Posts Tagged ‘Brand’

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.

3 steps for managing ICANN Registry compliance

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Corey Grant
14 April 2015

If you are like the majority of Registry Operators we have spoken to, you may now be thinking that compliance with your new gTLD Registry Agreement is much more difficult than first envisaged – especially if you are one of the lucky operators which have been chosen for ICANN’s latest round of registry audits!

You may also be surprised at the number of questions and requests that you need to respond to.

The good news is that you are not alone, and I’m pleased to share some of our lessons here, in the hope that it may assist others.

What to expect from ICANN Compliance

When the first new gTLDs were launched, ICANN indicated that compliance with the Registry Agreement would be handled in a reactive and consultative manner.

The reality is that, since the first TLD was delegated ( شبكة. which translates to .shabaka, or ‘web’ in Arabic), ICANN’s Compliance department has been significantly ramping up efforts to proactively enforce Registry Agreements. In fact, responses from Registry Operators can be sought from the time the Registry Agreement is signed, and in some cases before TLDs are even live.

Making compliance management even harder for applicants are the shifting sands on which requirements are being developed, especially given that some are still being finalised.

It had been broadly expected that the parameters for compliance were two-fold:

a. ICANN Compliance Notices to be issued to Registry Operators when clear issues were identified; and
b. Formal (random) audits, to occur as part of a three year audit plan.

Extra compliance requirements

In addition to the above, we are seeing ICANN issue Inquiries, which seemingly amount to Notices without clear explanation.

ICANN has to date issued these Inquiries under a very broad range of topics to almost all current Registry Operators, and these ostensibly informal Notices must be acted upon by the Registry Operator lest ICANN escalate the Inquiry into a Notice.

This third area of contact by ICANN has significantly broadened the ability of ICANN compliance to contact Registry Operators. As a result we are seeing some concerning real world examples of compliance issues such as:

• Receiving compliance Notices before Registry Operators had reached a point in the launch process where names could be registered; and

• Receiving Notices because marketing material didn’t exactly match TLD startup information, without consideration for the differing audiences for this information; and

• In one case that we’ve been involved with, issuing Notices based on incorrectly auto-generated error messages, causing Registry Operators to scramble to understand potential breach situations that didn’t exist.

As concerning and time consuming as managing notices, audits and inquiries can be, experience shows us that preparation and knowledge is the key to minimising their impact on daily operations.

How to manage ICANN compliance

Effective and comprehensive TLD policies + clear understanding of the requirements/industry + comprehensive processes + knowledgeable resources = COMPLIANCE

The solution isn’t a simple one, given that it requires such a broad understanding of Registry Operator practices and the new gTLD regulatory framework, but for ARI Registry Services’ clients we provide the people and resources to ensure compliance via a three step process.

1. Proactive ongoing management of daily tasks
Managing the ongoing ICANN obligations such as Add Grace Period Limit Policy implementation, Zone File Access management, ICANN monthly reports, reserved name compliance management, etc.

2. Industry Engagement
Monitoring and active lobbying in the compliance space in the best interests of Registry Operators, as well as ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the requirements and best ways of resolving known and potential issues for a wide variety of operating parameters.

3. ICANN Response
Once inquiries or notices are received, or in preparation for a known audit, ARI Registry Services’ compliance staff have the accumulated knowledge and technical record keeping behind them to adequately respond in a timely fashion, minimizing the impact on Registry Operators.

Compliance with the Registry Agreement is a time consuming and complex affair. It’s also an unforgiving exercise too; you only get once chance to get it right or otherwise you face the very real consequence of an ICANN breach notice. This is the reason why many of our clients have signed up for our Operational Services program.

ARI Registry Services is the only one-stop-shop that simplifies your technical operations, advocates for your commercial interests and removes the complexities of operating within the ICANN ecosystem.

By safeguarding their TLD asset and outsourcing the burden of compliance to ARI Registry Services, our clients can concentrate on their core business operations safe in the knowledge that they’re working with a proven and trusted partner.

Corey Grant is a Senior Industry Consultant with the ARI Registry Services consulting team.

 

.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.

Registration numbers not the only success measure for new TLDs

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

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

Since the delegation of شبكة. back in October, we’ve seen all sorts of TLDs launched – from brands like .monash to generics like .build.

There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.

To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.

Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.

How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.

Early numbers mean nothing

The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.

Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.

The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.

What is success?

New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.

Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.

Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.

In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:

1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?

Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?

A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.

In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.

TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.

Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, 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.

Bring your .brand to life

Friday, September 20th, 2013

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

By Tony Kirsch

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

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

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

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

So what is a .brand TLD strategy?

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

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

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

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

Great responsibility

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

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

One size fits all

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

Use momentum to build your TLD

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

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

Are we there yet?

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

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

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

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

Google’s Matt Cutts responds to our opinion piece

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

By Adrian Kinderis

Today, Matt Cutts, an engineer in the search quality team at Google, published a response to my article on the impact new Top-Level Domains might have on the search results produced by Google and other search engines.

Mr Cutts wrote:

I read a post by someone offering new top-level domain (TLDs). They made this claim: “Will a new TLD web address automatically be favoured by Google over a .com equivalent? Quite simply, yes it will.” Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.

In response, I would like to thank Matt Cutts for contributing to the debate on this important topic.  I welcome the discussion as the aim of my opinion piece was to get people talking and I encourage a healthy and vigorous conversation on this topic.

I will be the first to admit there were some controversial statements included in the article to spark discussion and raise awareness of the overall debate on how new Top-Level Domains will be treated by Google.

One point that concerns me though is that some people may form a view of my opinion without reading the entire article. It is therefore important to highlight that Matt has commented on one sentence within a 1200 word article where the intention was that the article is read and reviewed in the context of every point and argument put forward, rather than simply one sentence in isolation.

For instance, if you read my article, you will note that I discuss how search engines like Google handle information contained to the right of the dot. I also explain the impact of domain name bias and I sought the views of three industry experts. To conclude the article, I specifically address the importance of creating a relevant TLD that is a signpost for good, trusted and authoritative content – something that Matt identified as being important.

If someone was going to pull out one quote from my article, I think it should be my conclusion:

“It’s here I remind marketers that buying a new TLD isn’t just about buying a key word to the right of the dot – it is about buying an entire slice of the internet. So whilst a new TLD provides clear Google ranking benefits and domain name bias, a first class content strategy to underpin a new TLD will help even more. Define a target market, create credible content for your new TLD community and the Google results will follow.”

This is my personal opinion and I stand by it. Ultimately, we’ll all have to wait and see what policies will be adopted by certain TLDs and how TLD owners will build value and relevant content into their namespaces. Only then will we be able to accurately judge the true impact.

I appreciate the views of Matt and other industry experts. As far as I’m aware, this is the first written statement from Google on this topic and follows a brief web chat by Matt last year. I urge Google and Matt to further expand upon this discussion as the new TLD program develops.

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

New domains open up unique opportunity for CMOs to own an entire online category

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Adrian Kinderis

In this special guest blog which first appeared in Marketing Magazine Australia, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says savvy CMOs are poised to get exclusive ownership of an entire product category as the application window for new Top-Level Domains opens this week.

In its short history, the Internet has transformed the way brands reach and engage their customers. It has been the source of numerous innovations that have revolutionized the way we influence our audience and target our customers – CMOs have been at the forefront of this revolution. We only have to look at the impact of Facebook and Twitter for examples of how innovative thinking using Internet technology has led to the advancement of the marketing and communications industry.

However, the majority of the change and innovation experienced within the online channel has been at the application layer through the likes of tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Starting this week, a core component of Internet infrastructure (the Domain Name System) is about to undergo a dramatic change that will provide marketers with a unique opportunity to make a statement of leadership, improve message recall and target consumers online like never before.

It’s called a new Top-Level Domain, and will allow brands and marketers across the world to insert their brand name or a generic term relating to their category to the right of the dot, creating an entire domain namespace like .com completely dedicated to their business. This will provide forward thinking CMOs the chance to claim exclusive rights over this opportunity in their product category. In fact, I call it a category killer. More on this point later.

The introduction of these new domains has had little mainstream attention and this fact has angered many. Only recently, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) began a campaign publicly criticizing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) over its decision to implement this program. In my opinion, the arguments the ANA have raised against the program are weak and have already been addressed, as ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom noted in his letter to the ANA last year.

The fact of the matter is that new Top-Level Domains are a reality and they’re coming, whether or not you agree with ICANN’s decision. The time has come for CMOs to develop a clear understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with this dramatic change to ensure they are able to build the appropriate strategy for their brand.

What is this .brand thing all about?

This is not just another domain name. Owning a .brand will allow you to operate your own domain name registry at the root of the Internet which will provide several new business and marketing opportunities never before seen in the corporate world.

One of the benefits of .brand will be the ease of content access. Under .brand, we will see brands moving away from long, unwieldy and generic website addresses such as “www.americanexpress.com/potential” to a far more intuitive and easy to recall domain structure such as “potential.amex”. From a consumer perspective, content will be easier to navigate to in its truest form – via short, relevant and memorable domain names.

If you’re still unsure of the many uses for .brand, imagine tigerwoods.nike, creditcards.hsbc and 911.porsche and you’re well on the way to capturing the opportunity presented by this unique change.

We have already seen major global brands such as Canon, Hitachi, Motorola, Deloitte and UNICEF publicly announce their intentions to secure their .brand. It is expected that hundreds more are keeping their cards close to their chest to avoid competition for the same name (eg: Apple Records vs Apple Inc. for example).

Why is a .brand important?

Online marketing is crucial, but something that has bothered me for some time now has been the overreliance on third-party applications in the online world. Actions to engage and connect with consumers to convey your brand promise are diluted and less effective when delivered through a platform outside of your brand.  An example of this is the strict control many third-party applications, like Facebook, have over your activity, customer data and brand message when actively participating in their ‘walled garden’.

However, a .brand Top-Level Domain will allow trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall to shine through by providing a direct connection between the customer and the brand experience – creating your very own branded ‘walled garden’.

For instance, I could certainly see value in Apple securing .apple or .itunes and implementing a customer registration process whereby each registered customer is provided with a branded online portal, such as adriankinderis.itunes, where they can interact with the brand and associated products.

Similarly, from a customer engagement perspective, imagine if Porsche were to provide all customers with an adriankinderis.porsche domain name with the purchase of a new vehicle to allow access to critical information such as service scheduling and technical information. Not only would it deliver value to the customer, it would also play a role in the introduction of the customer to the Porsche brand experience and lifestyle (car clubs, forums, social networking etc).

In a world where knowledge is truly power – imagine the data collection ability for marketers who have complete control over the infrastructure of their own branded name space.

There will also be huge improvements in online security and trust. Take the HSBC bank for example, a .brand will bring clarity and security to customers online with the simple message, ‘If it’s not .hsbc, it’s not us’. Not to mention making it easier for customers to find content online through the delivery of intuitive and easy to recall domain name structure such as creditcards.hsbc, for instance.

Truly global megabrands will also be interested in the fact that for the first time in history, you can register your .brand in any language around the world. This means you can now offer your customers in the fast growing economies of Asia and the Middle East the same online experience as those in English speaking nations, completely in their own native language. Not only will this show you are serious about your business in these regions, it will reinforce your brand’s local credibility and provide a clear point of competitive difference.

Category killers

These new Top-Level Domains are not just limited to brands. Any generic term like .bank, .doctor, .shop or .hotel can be registered to represent an entire category. A research report commissioned by ARI Registry Services in November found significant revenue potential for entrepreneurs to own industry-specific Top-Level Domains and commercialise them by on-selling second-level domains to relevant businesses (e.g. retailername.shop or lawfirm.law). It suggested that multi-million dollar annual returns are on offer for applicants willing to invest in a new TLD.

Innovative brands wanting to be leaders in the online space will invest in these generic terms on top of their own .brand to completely own their product category and starve the competition of relevance.

The implications for category domination are huge. There is no other opportunity in the world where one brand has the opportunity to completely own a single product category within a channel for its exclusive use.  Imagine if Coca-Cola was the only soft drinks brand allowed to advertise on television, or if Budweiser was the only beer allowed to appear on billboards. The implications would be enormous.

Take a .hotel as an example, the one-stop-shop for online accommodation options for consumers around the world. A brand like Hilton could apply for the .hilton and .hotel Top-Level Domains to completely dominate the online accommodation category. Whether a consumer was looking for Hilton or not, it is likely that the category dominance delivered by .hotel would result in Hilton being highly prominent in consumer search results. This is before considering further domination by applying for .resort, .spa or .holiday.

For me, the age of category killers is now.

How do I get a new Top-Level Domain?

The opportunity to own a new Top-Level Domain doesn’t come cheap. The application fee to ICANN alone will set you back $185,000 and then you will need to add on technology and operating costs. Furthermore, to be a category killer, you’re going to need to apply for multiple names. In total you’re looking at approximately $500,000 to $1 million to make this a reality.

Also, the application window for new Top-Level Domains will close on 12 April 2012. If you miss this window, it may be many years until you get another chance to participate. I fear there will be many brands out there that will miss out on this opportunity.

I’m telling my clients they need to act now. With less than three months until the application window closes, CMOs need to get moving on this once in a lifetime opportunity or otherwise they will miss out. The unfortunate reality for many CMOs is that by the time they recognize the value of this leadership opportunity, it will be too late to do anything about it.

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.

Top 5 tips for new Top-Level Domain applicants

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By Michael Twist

So, you’ve heard about ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain (TLD) Program and you’re thinking about the best way to get involved so you can gain a slice of the of the $5 billion dollar domain name industry.

You might be an entrepreneur out to make your next million, a brand looking to make a statement of leadership in the digital space, a city keen to deliver a clear digital identity online or maybe something cool I’ve never even heard of!

Regardless of your intention, what you might be missing is a real insight into the ways in which you can activate the new Top-Level Domain opportunity to introduce a business never before seen in the domain name space.

As someone who has been following the program closely for a few years now, below are five key tips that will hopefully get your brain working in overdrive:

1. Act now: The clock is ticking on this limited opportunity. The application window will open on 12 January and we’ll start to see new Top-Level Domains in operation from 2013. If companies and entrepreneurs miss the application window (12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012), it may be a long time before they have the same opportunity again. Get moving now to make sure you don’t miss the boat. There is less than 176 days until the application window opens and you’ll need all of that time to make sure your approach is on the money.

2. Think different: This opportunity isn’t all about trying to be the next .com. The real value lies within the formation of market or vertical centric generic TLDs that will offer value to a specific target audience. Let’s take a .music TLD as an example of a generic Top-Level Domain that could be launched specifically for the music industry. Such a namespace is not intended to be a competitor to .com, however it will still hold significant value to the music industry given it will be directly tied to the subject matter as well as the global music community. The logical step regarding perceived value is the opportunity to demand a higher price per domain, driving profit up even if overall registration volumes don’t break world records.

So think very carefully about your audience, as I firmly believe that the most successful new Top-Level Domain applicants will be those that are able to identify a consumer group that is willing to pay more per domain for the privilege of an authoritative, trusted and relevant domain name. In this game, an audience of “everyone” is a very risky move to make.

3. Commercialise your .brand TLD: .brand TLDs don’t just have to be an online branding exercise to improve message recall and online efficiency. There are huge opportunities available for .brand applicants to activate the namespace and drive return on investment. Imagine eBay securing .eBay and selling a slice of that space to its audience of 94 million registered users at two dollars per vanity domain name fee? Think michaeltwist.ebay and you’ve got the basis of a solid revenue generation model.

4. No language barrier: For the first time in history, new Top-Level Domains are available in non-Latin scripts and with 60% of the world’s population residing in countries where the native language is based on a script other than Latin, you could be one of the first to capitalise on this latest shift in domain name technology. Imagine what the Chinese equivalent for .com could be worth to the thriving Chinese community?

5. Seek advice: The new Top-Level Domain program is not for the novice – there are few people who can run a slice of the Internet alone – so start with the idea and seek advice from an industry expert who understands the application process, policy and technological infrastructure required to make the most of the new Top-Level Domain opportunity.

The five tips explained above are just a starting point for a much larger analysis of your idea and associated business case.

At AusRegistry International, we are currently working with brands, entrepreneurs and governments across the world in a full service capacity that can cover your entire new Top-Level Domain project from strategy right through to technology and launch marketing services.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you’re after some advice on how you can make the most of this revolutionary opportunity. Also, be sure to read a blog we wrote last month explaining why choosing a domain name registry services partner for your new Top-Level Domain is the most important decision you will make from here on in.

For more information please visit www.ausregistry.com or find out more about the new Top-Level Domain program here: www.BeyondDotCom.info

By Michael Twist, Top-Level Domain specialist with AusRegistry International