Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category

Challenges for .brands – launching your .brand

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
3 September 2015

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to transition your agreed strategy into an implementation plan, which you can read here.

One of the consistent themes of this blog series is that despite similarities across .brand TLDs, no two brands will settle on the exact same strategy and process for moving their TLD to launch.

As I discussed last week, an implementation plan ensures that each required action is documented, responsibility for it is assigned and a more detailed project plan can be developed to take this process further.

Then comes what is arguably the most exciting part of the process: introducing your .brand TLD to the world – “The Launch”.

So how do you make this easy and exciting for the most important person in this whole exercise – your customer?

There are  five key principles that we believe are key to a successful .brand launch:

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

3. Conduct consumer testing

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

Think about the questions that pop into your customer’s mind when they see your fabulous promotional material for the new .brand TLD for the first time:

– What happened to <company>.com?

– Is this actually <company> doing the advertisement?

– Am I being tricked?

– Is the internet broken?

Thinking about how they will react and anticipating what action they will take are important components in planning the launch. Even members of your own team can quickly forget that they only learned about new TLDs a short time ago.

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

For most launches, we recommend a gentle introduction of the new domain format, rather than just thrusting it in the customer’s face – for example, a range of teaser campaigns.

Customers are usually smarter than we give them credit for, but they might need to see the URL written as
www.promo.<brand> to help them understand they can type it into their browser. Acknowledge that there is a new domain format being used, highlighting it without making it a ‘big deal’.

3. Consumer testing

Testing promotional material with consumers prior to the actual launch brings two major benefits:

1. Helps the marketing team identify the best messaging for influencing the customer and driving user behaviour

2. Assists the technical team with understanding how end-users navigate and whether the site structure stands up to real-world use.

Since the TLD is new to your marketing team as well as your customers, the .brand TLD launch warrants consumer testing more than an average campaign. This cross-functional activity once again highlights how broadly the project will impact your organisation, requiring strong project leadership and stakeholder support.

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

If a customer sees a new domain in a promotion and types it into their browser, reward them.  You want them to do it again, and tell others as well.

Obviously a good experience is one type of reward, but an active acknowledgement of their behaviour and a token of your appreciation are even better. If you have the technology to identify the customer, offer them an incentive of sorts. It’s also worth considering whether your marketing communications should include an incentive to encourage customers to type in the domain. This draws attention to the domain while associating a positive experience with its use.

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

It’s no use having an award-winning campaign if your customer-facing staff – at all levels of the business – can’t handle enquiries concerning the .brand TLD. The simple remedy to this situation is to ensure they are trained and ready.

This exercise also presents opportunity. Your customer-facing staff are a valuable resource who know how customers are likely to react to the campaign involving new domains and can validate their experience. Involve them in the planning and testing phases to save yourself time and money.

 

In a campaign, finding the right balance between promoting a new product/service and introducing a .brand TLD is tricky. Be sure to factor in more time than usual for the communications team to prepare for the launch, so the added complexity can be managed properly.

Once your .brand TLD has been launched, there comes the important and often complex task of keeping it protected and in line with compliance requirements. I’ll discuss the ongoing maintenance in my last post of this series next week.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.

Challenges for .brands – from strategy to implementation planning

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
27 August 2015

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to turn your ideas into a .brand TLD strategy, which you can read here.

While your strategy and objectives speak more broadly to why you’re launching a .brand TLD, your implementation plan covers the all-important ‘how’.

Once you complete your strategy workshop session to agree upon objectives and approach, how do you actually launch a .brand TLD?

You need an implementation plan to guide you from strategy to launch, and beyond. At its core, the implementation plan is a checklist; just like a pilot landing a plane, you need to run through your checklist to ensure you don’t miss any crucial elements. It only takes overlooking one small step to lead to disaster.

While developing your implementation plan is far from the most exciting step in launching a .brand TLD, the project planning work done here will lay the necessary foundation for the creative promotion and engagement activities to come. It will also provide confidence to internal stakeholders that their needs have been considered.

What is an implementation plan?

An implementation plan considers the broad range of internal departments and external participants involved in the launch and operation of a .brand TLD.

One way to think about the implementation plan is to treat it as a risk prevention and mitigation tool. Because of this, several factors contribute to its complexity.

One is the very nature of the complex ICANN ecosystem and intricacies of the domain name industry. Another is the involvement of such wide-ranging areas of the organisation, making it easy to overlook items from areas outside the control of the project owner, if the items are not identified and listed in the implementation plan.

The internal project owner should take the implementation plan and develop it into a fully detailed project plan with timelines and assignments that fit in with all participating resources.

How do you create an implementation plan?

Building upon Neustar’s experience in launching major .brand TLDs around the world, we have built a proprietary implementation plan to help .brand TLD owners navigate the launch process. Outputs typically include a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) and a Gantt chart.

The intention of the implementation plan is to ensure every deliverable of the strategy is accounted for. This means getting into the minutia of tasks required of internal and external stakeholders.

For example, here are four common topics the Neustar TLD consulting team has covered in the past with clients in our implementation plan:

1. Reserved names – Creating a list of reserved names which need specific sign-off to register. Reserving these names reduces the likelihood of the names being accidentally released to an ineligible internal applicant.

2. Call centre readiness – Ensure the public-facing call centre is trained on upcoming domain name launches. It is no use promoting the .brand TLD only to have a call centre operator direct a caller to a legacy TLD website.

3. Test third-party software – E.g. payment gateways. There may be certain systems which currently rely on connecting to a legacy domain. A plan with IT needs to be developed.

4. PR strategy for analysts – For publicly-listed companies, analysts are likely to pick up on any news surrounding the launch. Be sure there is an educational document so analysts can understand what the company is trying to achieve with the initial use of the .brand TLD.

The implementation plan is an excellent tool to support the broad cross-functional nature of launching a .brand TLD. Your implementation plan lowers your risk and keeps you on track.

What we’ve learnt is that after developing a strategic plan and looking towards the launch of your .brand TLD, the implementation plan brings structure and confidence to the project. For the project owner, it also helps disperse the not-insignificant load of delivering on the strategy.

If you combine a great strategy with a seamless implementation plan, the launch of your .brand TLD will provide your organisation with an asset which will become the foundation of your future digital brand.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.

Challenges for .brands – Transforming ideas into strategy

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
19 August 2015

This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously we discussed the importance of engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process around operating your TLD, which you can read here.

The importance of engaging with all the necessary stakeholders in your .brand TLD and ensuring you have company-wide buy-in cannot be understated. But once you have all these players in a room together, what’s next?

Every brand launching its own TLD will move through the process differently. Unfortunately for those managing this project, there is no single, ‘off-the-rack’ strategy that will suit every .brand TLD’s individual requirements. Most importantly, the strategy for launching a .brand needs to be tied to what your goals are as an organisation, as well as reflecting your culture and the brand itself.

Once you’ve engaged the right senior stakeholders, your next vital step is to develop a high-level strategy which you can all agree on and allow the project to progress.

The three main benefits of holding a strategy workshop are:

1. Buy-in. The .brand TLD project will require support across the organisation. If senior stakeholders participate, they are much more likely to buy-in to the strategy.

2. Risks and opportunities identified. Only when ideas are explored and challenged, do the risks and opportunities reveal themselves.

3. Shared load. This project is too big for one person, or even one department. The strategy workshop will enable tasks and deliverables to be shared fairly.

In the past, we have conducted a number of workshops with .brands that have involved two or three days’ worth of brainstorming and extraction sessions. This might sound like a large commitment of time, and it is, but spending the time up-front is the best investment that can be made in the .brand TLD project.

One consistent factor is that while our formula for running the strategy workshop remains the same, each one evolves very differently depending on the brand and the people involved. A strategy workshop is a challenging exercise, so bringing in a qualified external facilitator is recommended.

By getting all the major stakeholders involved in a strategy workshop, you are educating and motivating them, as well as building a strategy. You ensure that no major stakeholder is taken by surprise and most importantly, you demonstrate a genuine desire to get their input and have a great opportunity to learn how the project will impact their department.

This participation up-front will mitigate disagreement later down the track, by allowing all those involved to get all the information they need, have their say and be a part of the decision.

Once this is completed, you’re ready to begin developing your implementation plan. This is a far-reaching process which I will delve into further in the coming weeks.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015. 

Challenges for .brands – How to engage internal stakeholders

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
12 August 2015

This is the third in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously we discussed the delegation process, which you can read here.

Developing a .brand TLD strategy requires resources and input from almost every function in your organisation.

Unfortunately, most organisations that applied for a .brand TLD have successfully de-prioritised the project to the point where even the executives who signed off on the project in 2011/2012 may need to be reminded what it is.

Funding allocation may or may not still exist. Your digital brand roadmap may or may not include reference to the TLD. You’re essentially starting an internal awareness campaign from scratch.

Yet the stakes couldn’t be higher. Think about the importance of your .brand TLD. To achieve its potential, it will eventually become the backbone for your digital brand. And in today’s business landscape, you can replace ‘digital brand’ with simply ‘brand’.

To add to this challenge, the project won’t succeed without support from across your organisation. Just try to think of an area that will NOT be impacted in some way by your .brand TLD.

To develop a strategy for your .brand TLD, you’ll need to spend considerable time with senior stakeholders in a workshop environment in order to explore options and agree on a strategic direction.

There is one guiding principle that rises above all others when organising your strategy workshop; the need to engage every facet of the organisation. You will need to bring together senior people from all functions – preferably at the executive level.

Why? Three reasons:

1. There is never a shortage of good ideas, but the real challenge is in prioritising them. Opportunity must be balanced against risk, which requires all impacted functions to be represented.
2. Even if senior stakeholders don’t love the final strategy agreed in the workshop, at least they were involved in its creation. This means they will (almost!) never shoot it down later, and are much more likely to actively support it with time and resources.
3. You can’t do this on your own. In order to share the workload of launching and operating the .brand TLD, you need to start distributing the responsibility.

How to bring senior stakeholders together

We’ve held a number of workshops with major brand clients on developing their .brand TLD strategies. Achieving the right mix of participants in the room is always a challenge.

To understand why they should attend, people first need to understand what the .brand TLD is and how it impacts both their department and the whole organisation.

You’ll need a presentation that can capture that story. Remember that you’ll have an audience with differing priorities – what appeals to the marketing team will be different to what appeals to the IT folks. Communicate verbally wherever you can – with so many new concepts the message can easily become lost or confused.

Wherever possible, have the executive of your function raise awareness and gain buy-in from other executives. This will save you time and effort and greatly improve your chances of success.

Who needs to attend?

You need to involve senior stakeholders from all functions of the organisation. This will ensure risks are addressed and there is much less chance of internal roadblocks as you progress.

This doesn’t mean that you need the same level of representation from each function. As a general rule, the three areas which will need to be heavily involved in the strategy workshop are:

1. Marketing (digital, agency, brand)
2. Legal (risk, contracts, governance)
3. IT (web, infrastructure, security)

Plan your approach

We know that change can create fear and uncertainty, and the prospect of launching a .brand TLD will likely be incredibly intimidating for some stakeholders. It’s understandable that some executives might intuitively seek to block the launch of a .brand TLD if it’s something that is being forced upon them, especially if they already have a heavy workload.

That’s why it’s important to engage these internal stakeholders early and seek their input and co-ownership of the .brand TLD project. If your internal stakeholders feel as though they’re included in the change and can influence the outcome, they will be more likely to support the cause.

Your strategy workshop for your .brand TLD is a critically important event. It is worth putting the effort in to bring together the most senior, influential stakeholders you possibly can.

ARI Registry Services is part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015. Corey is now part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia.

Navigating the .brand delegation process

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
29 July 2015

This is the second post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, about how .brand TLDs can get started and make the most of their TLDs. You can read the first part here.

Today marks a major milestone for .brand Top-Level Domain applicants, as we pass the deadline set by ICANN for them to sign their Registry Agreement (RA).

For those who have knuckled down over the last few weeks and months to meet this deadline, congratulations – for many, this was no mean feat and the effort should be acknowledged.

At the same time, organisations that have reached this point need to remember that putting pen to paper is the first step of many; in order to get your TLD to a stage where it can be used, there is a process that now begins that can be complex, at best.

So what’s involved in getting a TLD delegated – and how long will it reasonably be before brands can start using their new TLDs?

The path from RA signing to delegation

At ARI, we were the first Registry to navigate the complex path to TLD delegation, when we launched شبكة. (‘web’ in Arabic and pronounced “dot shabaka”) in October 2013 as the world’s first new TLD.

In many respects, we were helping write the delegation process for all applicants as شبكة. traversed the process. In fact, our progress was recorded through a journal on Domain Incite which allowed other TLD applicants to learn from our experiences.

Since then we’ve spent almost two years gaining more experience and partnering with other Registry Operators to help them through the delegation process. Based on our experiences as a Registry Services Provider over the last few years, we’ve drawn up a timeline of the typical delegation process as a guide, which you can view below.

No matter what your plans are for your .brand TLD, it makes sense to move through the delegation process as efficiently as possible. That way you will have the ability to use your TLD, whether you currently plan to or not. Plans change, and I’ve seen clients have commercial opportunities to use the TLD at short notice, but were unable to do so because they did not prioritise moving through stages of the delegation process.

In the table below, the ‘typical timeframe’ we’ve estimated is based on our own client experiences. The process can sound complicated, but your Registry Services Provider should assist you in moving through these requirements and be able to execute steps such as pre-delegation testing and delegation on your behalf.

Also bear in mind that ICANN will now have a significant workload to manage, with approximately 170 .brand TLDs likely to begin the delegation process following today’s deadline. Given this, there is the possibility of a backlog being created that could cause further delays for some applicants.

Delegation is only one part of the process. Running parallel to the delegation timeline is another, arguably more daunting timeline for the commercial steps that must be considered to get a TLD ready for operation.

While time pressure means the delegation process is the most urgent step right now, once this is set in motion it should proceed with little effort required. For .brand TLD owners, the bigger focus should be on beginning the commercial steps to launching and using your .brand TLD such as stakeholder engagement and developing an implementation plan – elements of which I’ll examine further in the coming weeks.

DelegationProcessTimeline

What does the July 29 deadline mean for .brand TLDs?

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
20 July 2015

This is the first post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, on what .brand TLDs need to do to get started and make the most of their TLDs.

If you are a .brand Top Level Domain (TLD) and have a Registry Agreement from ICANN which you have not yet signed, you need to sign it by July 29, 2015.

You’re not alone; there are many others in the same boat – all staring at their Registry Agreement trying to figure out what to do next.

The bad news? The biggest challenge will be getting everything signed off quickly. It will take a significant amount of time and energy in the lead up to July 29.
The good news? This is achievable, and there are people who can help.

How did we get here? When ICANN created a specific category for brands with Specification 13, they also provided a path for .brands to request a nine month extension to the deadline for signing the ICANN Registry Agreement. The majority of .brands elected to take this path, moving their deadline out to July 29, 2015.

Most .brands used that deadline extension to carefully consider their launch plans and take their time launching. We are starting to see some movement from big players now, such as Barclays Bank, BMW, Samsung, and more.

What needs to happen: legal

In short, your legal department needs to agree that the ICANN Registry Agreement can be signed.

There will be multiple people listed as eligible signatories from the original ICANN application (this list may or may not have been updated). Identifying the best two or three people on this list to sign the document, and ensuring that these people are available in the coming days will help meet the tight timeframe and avoid the unnecessary difficulty of chasing your CEO down the corridor.

For legal teams who have not yet reviewed the Registry Agreement, it is important they start as soon as possible. To help ease the process, ensure they understand the following:

1. Negotiation really isn’t a valid option. Unless there are laws in your jurisdiction which prevent you from signing, ICANN has demonstrated a consistently rigid approach to ensuring Registry Agreements are signed without major change. Given the time delays, if it hasn’t been signed yet brands are almost certainly going to need to sign it ‘as is’.

2. There tends to be a large amount of technical and domain industry jargon in Registry Agreements which won’t be familiar to many of the legal counsel within your organisation. Try to get ahead of this situation by lining up support from someone in the industry that can help explain the jargon.

What needs to happen: financial

Unless you’re lucky enough to have sign-off for the whole project, most executive committees or similar parties will require a summary of costs. It typically makes sense to structure the financials in relation to year one (higher due to launch costs), then years two onward (these won’t vary as much).

A quick breakdown of typical costs:

1. ICANN costs: USD 5,000 set-up for Trademark Clearinghouse, then USD 25,000 per year payable quarterly.

2. Registry costs: Set-up, then annual fees. Most contracts are fixed up to a specified number of domains, which should cover your needs. See your Registry Services Provider contract for details.

3. Compliance requirements: Once launched, ICANN compliance obligations and anti-abuse obligations must continue to be met. For .brands, this is often outsourced as it can be an unnecessary additional cost to hire or train suitable resources.

4. Industry participation: Engaging with the industry and with ICANN will be a valuable ongoing investment. The Domain Name Association (DNA) and Brand Registry Group (BRG) are worth investigating, and both have fees associated.

5. External assistance (industry expertise): The new TLD world is new to everybody. Don’t be afraid to seek help for critical steps such as strategy, creating an implementation plan, and launch execution. Creating an ROI for a .brand is complex and requires an understanding of many different elements.

6. Internal costs: Internal resources to support the project and any required branding or technical transition (may include existing external digital agency).

7. Promotional costs: Although promotion of your .brand TLD should benefit from some existing campaign funds, there will likely need to be some specific promotional funds assigned.

Bringing it all together

Applications for new TLDs closed early 2012, so there is a possibility that some in your organisation have lost track of the project over the last three years. In addition to the financial and legal hurdles, a significant challenge might be convincing your executive committee in such a short timeframe. Here are some angles that might help:

Joining an exclusive community: Remind everyone of the rarified company .brands keep, which includes Apple, Google, IBM, Amazon, Nike, GE, Toyota, American Express, UPS, and about 600 others. If your competitor doesn’t have their .brand TLD, it will likely be at least a few years before they can get one. When was the last time someone handed your organisation a competitive advantage like that – especially in the digital brand space?

Calculating brand value: The ROI on a .brand TLD needs to be demonstrable, and relies on people understanding and embracing the valuation of brands, and how they contribute to the bottom line. Look for ways to incorporate your .brand into launches of new products, territories or strategic initiatives.

Part of a wider strategy: Outline how the .brand TLD project fits into and supports the organisation’s goals for the coming years. Most organisations have at least one digital branding goal – work with those most closely tied to that goal and help them become evangelists.

Easy, right?

For .brand TLDs that have not yet signed the ICANN Registry Agreement, everything points to taking action right now.

Whether internal challenges are with legal, finance or executive buy-in, now is the time to ensure there is a plan in place to address them quickly. Look to superiors and other advocates for support.

If there is a chance that even one step in the path to getting your ICANN Registry Agreement signed is at risk, reach out now to a trusted industry advisor and ask for help. No brand wants to be the one that let their .brand TLD slip away.

Will the fast-approaching deadline for .brands catch many by surprise?

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Corey Grant
21 April 2015

29 July 2015 is a big day for .brands. It’s the date when all ICANN Registry Agreements (RA) must be signed.

Once the RA is signed, the fees to ICANN and your Registry Services Provider kick in.

As certain as you can be that ICANN will begin sending invoices, you can also expect to receive increased scrutiny internally. Questions are inevitable.

People will want answers; what is the plan for this thing? How does it fit into our long term corporate goals? Do marketing have a plan to use the TLD in the upcoming launch of our new product?

Signing the RA by 29 July shouldn’t be your next step. Working backwards, by July you need a plan for the TLD. The plan might be to leave the TLD in a state where it can be used at short notice if needed, or it might be to establish a promotional site to support an upcoming campaign.

Either way, you need to develop a plan that enables you to address those inevitable questions, set expectations and manage internal stakeholders.

What .brands need to know

The addition of Specification 13 to the RA was a win for .brand applicants, recognising their unique status as brands. This also bought some time for those .brand applicants who were in no rush to proceed, with ICANN providing a nine month extension to the deadline when eligible .brand applicants must sign their RA.

By now, if you’re responsible for a .brand TLD you could be forgiven for putting things off for as long as possible in the hope that the whole process of taking control of the TLD becomes clearer and easier.

The good news is that it looks like ICANN isn’t going to alter the process of signing your RA and then getting delegated. At ARI Registry Services, we’ve helped many clients go through the process and it is all pretty easy now.

The not-so-easy part is explaining to the rest of your organisation how you will use your .brand TLD. This brings us back to that comfortable cruise into 29 July 2015.

How do you create a TLD plan?

You need to rally all of your senior stakeholders and workshop your options.

Bringing this group together not only helps you access a broad range of ideas and risks, but you also get buy-in from stakeholders right from the start. However, don’t under-estimate the challenge of organising this workshop.

You’ll need an executive level sponsor to buy into the workshop concept – after all, you’re taking a large number of senior personnel and locking them in a room for multiple days. Then you’ll need to convince each stakeholder to block out their calendar and attend.

If you weren’t already the internal evangelist for this .brand TLD, you need to become one right now. The future of your brand is digital and your .brand TLD is the future of your digital brand. It is a major investment for your organisation. It is also a new concept for almost everyone in your organisation and it’s difficult for them to get their heads around the scope of the impact and the opportunity.

Chicken and egg

Which comes first? It’s tough to spend time and resources on something when most people in your organisation don’t see the opportunity. But to gain buy-in, you need to start down the path of nailing down the strategy and having a plan you can refer to.

The good news is that the benefits of having a .brand TLD – like increased messaging recall and customer engagement, freedom of domain name choice, digital brand authority and trademark protection – make a compelling story when applied to your brand. .

More than 40 percent of the Fortune 100 applied for a .brand TLD, and those brands without a TLD will be at distinct disadvantage in their digital marketing strategy very soon.

Is a workshop and the resulting plan all you need to do to launch your .brand TLD? Unfortunately not, you’ll eventually need a full strategy, project plan, policy framework, risk assessment, budget, and resources to launch and operate the TLD. But for now, the workshop is the next step.

My advice to .brand operators is to get moving now and have a plan – or at least a path to create a plan – by the July deadline.

com.google April Fools’ is no laughing matter: what .google could mean for other .brands

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
2 April 2015

When April Fools’ Day rolls around each year, Google is generally one of the front runners for jokes – often making headlines for its quirky gimmicks. This year was no exception.

Yesterday, Google launched its first domain name under the recently delegated .google Top-Level Domain (TLD), a massive milestone for all .brand TLD owners. Google is encouraging millions of people around the world to visit: www.com.google.

The page offers a ‘flipped’ view of Google search – as if perhaps, you were inside Google itself looking outwards.

com.googleWhen promoting the stunt, Google openly promoted it as a product of new gTLDs and specifically its .google Top-Level Domain. Could it be perhaps, that Google is giving users a taste of what’s to come – a view from the inside of Google’s own corner of the Internet? The move from renting a small piece of .com to now hosting its search engine under on its own Top-Level Domain should not be understated in its significance.

The move attracted a lot of attention as many noted the use of .google and praised Google for its creativity.

There’s been much speculation about how Google will use its new gTLD assets – from the .google brand TLD to the likes of .app which Google famously acquired for $25 million earlier this year.

The fact that Google chose to use its .google TLD for this stunt could suggest a wider strategy starting to come into play. Based on its track record, the company’s April Fools’ efforts were always going to garner a lot of media attention, and they have been quite overt in linking this domain to new gTLDs.

trevor long tweetandrew bennett tweet

Hopefully, com.google is the ‘soft-launch’ of a larger .google strategy that will begin to roll out as Google continues to raise awareness of the namespace.

So what does this mean for other .brands? It’s no secret that in the world of tech, where Google goes, people follow. If Google starts to activate .google more broadly with as much creativity and innovation as com.google, it will provide a great example for other .brands on how to use a brand TLD to realise its full potential.

Some brands are already making waves with their TLD strategies. We’re very proud to be partnering with the likes of Monash University (.monash, the first .brand TLD to go live) and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (.cancerresearch), which were both reported by CSC to be performing well in search and even have pages appearing in the Alexa 1M Ranking.

Our TLD consulting team is working with .brands to simplify their launch process and maximise business success. We’ll be watching closely to see what example Google sets as more .google sites start to emerge.

.brands – Nobody said it was easy

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I’ve got enormous respect and admiration for the passionate individuals who are still championing .brands for their organisations in the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program.

I have the pleasure of assisting quite a few of these on a daily basis and I’m sure their experiences aren’t isolated with other applicants across the globe.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Delays, some stupid process called Digital Archery, GAC Advice, names collisions and negative media – just to name a few of the confidence-sapping issues destabilising the program for applicants. This is without mentioning the difficulties of confidently influencing such an enormous change with their key stakeholders.

Sure, they knew there would be challenges at the forefront of digital innovation in online brand strategy. However, in the words of Coldplay’s Chris Martin in The Scientist: “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.” (If you’re at NamesCon this week and can provide a guitar and a little liquid courage, I’d be happy to do a very ordinary rendition for you!!).

I’m sure the recent reports about the high costs of switching to a .brand had some applicants thinking their new TLD plans are a car crash waiting to happen.

That said, there are still rewards at the end of the new TLD tunnel for those applicants that have the intestinal fortitude to persist with the rigmarole. It’s not all gloom and doom and with the right strategy you can be singing Queen’s We Are The Champions with your shiny new TLD in your hands. (No, there isn’t enough liquid courage in the world to have me attempting a Freddie Mercury ballad).

Why make the switch

It’s naïve and short-sighted to think switching to a .brand will be anything but expensive and complicated. Attaining any form of real differentiation is difficult and takes immense effort. But what’s your key advantage? Isn’t it simply because YOU CAN (and others can’t)?

You’ve all heard the benefits of a new TLD, from improvements to SEO, message recall, domain name asset management and trademark protection. But how does a new TLD set you apart from the competition?

We know that organisations across the globe spend their entire lives competing on pure product and service improvements to get ahead. Yet despite how far we’ve come in a globalised digital world, it’s hard to differentiate yourself in today’s highly competitive market – and when you do get a half a percentage point gain, it’s only days later when your competitors catch up and copy your innovation, eroding any advantage you may have attained.

Products and services are prone to replication. Differentiation at the brand level is where the most significant gains can be made.

And this is where a new TLD provides an unmatched competitive advantage for the savvy brand.

New TLDs and brand differentiation

The ability to do something that the majority of your competitors can’t do is the holy grail of business success.

If you look at the long-term impact of a new TLD for a brand, it’s one of the ultimate differentiators of all time.

We know that first round applicants are likely to have a huge leg up on their competitors for anywhere from two to five years, which is a competitive advantage luxury you will never get anywhere else.

The only problem is; how do you get there?

Examples

While there are no previous .brand examples to demonstrate as case studies, we can look at brands which have performed more traditional digital asset rebrands as examples.

Take www.carloans.com.au for example. In June 2013 the company rebranded (moving away from beep.com.au) and the business saw an immediate increase in website traffic and customers, a decrease in marketing spend, 40% reduction in AdWord spend, and overall growth of 60% to generate turnover in excess of $100 million.

The company’s Director Shaun McGowan said of the rebrand: “Our business is not unique and we have many competitors. In this marketplace, you need a competitive advantage.”

Clearly they found their competitive advantage and achieved it through a successfully deployed transition strategy.

The strategy to switch

You need to have a long-term and a short-term return on investment strategy for your .brand asset.

Obviously, the end goal for your long-term strategy is where you completely deploy your TLD across the organisation and achieve full brand differentiation.

But what can you do now that achieves success whilst building towards your end goal?

My advice is that you launch your .brand around a project that has its own ROI and in doing so, also try to launch it so that it’s working in alignment with either a new product or project. Importantly, in the short-term it must be launched to be complementary to the existing core brand.

Too many people have the misguided mindset that a successful .brand strategy involves turning your .brand on and your brand.com off. It’s simply not the case because it would be too expensive, with a high degree of risk and cause terrible confusion for customers and stakeholders.

Success is about how you launch a .brand in parallel with your existing digital brand that will be complementary to your current operations, but with the ability to achieve long-term goals without the need for drastic corrections.

The question is; what do you do between now and then? Do you sit on the fence and do nothing, or do you take a strong leadership position to become one of the organisations that embraces new TLDs and reaps the rewards of changing the face of digital?

The decisions you make today will ultimately dictate how you get to your long-term goal.

Strategy to success

Mark my words. It might be tricky, but someone is going to get this right. In fact, I know they will because they’re working on it as you read this.

The brands that get it right will be positioned as the leaders in their space because it is one of the few differentiators you can ever achieve that is not easily replicable.

It’s worth remembering that (almost) all applicants applied for a new TLD because they recognised the opportunity presented, even if they didn’t have a strategy for actually achieving it.

Much like the film clip to The Scientist, the new TLD process starts off happy and ends happy. It’s just a bitch in between.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

P.S: You could be forgiven for thinking the words to Coldplay’s The Scientist were actually written as an anthem for all new TLD applicants. Give it a listen for a laugh and tweet me your thoughts: @TonyKirsch_ARI.

Insights from ARI’s new TLD workshop

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

Never let it be said that group therapy isn’t effective.

Prior to hosting a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) workshop for a group of Australian applicants last week, the only therapy I would have advised for new TLD applicants was electroshock therapy – given the confidence-sapping delays and the catastrophic impact of constant changes to the program such as Digital Archery, Name Collisions and GAC Advice.

Fortunately, most applicants have been able to prevail in spite of the issues – to their immense credit – and that’s probably why I’m a new TLD strategy consultant and not a psychiatrist!

Last Wednesday, approximately 25 attendees came to Melbourne for a community-building session to give them the opportunity to share success stories, challenges, discuss launch strategies and learn about the latest developments within the new TLD program.

While the content of the various presentations was helpful, the key take away for many applicants was one simple fact; you’re not alone! There is no comparison to hearing a fellow applicant discuss their challenges and what worked for them.

All attendees left with the feeling that it’s not all doom and gloom, and it was also flattering to hear the generous feedback our clients provided about relying on a trusted partner like ARI Registry Services for both their technology and advisory needs.

ARI's new TLD workshop

Presentations

We were treated to thought-provoking presentations from applicants who generously offered a rare glimpse into the strategies they employed (or will employ) to launch their TLDs.

For instance, Glenn Ruscoe, the applicant for .physio, spoke of his passion for the profession and how through the use of a robust TLD strategy and focused efforts for his target audiences he hopes to create a digital asset that will underpin the entire physiotherapy community around the world.

We also heard from Monash University’s Andrew Norman about the marketing and PR success they received around the launch of the world’s first .brand – .monash – and their new www.destination.monash promotional website.

Finally, Bob Turner from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation spoke with passion as he described their innovative approach to positioning .cancerresearch as a global education tool capable of raising research funds for the fight against cancer.

Personally, it’s an absolute privilege for me to contribute to the development of these TLDs via our strategic consulting program and I feel honoured every day to work with these inspirational digital thought-leaders.

Also on the day, ARI Registry Services’ subject matter experts provided helpful advice to attendees on the topics of ICANN compliance, TLD strategy, the contracting process and navigating the ICANN ecosystem.

Interestingly, the topic applicants seemed most interested in was when they heard ARI Registry Services’ compliance expert Yasmin Omer speak about ICANN compliance and the audit process. Yasmin went into detail about how dotShabaka Registry recently responded to the audit regime and what applicants needed to do to prepare for this.

The event was an unquestionable success, driven by a willingness of all attendees to share their thoughts and experiences to generate insightful discussions. We will certainly be doing more of these events, both domestically and internationally via webinars and online forums in the coming months.

The key message, in the words of Michael Jackson – you are not alone.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services