Posts Tagged ‘new gTLDs’

One year in: Lessons from .luxury

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
6 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

The experiences of applying for and operating a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) are as diverse as they are complex. Each TLD takes its own unique path and faces individual challenges as well as those shared by the wider domain name industry.

I spoke with some of the industry’s most prominent TLD experts – and those TLD operators who are new to the industry – about their key lessons learnt from the first 12 months of operation. Today’s interview features Monica Kirchner of .luxury.

What have been some of the highlights of the process so far?

Monica Kirchner, CEO of .luxury: Thus far, my most rewarding experience has been getting .luxury launched, after what was a long and dynamic process.  I am also really excited about some of the positive feedback we are getting for .luxury as a unique platform for the luxury industry online.  Our success in generating industry and business PR has enabled us to engage in a number of meaningful opportunities and begin the necessary process of education around the new TLD program.  The constant message we hear is how poised the luxury industry is for online innovation.  We are going to be a part of that.

Monica Kirchner

What was one of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome this?

Monica: Our primary challenge is really building awareness for and helping define the value proposition of our new TLD. We’ve spent a lot of time going to luxury industry conferences, trying to learn what brand concerns and issues exist, and then have been working to further refine our messaging, ancillary service offerings and education materials to help people think through the migration process and potential benefit of joining our platform online. In this process we have engaged experts in a number of areas – including digital strategy, luxury marketing and intellectual property protection.

Was there an experience that reaffirmed your strategy or decisions?

Monica: Early on, when you are doing something really new, you are always looking for signs of validation.  Fortunately, we’ve had some really good feedback – first with regard to the real need within the luxury industry for a more trusted, focused space for luxury brands and consumers to interact; next with regard to our strategic decisions around premium pricing; and lastly around where we’ve decided to put our initial marketing emphasis – on meticulously working to build our brand presence and in focusing on building awareness through PR.

If you could go back and tell yourself something before you got into this process, what would it be?

Monica: Be patient, be adaptable, be innovative, be fearless, and find a well-defined market niche – then be clear on the value proposition you plan to bring it. With that clarity, and some real passion and entrepreneurial spirit, you are going to be about as well equipped as you can be to embark on this exciting journey of reshaping the online world as we know it.

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.

Insights from ARI’s new TLD workshop

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARI's new TLD workshop

Presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

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

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.

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

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

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 27 August 2013

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

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

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

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

What we know about search

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

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

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

No certainty

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

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

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

Competitive environment

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

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

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

Lack of control

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

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

Not efficient

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

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

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

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

100% visibility on poor performance

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

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

Bring back the slash

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

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

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

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

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

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Facebook lags as domain names and Twitter dominate Super Bowl 2013 ads

Friday, February 8th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2013 showed a brand’s domain name and Twitter handles were the dominant call to actions for the world’s leading advertisers – a fact that bodes well for the introduction of .brand Top-Level Domains in traditional advertising mediums

There is no surprise that marketers, advertisers and consumers pay close attention to Super Bowl ads. A Super Bowl campaign provides a brand with the opportunity to shine like no other event in the world, entertaining millions through the discipline of insightful, creative advertising.

Last year one trend in particular caught my attention – the common call to action used by advertisers to drive a response from consumers. My brilliant team of data crunchers found 49% of Super Bowl 2012 ads directed viewers to a corporate website address – above all other social media channels such as Facebook (11%) and Twitter (9%).

So when Super Bowl Sunday came around this year, I was intrigued to see what my team’s analysis would yield. Would domain names still remain dominant despite the growing popularity of social media?

Interestingly, out of the 73 ads that aired this year, domain names prevailed again as the preferred call to action used by advertisers, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. On the social media front, it was Twitter that dominated the playing field with 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag – a monumental jump of more than 300% from last year. In contrast, Facebook remained ‘on the bench’ with only 11% of mentions in Super Bowl commercials and Google+ was clearly stuck in the locker room with not a single mention.

With 108.4 million viewers, Super Bowl 2013 was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Reports suggest advertisers spent up to a record $3.8 million for each 30-second slot, with GoDaddy, Samsung, Audi, Century 21, Hyundai and Fiat amongst the many regular players.

For $3.8 million I’m guessing advertisers were hoping for a strong return on investment – and with so much riding on the success of each ad, the call to action driving the advertising message is clearly vitally important. The fact that domain names were the most popular call to action for two years running proves that advertisers prefer to drive an audience to a website for a purer, controlled brand experience.

The reality is that social media does not present the same level of certainty as a website. Despite –the impressive growth this year of Twitter mentions, this was normally in conjunction with another call to action such as a domain name. For example, Disney and Fiat featured both website addresses and Twitter handles (one to drive a brand experience, the other to create a conversation). Super Bowl ad veteran GoDaddy advertised with just their domain name last year, but added Twitter as an additional call to action this year. This is an interesting move from an organization whose business is the sale of domain names. I’d suggest this addresses a requirement to create brand engagement at times when a domain name purchase isn’t on the cards.

Intriguingly, only 19% of ads featured a Twitter handle or hashtag as the only call to action – compared to 25% for domain names. Hyundai and Century 21 were the biggest domain name fanatics, advertising with their website addresses only in both Super Bowl 2012 and 2013, while we found a Twitter devotee in Audi, who used Twitter as their sole call to action for both years.  The case was even bleaker for Facebook, with only 4% of ads featuring Facebook as the sole call to action (Pepsi was a lone ranger here). In fact, Samsung went so far as to drop their Facebook call to action from their 2012 ads in favour of Twitter this year – perhaps a recognition of the channel’s ability to attract online conversations around the world’s biggest events, be it sport, politics or a natural disaster.

For now, it’s clear that brands still see websites as their core digital asset – the quarterbacks of a brand’s digital strategy you might say. 

What trends will we see in future ads?

Despite the increasing trend for brands integrating their content through social media channels, my prediction is that websites, driven by intuitive and easy to recall website addresses will continue to remain the primary point of brand engagement for many of the world’s leading brands. Websites provide a level of control, interaction and measurability that social media just cannot match when considering brand experience, product immersion or direct response.

To support this, many global brands have invested in their their own branded slice of the Internet to allow for greater levels of engagement between their online content and their target audiences. And they are only just around the corner…

The new Top-Level Domain program

The global regulator of domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is getting ready to roll out its new Top-Level Domain program later this year. The program will see those that applied move beyond the traditional .com to .brand in a dramatic shift that will introduce a new platform for innovation, increased simplicity and recall for the domain name landscape.

Moving from samsung.com to .samsung for example, this unique slice of Internet real estate will change the way consumers around the world navigate to find online content, as well as reducing the reliance upon unwieldy forward slashes (/) to create an online call to action.

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’. This will deliver the same control and measurability seen in traditional domain names, but it will provide new avenues for creativity, freedom and simplicity.

What impact will this have on Super Bowl ads in the future?

For those brands who have applied, a new Top-Level Domain will have a unique differentiator within the online space at their disposal – an asset that creates memorable, succinct domain name structures that will increase customer response and engagement from traditional advertising activity.

I suspect next year’s Super Bowl advertisers will be closely watching the new Top-Level Domain program and investigating the possibility of including a .brand Top-Level Domain when it’s their time to shine on the global scale. Dell, Toyota, and Samsung all advertised this year and all applied for a new Top-Level Domain. Their chance to innovate is just around the corner.

Just imagine seeing ads driving viewers to visit rav4.toyota, achieve.dell or galaxy.samsung in next year’s Super Bowl? Seems just little bit more compelling than “follow us on Twitter”.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The favoured new TLD registrar payment model

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Chris Wright

This week, Thomas Barrett – the President of US based registrar EnCirca – published a timely article about how the registrar cash flow model could collapse with the imminent release of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains (TLD).

I would like to thank Thomas for raising this important issue and for encouraging all new TLD applicants to discuss this topic with their back-end registry provider.

Thomas is correct; the process new TLD registries choose to interact with registrars will have a major impact on the success of their businesses.

Building upon what Thomas has written, I would like to take this opportunity to provide insights from a back-end registry operator’s view and offer an explanation for why I think the post bill pay model is favoured amongst registrars and should be supported by registries.

While Thomas briefly touched on this point, I would like to expand upon it and clarify a few issues.

The post bill pay model

ARI Registry Services has spent considerable time developing effective payment processes between registries and registrars. Following considerable consultation, the post bill pay model was constructed in conjunction with some of the largest registrars around the world.

We support the post bill pay model because it is actually significantly simpler and most registrars like it. In summary, this model essentially means registrars receive an invoice from the registry operator for all billable transactions following the end of a billing period. There are no accounts and no need for funds to be transferred outside of these invoices, which significantly helps to reduce the financial risk and strain on registrars.

It’s worth noting that it can be important to make a distinction between transactions that can be reversed and transaction’s that cannot. To make it simple for everyone, ARI Registry Services does not bill registry operators for transactions that are still reversible. We will wait until these transactions become non-reversible before we issue any invoices to registry operators. We offer similar functionality to our registry operators with respect to registrar billing so that they also have the choice to do this.

Benefits of the post bill pay model

As Thomas outlined in his article, there are a number of questions new TLD applicants should be asking their back-end registry provider. I completely agree with Thomas and offer the following responses to provide clarity on the benefits of the post bill pay model:

1) Is there an “accreditation” fee charged by the Registry?

As a back-end registry provider, we don’t charge any accreditation fee.

In fact, we take this one step further. All established registrars that can demonstrate experience in integrating with registries of a similar structure to us do not need to perform technical accreditation processes with us. Furthermore, we strongly advise our registry clients against charging accreditation fees as this is an unnecessary barrier to entry for registrars and ultimately impacts the commercial success of the TLD.

2) How much does the Registry require as an initial deposit and for replenishments?

Deposits, account maintenance and funds for replenishments are abolished under the post pay billing model. We don’t see any need for these.

The benefit of the post pay billing model is that there is no need to have account balances in the registry and we can simply track the transactions and invoice the registrars.

3) How does the Registry communicate the existing balance to Registrars? 

When you move to the post pay model, all you need to do is provide a web interface that allows registry operators and registrars alike access to the billable transactions that have occurred in the current invoice cycle. Sending a daily summary of transaction totals is the preferred way to proactively inform registrars of what they have spent.

4) Is there an auto-renewal policy for non-renewed domains?

Thomas seems to suggest that registrars don’t like auto-renewal because they basically provide credits to registrants or credits to the TLD.

This is easily addressed by delaying raising a transaction for this renewal until the end of the auto-renew grace period. Alternatively we can use the post pay model and the principle of not charging for non-reversible transactions. These solutions effectively eliminate this issue so you can still support an auto-renew service without the registrar having to carry the financial risk.

5) What are the bank fees to fund your registry account?

This is eliminated under the post pay bill model because there are no bank accounts and deposits to be tracked.

6) What payment options does the Registry accept for funds?

In our post bill pay model (as a back-end registry operator), we don’t enforce any mandatory payment options. It’s relatively straightforward; we send the invoicing data to the registry operator, who in turn will load the information into their accounting systems and generate an invoice for registrars. Registry operators are free to accept payment via any of the standard commercial invoicing payment options, or indeed any other method they desire. 

7) Does the Registry have its own account for each Registrar or does the back-end provider provide a single account for each registrar for all of the TLDs the back-end provider manages?

This issue becomes a lot less of a problem under the post bill pay model because we do not require money to be deposited, and thus tied up.

Each registrar will get a separate invoice from each commercial entity (registry operator) they deal with (TLD or collection of TLDs).

8) Does the Registry provider emergency credit if funds run low?

Again, because there are no funds associated with the post bill pay model, this issue is eliminated.

Risk for registry operators

As can be seen in our responses above, the post bill pay model addresses all of the questions Thomas has raised. However, while reducing the financial burden to registrars, it does potentially expose the registry operator to more risk.

We argue that new TLD registry operators should be prepared to accept this risk given that it will make their TLD more appealing to registrars. Ultimately, if you don’t have any registrars, you won’t be able to sell your domain names.

Further, these risks are manageable and can be addressed. For example, you can conduct credit checks on registrars, ask potentially problematic or risky registrars to put money into escrow or offer a bond, track the amount of debt a registrar is accumulating, or ultimately completely cut off the registrar from the registry if bills are not paid.

There are a number of strategies available to reduce this risk to registry operators.

Promotions

A further benefit of the post bill pay model is that it offers the most flexible platform for registries and registrars to implement promotional offers, discounts, credits for marketing and other commercial pricing strategies.

Essentially, each registry operator can apply their own discounting or promotional strategy as credits towards invoices, without requiring back-end registry operators to manage these. This means registry operators do not have to rely on their registry services provider to custom build promotions into their registry system, or pay expensive development costs.

Impact on new TLD applicants

I strongly recommend all new TLD applicants to consider the post bill pay model for their registrar payment process.

As described above, this model reduces the cash flow burden for registrars, makes your TLD more appealing to them and allows each registry operator to negotiate their own terms with each registrar.

Remember, registrars will be a crucial element in the success of many new TLDs. The barriers to entry will be a key  parameter reviewed by registrars when making decisions about which TLDs to integrate with first and a post bill payment model will go a long way to reducing these barriers.

If your back-end registry provider does not offer a post bill payment model, it may not be too late to switch.

By Chris Wright
Chief Technology Officer
ARI Registry Services

Opportunity missed. Hilton checks-out of new domains boom

Friday, January 25th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, explains why Hilton Hotels’ decision to withdraw their .hilton new Top-Level Domain application is an opportunity for success wasted

American author Mark Twain once wrote: “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Last month we learned that Hilton Hotels & Resorts joined six other new Top-Level Domain applicants in withdrawing their application and exiting the program.

I was disappointed when I first heard the news. My initial thoughts were centred on the enormous potential .hilton offered the company and the innovative business opportunities they were now abandoning.

Just imagine the ease of content access Hilton could have delivered their guests through associating their products, locations and services with .hilton. Instead of Googling to find the nearest Hilton Hotel in a city (which I commonly do), guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need. Not only would this deliver improved trust, customer engagement and message recall with consumers, it would allow Hilton to localise and tailor their messages to suit guests’ needs.

I asked myself, what circumstances could force Hilton into giving up on these benefits?

Some brands may have made decisions to apply for a new TLD based on fears about brand protection. Perhaps Hilton applied simply to prevent someone else owning .hilton?

I can understand why some applicants have withdrawn from the program, be it due to competition or GAC Early Warnings. However, none of these reasons apply to Hilton.

The truth is we don’t know why Hilton withdrew their application because neither Hilton nor their representatives have offered an official explanation for the decision.

It is my proposition that Hilton lacked two crucial elements in their new TLD plans and that these were the reasons for their withdrawal: Expert support and intestinal fortitude.

Expert support

I find it odd that a lot of new TLD applicants hit submit on their application in early 2012 and naively thought the revenue and rewards of their hard labour would somehow magically start rolling through the door.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done in order to transform your application into a fully operational component of your business.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to me that Hilton fell into this trap. They may have lacked the expert support needed to help them through ICANN’s complicated processes and the authoritative guidance on how to build a successful TLD. Ultimately, they probably just needed someone to hold their hand.

My team and I have taken on this role with our own clients. While we are polishing our backend registry systems in preparation to launch new TLDs, we are also spending a significant amount of time consulting with our clients and helping them develop an operational strategy capable of delivering them the revenue and rewards they so eagerly seek.

Essentially, what we’re trying to do is help our clients and other new TLD applicants stand up robust and successful businesses. Simple, right?

This involves tedious planning sessions and workshops to produce assets to execute a winning business plan. To do this, you’ll need TLD policies, procedures for dispute resolution, integration with registrars and other third parties, technology support, operational guides and a host of other requirements. The reason we know this is because we have done this many times before for other TLDs.

However, it’s understandable if the prospect of getting all of these elements in place scared the living daylights out of Hilton. They’re leaders in operating hotels and resorts. Launching and operating a TLD is about as foreign as it gets.

They needed an expert they could rely on for support.

Intestinal fortitude

While getting the right advice is important, I’ve also been telling folks from day one that you’ve got to have intestinal fortitude if you want to be a leader – especially in the new TLD game.

By its very nature, everyone participating in the new TLD program is breaking new ground in an attempt to achieve greatness.  This is where leaders and innovators separate themselves from followers. It takes guts!

I suspect Hilton lost confidence and didn’t have the courage, determination and chutzpah to see it through. It’s a shame really because they were sitting on a gem of a TLD that had enormous potential, particularly given the online nature of the travel industry.

My team and I are working hard for our clients to give them every confidence in achieving success. We do this by reducing the burden on our clients by providing the expertise they need at this crucial stage in a TLDs development. We will stand side-by-side with them and face every challenge together.

Opportunity realised

With the right advice and support from a trusted partner, combined with the intestinal fortitude capable of withstanding ICANN’s ever flexible timelines, applicants should be set to achieve every success in this program.

The unfortunate reality for Hilton was that they were in an enviable position compared to many others. They just didn’t know it. I wish they had given me a call before making the decision to withdraw.

Clearly, there is significant interest and demand in the program and the benefits are there to be seen.

It’s true; one of my clients could come to me next week and ask to withdraw from the program. However, my team and I are prepared to get our hands dirty and work hard for every one of our clients to ensure they have the opportunity to realise success.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Brussels mandate: Community-developed TMCH gains ascendancy

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

By Chris Wright

ICANN has tentatively agreed to proceed with the community-developed Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) model following two days of discussions at a specially organised informal meeting in Brussels last week.

I believe this is an important breakthrough for the intellectual property, registry and registrar communities as it provides the best harmony between technical implementation and best practice trademark protection policy.

While it is yet to be ratified, the decision to support the processes described in the community TMCH model paves the way for discussions to now focus on how to technically implement this model.

The extraordinary and somewhat unprecedented level of collaboration and negotiation from all parties involved in the TMCH discussions over the past four months warrants congratulation, as does the leadership of ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé who has been instrumental in facilitating this agreement.

The Brussels TMCH mandate

Just weeks after holding productive workshops at ICANN 45 in Toronto, representatives from the intellectual property and business constituencies, registries, registrars and senior ICANN representatives gathered again in Brussels on 1 and 2 November to negotiate a solution to the stalemate over exactly how the TMCH should be implemented.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss issues related to the implementation of the TMCH as it is described in the Guidebook. This excluded all policy related issues regarding rights protection mechanisms outside of what has already been agreed upon in the Guidebook.

At the top of the agenda were talks to find agreement about which TMCH model best serves the interests of stakeholders – the original ICANN model or the recently published alternative community-developed model.

Concerns have been raised about the feasibility of the original ICANN model. I, and a number of other registries and registrars, have been vocal opponents of ICANN’s original TMCH model because we believe it is too complex and burdensome in the way it achieves its objectives.

In September, we released three whitepapers which described the flaws associated with ICANN’s model and offered an overview of why the community-developed implementation model would achieve the same objectives without these burdens.

After many hours of deliberation, agreement was formed to support the community-developed model and proceed with discussions about how to technically implement it.

The next step

The decision to move forward with the community-developed model means we are now one (big) step closer to building a fully functional TMCH in time for the first delegation of new Top-Level Domains (TLD) which is set to occur in 2013.

This should come as welcome news to all new TLD applicants.

As agreed in Brussels last week, the next step in this process will be a meeting in Los Angeles on 15 and 16 of November to finalise the technical details of the implementation of the TMCH. These details have been missing from all previous discussions because of the lack of certainty about which model would be utilised.

Now that there is agreement on the implementation as described in the community-developed model, we can proceed with discussions about the nitty-gritty technical details involving the integration between registries, registrars and the clearinghouse provider.

Following the Los Angeles meeting, work will begin on writing the TMCH implementation specifications. ICANN will then finalise contractual agreements with the TMCH provider in anticipation of go-live shortly thereafter.

This is a remarkable turnaround in events considering the entire new TLD program was at risk if a workable solution could not be found. There is now light at the end of the tunnel and this is credit to the extensive collaboration that has been seen throughout the development of the TMCH.

Congratulations to everyone involved and well done. We are nearly there.

By Chris Wright
Chief Technology Officer at ARI Registry Services