLDs (i.e. those available for sale) will be greenfield business – and in most cases have a significantly different value proposition to their target markets.

Large organisations on the other hand, have invested heavily in the development – both online and offline – of their brands over many years. Simply moving to a .brand without clear direction, and a reason for users to find your .brand compelling to try it, will result in the rapid and public death of your .brand.

Remember that Internet users, even the most innovative ones, are not all that forgiving. Your TLD strategy should demonstrate immediate reward and give them incentive to follow you in your .brand TLD journey.

Great responsibility

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you recognise you are part of a bigger movement.

As a .brand applicant, you are trailblazing the frontier of a new Internet and the whole world is watching. Your individual success adds to the collective success of the new TLD program, and your participation in this evolution means our shared responsibility to get it right rests heavily on strategy and execution. This will be the cornerstone of much of my presentation, in collaboration with NetNames and Philips, at the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress in London next week.

One size fits all

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s largest brands to deliver strategic guidance in recent months and the one consistent theme from the workshops I’ve been conducting is that there is no one-size-fits-all TLD strategy solution. As a .brand, you must recognise you need a tailored approach to activating your TLD in line with your corporate vision and success is all about tailoring your strategy to deliver on your specific needs.

Use momentum to build your TLD

As a .brand applicant, you will own your own piece of the Internet; this is your digital asset that separates you from your competitors and demonstrates to your customers that you are leaders in innovation. Drive the momentum of your launch activities to generate ambassadors of your .brand and invite them to join this historic movement.

Then, importantly, don’t get lazy after launch as it’s important to understand that launch success does not equate to ongoing success. Your .brand TLD strategy should have multiple stages of activation to continue breathing life into your .brand, and thus ensure it evolves into your future global digital footprint.

Are we there yet?

The distance between today and launch may seem miles away, but the horizon of this Internet evolution is right in front of us and I can assure you there is lots of work to be done. The key is engagement, education… oh, and a little bit of courage and passion too!

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and leads Global Strategic Consulting for ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought-after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

Who are the true multi-stakeholders in ICANN?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Donna Austin

Adrian Kinderis

During ICANN Durban, I attended the ccNSO 10 year anniversary celebrations.

ICANN Chairman, Dr Steve Crocker, was on hand to congratulate the ccNSO on their 10 years and revered them as the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

Post Durban, I was reviewing notes and I came across a similar statement made during a ccNSO session that ccTLDs “represent the best functioning multi-stakeholder model” in the ICANN ecosystem.

Is this entirely accurate? Is the ccNSO really the golden child of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model?

While there is no doubt that the ccNSO has been instrumental in influencing policy development and championing change for their cause, are they really ICANN’s “true multi-stakeholders”?

Let’s recap

When I first started attending ICANN meetings back in 2001 representing the Australian Government as the coordinator of the GAC, ccTLDs were pretty much sitting outside the tent. There was considerable distrust between the ccTLD community and ICANN at the time and regular meetings between the ccTLD operators and the GAC could be rather frosty events.

In 2005, when I joined ICANN staff as policy support for the ccNSO, relationships were slowly mending and both the ccTLDs and ICANN were recognising the mutual benefits of having ccTLD operators inside the ICANN tent.

So against this background, it is a tremendous achievement that the ccNSO is now well-established and an important contributor in the ICANN community.

However, the ccNSO has a stronger focus on collaboration, information sharing and best practice adoption, rather than a true aspiration for the Policy Development Process (PDP) that underpins a multi-stakeholder model. This is in large part because the participation of a ccTLD registry operator in the ccNSO and ICANN – and adoption of any policies that might be developed – is on a ‘voluntary’ basis.

ccTLDs are not bound by ICANN consensus policies and operate largely unfettered without interference from ICANN.

I don’t deny that within their respective countries or territories ccTLDs engage in multi-stakeholder style consultations and policy undertakings, but I do not agree that they are the ‘true multi-stakeholders in ICANN’.

While the ccNSO thoroughly deserves plaudits on a highly successful 10 years, I question whether they are the preeminent representation of the multi-stakeholder model.

The GNSO

Instead of the ccNSO, I would argue that the GNSO is the prime example of the multi-stakeholder model operating at its full capacity. It might at times look like a dog fight, but that’s the beauty of the model.

The GNSO has a long history of undertaking policy development processes and perhaps the most contentious and the one that still lingers is the PDP that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs.

I used to think it was inappropriate for those that stood to benefit from the new gTLD process to be involved in the policy development process that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs. But what I’ve come to appreciate and understand is that the only way for the ICANN experiment to succeed – at least in the short term – was to ensure that those who had a dog in the fight were involved in the process.

The development of the new gTLD program has been the process – while often times messy – that has led in large part to the maturation of ICANN and the expansion of the GNSO into a more diverse and dynamic set of interest groups. The process has also brought considerably more interplay across ICANN’s structure of supporting organisations, advisory committees, the ICANN Board and staff.

As ICANN contracted parties, there is also much more at stake for the gTLD registries in these PDPs as the outcomes will have some impact on their business. All gTLD registry operators sign contracts with ICANN acknowledging that they will be bound not only by consensus policies that exist at the time of signing the agreement, but any consensus policies approved at a later date.

So it’s understandable that some of the policy debates that take place within the GNSO are very robust, hard fought and lengthy. Finding consensus in such an environment should be applauded and exalted by ICANN and time should be taken by those new to ICANN to understand and appreciate the machinations of the process.

The GNSO should be ICANN’s flagship. It is the central policy organ that is so important to the bottom-up, consensus driven, multi-stakeholder model that is ICANN.

As Jonathan Robinson, Chair of the GNSO Council, noted prior to Durban:

“… ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model is complex, dynamic and necessarily evolving.”

Those of us that have been engaged in this community for a long time will understand the multi-facets of the SOs and ACs that collectively are the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

After 12 years of following this circus, I am finally starting to get it.

By Donna Austin
Policy and Industry Affairs Officer
ARI Registry Services

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special feature article first published by Marketing Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, investigates recent trends in advertisers directing their customers to conduct search-based queries to find their products or services.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 27 August 2013

I’m a businessman, but I’m also a consumer, and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with advertisers sending me to search engines to go looking online for their product or service as their call to action.

I often find myself distracted by the other search results (you never know what you’ll find!) when conducting these searches. Other times, I’m insulted that they expect me, the customer, to go searching for them, the advertiser.

But what baffles me the most – from my business perspective – is the exorbitant costs expended by advertisers to drive customers on a hunt to find them in such a competitive landscape, especially when they can be directed to the exact destination in one click.

My findings have illustrated that search is not the solution to advertisers’ reaching their customers and driving conversions; search is the problem.

What we know about search

Recent studies indicate the growing dependence on search engines, revealing that 91 percent of us use search engines online, and 59 percent rely on search engines.

While there’s no denying the increasing use of search engines globally, the emerging trend from marketers to use search as their call to action in place of direct web addresses has become more and more prevalent in above the line marketing. Open the newspaper or turn on your television and you’ll find it’s not uncommon to see the term, ‘search <product name/campaign>’ in advertising.

But is the tail wagging the dog? Do marketers believe their customers aren’t savvy enough to navigate the Internet using domain names, or are they just encouraging us to become slaves to the search bar?

No certainty

Above the line marketing has reached new lows if advertisers believe consumers are more likely to search for keywords like “Colorado Serious” to find out more about a four-wheel drive. When I typed that in, I discovered that there was a serious virus in Colorado infecting locals! Similarly with an Audi ad I recently saw; when I typed “Audi A3” into my search bar, Audi wasn’t the top-ranking search result.

Further, what happens when your immediate advertising campaign finishes? You do not own that search keyword and unless you plan on paying for it well into the future, any residual engagement you create through your campaign will be lost – potentially to a competitor. You must continually invest in your keyword to own it and that can be financially draining overtime.

In spite of the stats that drive marketers to believe search is where it’s at for customer conversion, there is no certainty that for all the money spent on search engine rankings – in addition to the ad production and placement – that the promise of being the top-ranking search result is achieved.

Competitive environment

Granted, advertising in any format is a competitive landscape, but do marketers believe that keyword searches are a more effective means of driving their audience to their campaign?

Search is a highly competitive environment and recent court cases have ruled that competitors are permitted to purchase your keywords.

Clever competitors may even try to artificially inflate your cost per click (CPC) price by under bidding you and forcing you to pay more for each click. CPC is not a set fee, it’s volatile and an advertiser pays above immediately what an under bidder pays.

Lack of control

The crux of the problem I have with advertisers using search as a call to action is that not only is it expensive, but the outcome can be fallible due to the fact that search results are controlled by a third party and can be influenced by anyone else to your detriment.

Even worse, there is no control over what may appear next to your brand in your keyword search terms. What if a major breaking news story occurs on the same day as your campaign and the story involves terms that match your keywords? The consequences of negative stories being tied to your brand could be disastrous. Like Colorado Serious… four-wheel drive, anyone?

Not efficient

Search engines have made us lazy. Many of us have become slaves to the search bar and its auto-fill convenience. Have you ever googled Google rather than typing the domain name into the web address bar?

Search should help us find content, not replace the web address bar as an online navigation aid. Often, typing a domain name into an address bar will be far quicker than the multiple steps required to search for a website.

However shameful it is, using search engines to navigate the Internet is a reality for many. I believe some advertisers have attributed this to be a user preference, rather than recognising this point as a wider Internet navigation problem.

In my eyes, search is an unnecessary two-step process. Why should Internet users search for advertisers to only end up at their corporate website or microsite anyway? Search can only introduce unnecessary risk to the equation.

100% visibility on poor performance

Because the data indicates the vast majority of Internet users rely on search, marketers see search engines as a channel with which their audience is familiar and regularly use to navigate the Internet.

However, just because their website analytics reports show most of their traffic originates from Google doesn’t mean it should be promoted as the preferred way to navigate to your website. With ROI as the major focus of digital marketing, are marketers simply trying to justify their budget because the data is available? Isn’t that just spotlighting poor performance?

Bring back the slash

Marketers went a little crazy with the use of slash extensions on their domain names in advertising, but there are clever ways to use them. For example, featuring the entire url, including the http://www. is often not the best way to encourage memory recall or positive brand association in advertising, and the same can be said for using domain name-slash something-slash something. Treating your audience as savvy consumers is one thing, but don’t make it difficult for them to remember who you are and what you’re selling.

With the introduction of the new Top-Level Domain Program into the marketplace, a new world of options will be available to marketers. Not only will it support the expansion of the Internet, it offers customers a more memorable, direct solution to finding your product/service/campaign, and will allow greater conversion. Imagine directing your customers to holden.car/colorado, or even better, colorado.holden? All the benefits of web analytics and customer recall, minus the expensive keywords and competitive landscape.

Marketers are adding to the wider web navigation problem by not raising greater awareness and education among their audience about their corporate online mainstay – their website and domain name. Remember, you own your domain name and all the traffic and IP rights associated to it. This is in contrast to search terms, where you are building equity into an asset you will never truly own.

It all boils down to the basic marketing principles of message recall, brand recognition and trust. Control the message and send your customers straight to your website via a domain name. No detours required.

Not only are websites and domain names far cheaper to set up and maintain, they’re yours to own forever and cannot be influenced by your competitors.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services