Archive for the ‘Marketing’ 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.

How to maximise registrations through effective Registrar relationships

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

There are some surefire ways to get channel engagement and drive registrations, but doing what everyone else is doing is not going to cut it in the world of new TLDs.

Successful Registrar engagement requires an investment of time far in advance of what some Registry Operators appear to be expecting, both in terms of ongoing relationship management as well as continually providing tools which make it easier for Registrars to sell your extension over other TLDs.

There are a number of methods that we use to help drive registrations including:

– PR and media activities,
– pre- and post-launch ambassador programs, and
– Registrar co-marketing programs.

In addition, providing collateral or examples of real-world TLD usage to Registrars can simplify their task of reaching out to their client base and converting them to registrations. Examples may include providing case studies of fully developed digital brands based on key domains within your TLD or highlighting relevant media which discusses the benefits of the TLD program generally and your TLD specifically.

Today I would like to expand on ambassador programs which are one area that is typically underutilised by the majority of TLD operators. In addition, I will outline the amount of effort required to deeply engage Registrars which is often misunderstood by those just entering the TLD industry.

Getting the word out

While the sleeping giant of .brand TLDs will eventually catapault new gTLDs to the forefront of global awareness, in the first instance the best way to bring the power of a brand to the attention of your potential registrants is through an effective TLD ambassador program.

At ARI, our strategy has been to engage with high-profile ambassadors prior to and after launch of our clients’ TLDs, providing a boost to marketing activities and a way to kick-start registrations by showcasing some big names already on board.

One of the strongest forms of marketing is third party endorsement and when it comes to promoting TLDs, the easiest way to achieve this is through an ambassador program. For example, when .sydney launched into General Availability, iconic Sydney landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclimb.sydney) and the famous Luna Park amusement park (www.lunapark.sydney) were already part of the .sydney community. The benefit of an effective ambassador program is that prominent businesses are immediately seen to be adopting your extension and demonstrating use. But there is another significant benefit to the Registrar channel if used correctly. A successful ambassador program provides an invaluable resource to your Registrars – making their task of promoting your TLD that much easier and keeping you top-of-mind above your competitors. A Registrar with effective products is much more likely to be a Registrar incentivised to sell your domains.

Keeping Registrars engaged

The balance of power has shifted somewhat with the introduction of so many new gTLDs. Registrars and resellers now have more products to put on their shelves and getting your product placed in the front window can prove difficult.

While it is important to have the broadest range of Registrars accredited to sell your product so no sales are lost, with so much competition for a Registrar’s eye it is often important to prioritise and find the Registrars who are most willing to work with your extension. Identifying Registrars whose existing customer base has a synergy with your target market is an easy choice, as is looking for Registrars who are receptive to your ongoing marketing efforts and focusing on making their job of selling as easy as possible.

To be clear, it’s important to treat all Registrars equally in terms of access to information, but you certainly don’t have to focus your efforts equally in terms of ongoing relationship management.

Cultivating strong working relationships with those Registrars who show they are willing to promote your TLDs and from whom you get the best results will ensure you get best bang for marketing buck.

Managing a Registrar channel is also an exceptionally time consuming process and spending five minutes on the phone daily with 35 Registrars versus deeply engaging with several Registrars who are helping you gain registrations is an easy choice. The reality is that there isn’t enough time in the day to develop the tools you will require and to engage all Registrars in the use of those tools, as well as engaging with your most successful Registrants. Prioritising your efforts is key.

Avoid the balancing act

While the process seems simple – supplying Registrars with the tools they need to sell, then building on success stories to provide additional sales tools and incentive for Registrars, and awareness for the market – the reality is that it’s a complex one.

It takes an innovative marketing plan and a real and continued effort to maintain and build upon Registrar relationships, as well as finding and promoting early adopters.

For many Registry Operators, especially those without a large portfolio of TLDs to manage, balancing these two functions in addition to all the other aspects of running a TLD can be overwhelming. Trying to divide resources and manage both alone could mean not realising the full potential of either strategy.

In these instances, Registry Operators may wish to consider splitting their efforts with a trusted partner: a partner who can help them build these Registrar relationships and allow them to really focus on finding and promoting innovative usage within their TLD.

At ARI, we have years of experience managing the day to day activities of building and maintaining Registrar relationships. There is a lot that goes into this process – whether it’s picking up the phone to make sure you remain top-of-mind, to giving your channel regular updates on your marketing and public relations efforts so they have all the tools they need to promote your TLD.

Many Registrars have trouble determining ‘which horse to back’ in a race whose entrants are multiplying by the day. Building relationships with Registrars, providing dedicated attention when one is showing particular interest or enthusiasm and supplying them with resources to make their job easier all take a necessary time and effort commitment, but it’s not one that every Registry Operator has the capacity to handle in-house.

When it comes to making the most of your relationship with resellers and registrars, an experienced partner means you have one less thing to worry about. Change is coming, but it can be a tricky road to navigate alone.

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.

Grand Final marketing dominated by .com.au domain names

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

This year’s AFL and NRL Grand Finals set viewership records for the number of people who tuned in to watch the matches.

A whopping 4.6 million people watched the Rabbitohs beat the Bulldogs on Sunday night, making it the highest rating television program this year. Meanwhile, the AFL Grand Final saw 4.2 million people tune in, which is no mean feat either.

Clearly, our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL and NRL Grand Finals to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found:

The stats

Like in previous years, .com.au domain names were the primary call to action seen in the ads for both Grand Finals. Out of the 55 ads aired during the games, 41% included a .com.au domain name while only 12% referred to a .com domain name.

Domain names were clearly the best on ground in terms of advertising call to actions. While social media holds a prominent place in advertising nowadays, it was left on the bench during the Grand Finals, with less than 10% of ads referencing either Twitter or Facebook.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw in 2013 and 2012.

Telephone numbers, mobile apps and search were the remaining calls to actions seen, while a quarter of ads chose to run with no call to action.

Implications

As I’ve reported over a number of years now, domain names – and in particular .com.au domain names – remain the mainstay of marketing calls to action.

The most interesting observation is the decline in use of social media in advertising. Despite all the hype around social, it appears marketers have reverted back to the tried and tested formula of domain names. Social has its place, it’s just not in Grand Final TV advertising.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs upwards of $100,000.

Social as a call to action

It seems the novelty of social has abated and Australian marketers are now integrating social as part of a wider digital strategy, instead of splashing it around in every advertising campaign.

On almost all occasions, social was introduced in conjunction with the domain name and not instead of it. This shows that marketers now have a greater appreciation of the role domain names and websites play in generating awareness and education, and the role social media plays in encouraging engagement and conversations.

Social has a place; it just isn’t the only place for a brand to exist.

Search as a call to action

One trend I have been following closely this year is the emergence of search-based calls to action. I was pleased to see that there was a stark drop in search calls to action in the advertisements at this year’s Grand Finals.

Brands such as Holden, ANZ, BMW, Harvey Norman and many others are increasingly ditching domain names in favour of directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website.

I’ve been a vocal critic of search-based calls to action (as you can read here in my blog) because I think they’re ineffective, unnecessary and provide competitors an opportunity to steal your customers.

For instance, in the NRL Grand Final, Holden directed viewers to search for ‘VF Changes Minds”. This is difficult for viewers to remember during an ad break and if they do get a chance to search for the term (as I did), they’ll also be exposed to a competitive environment and view search results from news stories, Holden dealers and automotive forums.

There’s no guarantee that searching for “VF Changes Minds” will result in someone visiting the Holden website and I think the practice is a wasted opportunity for customer engagement.

2015 Grand Finals

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here come 2015.

.com.au is Australia’s home on the Internet and it will remain the authoritative source of truth for Australian businesses online. When given the chance to engage with more than 4 million Australian TV viewers, a .com.au domain name is the perfect call to action.

What will change by 2015 is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl are being launched, offering marketers an additional option in their ‘.menu’ of calls to action.

Only last week we launched the .melbourne Top-Level Domain and savvy brands such as the Bank of Melbourne, Melbourne Festival, Flower Drum Restaurant and The Marriner Group have become some of the first businesses to adopt a .melbourne web address. Check out www.live.melbourne for more information.

Come Grand Final time 2015, we expect many more major brands to be sporting a .melbourne, .sydney or any other type of new domain name alongside their .com.au web address.

There are many benefits for adopting one of these new domains, from potential improvements to SEO and message recall, to being able to get the exact match name you always wanted.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact of new Top-Level Domains next year and I hope to see a .melbourne or .sydney domain featured next in year’s Grand Finals.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Is racing.com a half-million dollar mistake for Racing Victoria?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

What’s a domain name? What business function do they serve? Can a domain name generate ROI?

I imagine these were the questions the Board of Racing Victoria asked before signing off on the purchase of racing.com to support a Victorian racing industry joint initiative to establish a digital media and content platform similar to that of the AFL.

My industry sources suggest the domain name cost them at least half a million dollars, if not higher. Allow me, from a marketing perspective, to explain why the purchase of racing.com is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.

Vision and execution

A domain name is the digital asset that underpins your entire web presence and acts as a universal signpost to help guide an audience to your website.

In many ways, they’re the mainstay execution tool of nearly every marketing strategy you create.

Marketers constantly push the innovation envelope in search of more visionary methods to engage stakeholders. However, a vision without effective execution is merely an hallucination.

For me, effective execution is creating a signpost that let’s your audience know exactly what your proposition is even before they land on your website.

And with the rise of search-based call to actions and QR codes in marketing, I’m inclined to think some marketers are completely missing this point.

In the case of racing.com, the vision to establish an industry leading content platform is worthy of praise. It’s let down though by an ineffective signpost.

What is racing.com?

The problem with underpinning a $15 million digital media business under racing.com is that it fails the signpost test.

Let’s think about it for a second. What is racing? Is the word synonymous with horse racing? Not really. What about car racing, boat racing or bike racing? Perhaps you’re talking about pigeon racing!

When I Googled the word racing, the first result was a news item about American NASCAR racing.

Also, what inference does the .com add? Where is .com located? What does it stand for? Does it tell your target audience that your business is focused on Victoria? Certainly not.

The domain name racing.com is not a very useful signpost to direct people to a website about horse racing in Victoria, Australia. It’s too generic, won’t be assisted by search and is a poor execution of a good vision.

Recall

Now let’s try the radio recall test.

Imagine you heard an ad on the radio for Victoria’s new digital horse racing news platform and there was a call to action at the end of the ad for racing.com. What do you think most people would remember about the ad and how would they act upon it?

I think the theme of horse racing in Victoria would be the strongest key message. Whilst you might remember a mention of a .com web address, my intuitive reaction would be to visit horseracing.com or Racing Victoria’s corporate website.

Interestingly, our research shows Australians have been conditioned to visit websites ending in .au when looking for locally-based content. This is because .au is Australia’s home online.

My experience tells me that an ad for racing.com in Australia will leak a lot of traffic to racing.com.au, which is unfortunately owned by betting company Tabcorp. That’s a nice win for Tabcorp!

The problem is that racing.com does not have an intrinsic connection with Victorian horse racing that would lend itself to intuitive navigation and recall.

.com .gone

The most unfortunate aspect about the decision to pay a high-end, six-figure sum for racing.com is the fact domain names are now radically transforming.

Hundreds of new domain name suffixes such as .menu, .monash and .sydney are being added to the Internet alongside the familiar .com, offering individuals and businesses like Racing Victoria greater domain name availability, choice and innovation.

Unlike the meaningless and unintuitive .com, these new domain names allow for a clear and descriptive signpost that lets your audience know exactly what your business is about even before they land on your website. They provide an affinity to a geographic location or market vertical that .com is unable to do.

Take for instance .racing which is set to launch soon. It would offer a more creative and relevant domain name such as horses.racing, victorian.racing or vichorses.racing.

Another option would be .melbourne. Country-level geographic locators such as .au, .nz and .uk have helped organise the Internet and now we have the option to take this to the city-level. I’m not saying racing.melbourne or horses.melbourne is appropriate, but it would be somewhat more specific.

There is also a .horse Top-Level Domain and almost 1,400 other options that will become available over the next year.

The fact is, the launch and use of these new domain names will soon make the purchase of half-million dollar .com domain names look silly.

It’s all about connecting your vision with an intuitive, memorable and efficient signpost.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Still think .brands might be a waste of time? Google doesn’t!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

The new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program was designed from the outset to enhance competition and foster innovation.

It was a great result for the wider industry to see approximately one-third of the applications received by ICANN submitted by some of the world’s largest companies seeking to own and operate their own .brand TLD.

Even with organisations such as Apple, Citibank and IBM applying for their respective TLDs, scepticism remained on the potential for .brands to succeed.

Where would the utility come from? How would customers embrace such a change? How would large organisations be able to incorporate this into their marketing mix?

Finally perhaps most ominous, what will it mean for search and will there be any advantages for .brand applicants?

While it’s still very early in the process, a few trailblazing true innovators have given us some preliminary answers and the news is extremely positive.

Evidence of real success

French insurance giant AXA recently launched their .axa TLD to the world and offer the best evidence to date that .brand TLDs have a definite future in the digital marketing landscape.

Less than two weeks after registering annualreport.axa and rapportannuel.axa in their .brand TLD, AXA now appear on the first page of Google search results. When searching for “axa annual report”, the .axa domain is the third result in English and “axa annuel rapport” appears in the fourth position for French searches.

Beyond just Google, Bing shows the result at number two and Yahoo at number eight.

This is a truly impressive result given the number of applicable web properties for this topic and the short amount of time the domain has existed. Yes, this has a lot to do with the relevance of the content – as it has been and will continue to be.

However, the domain is clearly reinforcing some level of credibility here and despite being new, hasn’t negatively impacted the rankings of the page.

The AXA annual report example also illustrates other key benefits of .brand TLD ownership. Using differing language versions of the same domain, they have been able to provide customised content for differing user bases.

With these included, the list of tangible benefits .brand TLD operators can realise immediately from their new asset are compelling:

1. Control

Being completely in control of domain name allocation within their TLD. No more competition for domain names in the open market, as well as the ability to define intuitive parameters for users to find content (eg. annualreport.axa for English, rapportannuel.axa for French).

2. SEO

Globally applicable search benefits. While the sample size is admittedly small, the reality that Google, Bing and Yahoo are actively embracing .brand TLDs for their authenticity and showing strong search results has the potential to be a huge boon to brands and end users.

3. Messaging

Guaranteed authenticity for messaging from the channel. Customers can rest easy knowing with 100% certainty that the content on annualreport.axa is sanctioned by AXA, since no one outside the corporation can register an .axa domain name. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for bad actors to register domains in competing TLDs with the aim of confusing end users, and a .brand is a new and extremely strong tool to combat this confusion.

AXAdomain

AXA’s .brand strategy actively combats bad actors.

While we’ve already seen three new .brand applicants sign registry agreements (.sharp and Google’s .gmail and .youtube) this month, the last several months have seen 256 total TLDs delegated, with only a handful (five total, or less that 2%) being .brands.

This is in addition to the world’s first .brand TLD, .monash for the Australian University and the recently signed .bmw and .samsung TLDs which are soon to join the digital landscape.

All in all, it’s really positive news for those innovators that took the plunge by applying in 2012.

So why wait?

There is no denying that ICANN has made the path through contracting and delegation complicated with various hoops to jump through.

The good news for .brand applicants is that there is help available should they require it. The upside is that the carrot is very real and very attainable.

Delegating and realising the benefits of a .brand TLD as soon as possible should be the goal of every brand marketer worth their salt, as .brand applicants push to delegate their TLDs and non-applicants clamour to apply to ICANN in the second round.

By Ryan Baker
Domain Name Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Marketers place trust in domain names for AFL Grand Final

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisAnother year, another grand final and another win for domain names. Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says domain names are the premiers as Australia’s marketers again show a preference for using .com.au as the preferred call to action in AFL Grand Final ads.

By Adrian Kinderis

It surprises me that our local marketing industry hasn’t yet embraced the AFL and NRL Grand Finals as the marketers in the US do for the Super Bowl.

Where’s the hype like you see for the Super Bowl? I think our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia. We should see the country’s best marketers sporting their wares.

They certainly have a good reason to. More than 3.6 million Australians tuned in on Saturday for the AFL Grand Final, representing more than 80% of all free-to-air viewers for the time slot.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL Grand Final to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found…

The statistics

Like in previous years, domain names were the primary call to action seen in Grand Final ads. Out of the 34 ads aired during the game, 40% included a domain name while only 9% referred to social media.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw last year with almost identical figures (38% and 9% respectively).

The other significant calls to action exercised this year included of telephone numbers (14%), search (9%) and mobile apps (7%). Interestingly, 21% of ads did not include any call to action.

Within domain names, marketers clearly showed a preference for .com.au in their ads, with more than 70% directing viewers to a .com.au website. Again, this is almost identical to last year.

What does this mean?

Clearly, social media has its place, but it’s not in Grand Final marketing.

Despite all the hype and importance of social media to modern day brand communication, domain names still remain the primary call to action. While we saw NAB make effective use of a Twitter hashtag in their Footify campaign, they largely stood alone on this front.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs up to $100,000.

However, it was interesting to see the rise of search which tallied a 7% rise in the number of ads directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website. The Australian Defence Force and Holden were the major brands utilising this method.

I’ve been a vocal critic (as you can read in my recent Marketing Magazine blog) of this emerging trend, and these statistics confirm my observations that marketers are relying on search in greater numbers. It is narrow minded, short sighted thinking and it needs to change.

Future trends

It’s my prediction that marketers will make a big splash for the 2014 AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here. Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

By early 2014, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl will be launched, offering marketers an additional option in their menu of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

In Australia, local brands such as the AFL, TAB, iiNet, ANZ and RMIT are leading the way with these new domains. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Grand Final, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as sponsor.afl, product.tab or promotion.rmit on our TV screens.

If you take this year’s TVCs as an example, it is possible that in the future we could see the TAB use a domain name call to action tailored specifically for the Grand Final, such as www.grandfinal.tab or even specific content like www.firstgoal.tab. This would allow the TAB to deliver a highly personal experience and enable viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

Also, brands that have not purchased their own .brand domain can purchase domain names under .melbourne or .sydney to create targeted campaigns that have a direct affiliation with either city.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to appear on the Internet from next year. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I think we’ll see some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for the 2014 Grand Final.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Looking internally for the success of your TLD strategy

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, discusses the importance of getting internal support for the success of your .brand Top-Level Domain strategy.

By Tony Kirsch

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress in London on how to create a TLD strategy and activate your path to market for launch.

Some of the best and brightest minds in the industry attended and it was encouraging to hear from major brands such as Phillips, Microsoft, Google and KPMG, as well as a variety of other applicants.

While in my previous blog I discussed why a .brand TLD strategy is important, let’s now delve deeper into engagement strategies and why this is the key to a successful .brand.

Why do I need internal engagement?

Internal engagement is a critical element of a TLD strategy because your .brand TLD is going to impact every aspect of your organisation. From technology to marketing and even customer service, everyone in your organisation needs to be engaged in your TLD strategy at differing degrees.

While you may have already engaged key decision makers during the process of applying for a new TLD, many haven’t sought the necessary strategic input across the organisation – something that is extremely challenging for multinational enterprises (and for some of their consultants!!).

You have to appreciate that how one department approaches your .brand TLD might be different to another department.

However, done correctly, your TLD strategy is the perfect mechanism to align key department’s .brand aspirations with your organisational goals.

Who should you engage internally?

Ideally, the critical areas of your business to target are your C-Suite executives, IT infrastructure and systems teams, digital, brand, legal and marketing departments. This is where the key decision makers lie who can make or break your .brand.

You should also consider bringing in the finance department, PR and internal communications teams, and any agency support your organisation receives from digital, branding and advertising specialists.

Finally, don’t forget that even though you are a .brand, you’ll need to engage your Registrar too (if you haven’t already done so).

Remember, engaging with some internal audiences might be a challenge because there are still people out there that don’t know anything about new TLDs.

Change management

Adopting a .brand is a massive change for any organisation.

It’s important to remember that change is never easy and often clouded in risk as people intuitively resist transformation.

This is why your TLD strategy serves two purposes: 1) To provide purposeful direction in the launch of your TLD; and 2) To act as a mechanism to engage internally and gain the support of your key stakeholders.

The reality is that you’re not only taking ownership of your .brand strategy, you will also be seen as the change facilitator. Leaders of large change programs must take responsibility for generating the critical mass movement in favor of the change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement; it demands complete ownership of the entire change process.

The five steps

I detail these steps in far greater depth during our TLD strategy workshop sessions. At a high level, below are the five key elements you should consider as part of internal engagement for your TLD strategy:

1. De-risk

A successful TLD strategy will need to take a ‘whole of business’ approach if it’s to be effective. Remove the target from your back by involving key stakeholders early and de-risk your .brand TLD investment.

2. Get support from your TLD advisors

Get support from your trusted TLD advisors to guide you through the process. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

3. Secure budget

You’ve made an investment in a core piece of Internet infrastructure. Now it’s time to activate this investment. Engage internally to make a business case to secure budget.

4. Get internal resources

You can’t do this yourself. Collaborate and consult with key stakeholders in all departments to share the load. It’s often far more effective to have others champion the cause for you.

5. Align with corporate goals

Does your .brand TLD strategy reflect your organisation’s mission, vision and values? Now’s the time to engage every department to get collective buy-in.

Your plan

You’re building something from scratch and you need to get your plans in place. Internal engagement is the key to successful project planning and management.

Think about the construction of a house. You would never build a new house without detailed plans.

Similarly, with the creation of your TLD strategy, you should facilitate constructive internal engagement so you can build a plan that provides visibility across all facets of your business operations – and provide a digital platform for your organisation for many, many years to come.

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 is employed by 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.