Posts Tagged ‘new TLDs’

One year in: lessons from .rocks

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
14 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.

This is the third in a series of interviews I conducted with notable TLD applicants approaching one year of operations. In this article, I spoke with Statton Hammock of Rightside about how the .rocks TLD is finding its place in the market. You can also read my interviews with .luxury and .photography.

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

Statton Hammock, V.P. Business and Legal Affairs, Rightside: Without a doubt, the highlight has been seeing consumers embrace and use our TLDs in fun innovative ways, such as the Rolling Stones running a tour campaign on justakissaway.rocks. Seeing all of the exciting and creative ways people identify and brand themselves online with our TLDs has been thoroughly rewarding for everyone at Rightside.  We had anticipated that consumers would register and use our domain offerings and it’s wonderful to watch this happen, week after week.

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

Statton: A key challenge for Rightside was trying to build its new Registry business while being subject to constant ICANN delays and policy changes.  Hiring personnel, managing accounts, and making technical changes to a platform is difficult enough under regular circumstances, but with repeated delays in the new gTLD program being thrown at us, it made the work that much more challenging. When there’s uncertainty around when you can launch your business, it’s extremely difficult to make hiring decisions and execute on your company’s strategic plans.

Statton Hammock

Was there a moment when things ‘clicked’ for you?

Statton: I think everything ‘clicked’ when we saw Guy Kawasaki tweet about “not.com” when he announced his new book on artof.social. Or perhaps when young rockers, V-Squared, gave a live red carpet interview in which they referred the interviewer to their website on vsquared.rocks, saying “Not.com”. The V-Squared boys’ adoption of .rocks was an illustration of how the younger generation, one without a .combias, would choose a more meaningful TLD like a .rocks to showcase their musical talent.

What is one thing you wish you had known going into the process?

Statton: I think everyone in the domain name industry wishes they had known how long the gTLD process was going to take – from filing the application, to final launch. It’s been a long and challenging path but we are nearing the end of it and the real fun is beginning. There is no more exciting time for the domain name industry than right now, and Rightside is committed to making every one of its TLDs a success.

What will be the main challenges and areas of focus for the next year of your TLD?

Statton: The main focus of Rightside for the remainder of this year will be to resolve our remaining contention sets and complete our portfolio of domain names (we are currently at 39).  But another challenge will be raising consumer awareness about new gTLDs and developing creative marketing efforts so that people will learn that they can now get a more memorable and descriptive domain name. The domain name industry as a whole also needs to do a better job at driving awareness and education.

One year in: lessons from .photography

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
8 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.

In the second of our series of TLD applicant interviews, I spoke to Richard Tindal from Donuts about the .photography TLD and how to build a strategy for a single namespace among a portfolio of over 180 others. You can also read my previous interview with .luxury.

How is .photography tracking at this stage of the TLD’s lifespan?

Richard Tindal, Co-Founder and COO, Donuts Inc.: .photography has been on the market 15 months and we’re very happy.  It has 50,000 names under management, an average retail price of US$20, and a healthy, 72% renewal rate (on the first three months of renewals). As the TLD matures and grows we expect that rate to reach 80%.  Currently, 55% of our registrants are from outside the United States.

We certainly had some unanswered questions when we launched .photography. In a portfolio of 180 Donuts TLDs, it was an interesting test-case of two principles: firstly, can TLDs specific to an industry or activity (eg. .photography, .clothing, .pizza) do well, or will users prefer more generic TLDs that still offer choice (eg. .today, .tips, .solutions)? And secondly, are 11 characters too many for a TLD?

Richard Tindal

What has been your impression of the registrations and use of .photography?

Richard: The marketplace roll-out of .photography has been largely as we expected. Because it can be harder to get a business with an existing web presence to change its URL, our focus is more on businesses that are creating a new Internet presence for their company, product or campaign. One of the reasons .photography is doing well is that a lot of new entities join the photography industry each year, as well as the fact that it is a digital industry.

The use of these names – meaning that they contain good website content – has already reached half the levels seen in legacy TLDs such as .com, which is great news given .photography has been out such a short time. We measure website content on the domains every month, and every month proportionally more of them have good content, so it’s headed in the right direction. We should catch the legacy TLDs within 24 months.

What is your outlook for the coming year?

Richard: The challenge for .photography and all new TLDs now is to increase Internet user awareness about the product set. Awareness is currently low but we have reasons to be upbeat about changing that. Surveys show that people respond to TLD advertising quickly and positively, younger people are getting the message the quickest and new vendors and new technologies have made it easy and affordable to put up good content. Nothing reinforces our marketing message more powerfully than .photography registrants who use and advertise their sites. We think .photography will continue to be a success, as will 95% of all new TLDs.

An open letter to all new TLD operators

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
17 June 2015

Dear TLD operators,

As many of you will know from my previous posts, I’m pretty passionate about our new TLD industry and genuinely believe we are all working towards a goal that will provide something truly special for future generations to embrace.

However, speaking candidly (as is the Australian way), I think we’d all agree that there is much to do to get new TLDs into the mainstream in a timely manner. And as new TLD applicants, we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure the success of our industry for years to come.

Based upon this view and after 12 months of contemplation and some assistance and support from a few industry leaders, we’ve just launched a webinar for all TLD applicants.

Thus, the TLD Operator Webinar is now scheduled for June 30 and information is available at www.tldoperator.help for those that would like to register or understand more about this initiative.

Since our soft launch last week, we’ve had over 200 applicants register for the webinar and plenty of comments of support from the industry which really demonstrates appetite for this on a global level. With about two weeks to go until the webinar, we’re hoping we can double this number and provide useful information to a large sector of the new TLD applicant base.

The TLD Operator Webinar is designed to provide all new TLD applicants with an opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other – away from the confines of the typical ICANN discussions on policy and so on. Put simply, it is about TLD Operators helping other TLD Operators learn how to maximise the return on your investment and make your mark on the future of the Internet– whether you’re a generic, geographic or brand TLD.

The webinar is free, lasts only 60 minutes and will provide attendees with unique insight from other TLD Operators based on what has and hasn’t worked for them so far.

I am extremely excited by the quality of speakers we’ve been able to assemble, including

• Donuts (Largest portfolio TLD applicant)
• Monash University (World’s first .brand)
• .club (Highly successful generic TLD)
• .berlin & .sydney (Leading city TLDs)
• .sucks (High profile TLD in the news)

The TLD Operator Webinar is open to all applicants only (and/or nominated advisors) and will not be a forum for industry sales or promotion in any way. I should also reiterate as per recent media reports, that this initiative is not a formal community group in any way, simply an attempt to utilise a webinar for the benefit of all new TLDs.

I welcome you to join us for the TLD Operator Webinar and look forward to sharing some unique insights at this pivotal time in our industry.

Kind Regards

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Lessons from .build one year after launch: Q&A with CEO and Founder George Minardos

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
28 April 2015

The .build domain namespace opened in General Availability in April 2014, as a domain name designed specifically for the online needs of the building industry and beyond. As the appointed technical provider for .build, ARI Registry Services powered the launch and continued technical operations for this global domain name.

A year into the life of the namespace, ARI Registry Services’ Head of Global Consulting Tony Kirsch caught up with George Minardos, CEO of .build to talk about his insights to date, what he’s learnt about the domain name industry, and a look at where he thinks it is heading.

Question (Tony Kirsch): Hi George and thanks for the chance to chat about the journey of .build. To start, let’s talk about your general experience in the first year of the TLD. What have been some of the highlights?

George Minardos, CEO of .build: The first year has been a combination of block and tackling of the basics of a new business while pushing for innovation in an exploding field.

We came to the market ready to integrate into what we thought was a standardised process, but then learned that this wasn’t the case.  The changes that the new Registries and the New gTLD Program itself introduced, required the industry to create and adopt new systems and best practices. One of the most fulfilling milestones of our first year was to see the state of the industry gradually change over time in the direction we had predicted and promoted.  It was quite a year to watch individual registrars go from not offering our name or any others, to hundreds of registrars and resellers offering our complete product including premium names and different price levels.

Q: You established a number of partnerships with leading industry bodies. Why did you decide on this strategy?

George: I see .build as an opportunity for the entire building world.   My vision is to create a namespace that actually helps an entire industry improve.  Builders understand the importance of their real world reputation and identity and are beginning to understand the importance of their online identity. We realised that this isn’t actually that hard of a story to tell, especially if we could show a few great case studies: the story would then propagate and tell itself.

We partnered early on with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and American Subcontractors Association (ASA), two of the largest associations in the commercial construction industry. We have also been working very closely with The Blue Book Network, a 100 year-old company with deep ties and services in the commercial construction industry.  These leading organizations represent hundreds of thousands of members. By getting them to effectively use, endorse, and adopt those domains, it is creating a broader awareness within the industry.  More to the point, each group understands the need to innovate and constantly offer their customers value.

IMG_0049

George Minardos and co-founder Tom Brackey with the Bluebook Network team at the Las Vegas Con Expo show

Q: What feedback have you received from your customers?

George: I spoke to a guy who was trying to buy a three-character domain that was selling for about $250 at the Registrar. He thought it was a bit expensive, compared with the general notion of what a domain costs, so I suggested he look up his desired name on a domain investing site and compare the prices. All the equivalent domains in other TLDs were worth thousands of dollars. And all of a sudden I heard the gears shifting on the other end of the phone and he was like ‘this is cheap; I’ve got to grab it now!’ He registered his domain name for the complete 10 year period!

I think there’s an opportunity to reset the consumer’s notion of value.  When you put a good domain name in terms of like-for-like, the whole notion of what’s good value can change.

There was a company called Saco that bought a .build in Landrush, and I actually went out and met with them because I was curious as to why they bought a .build. I sat down with the two founders of the company. They said there were 15 other Saco construction companies on the web and they saw .build as an opportunity to get the best name that was available to them and stand out from the crowd.

For them it was a no-brainer. They developed a website and did some pretty innovative things like setting up different Twitter accounts for each of their projects, where the Project Managers were posting updates and photos and they were uploading automatically into a feed on their website. I think they had that up in less than a day with a website builder.

We’ve set up a new page on our site – www.greatsites.build – to show some examples like this that are great representations of what people are doing with .build domains in so many areas.

Q: What else have you learned about the scope of .build over the past year?

George: When you start any business you wonder if you’ll have customers. Imagine opening a restaurant and wondering if people will fill the tables. We knew we’d have customers but it’s been really great to see how diverse they are.  There are a broad number of other types of people interested in the name ‘build’. We’re seeing tech and start-up companies, innovators and DIY-ers – many people just putting their next big idea on .build.

Something else that’s really interesting is that from a consumer side, we’ve found many times that the consumer is price-insensitive. We’ve offered some specials through marketing programs and often people don’t care to save $10, $20, or $50. They want to go to the easiest place to buy their domains, and if they’ve had an account with a registrar for 15 years then the discount to them is irrelevant. It’s easier for them to just log in and buy the domain full price at a place they know and trust. What I have learned in that regard is that the pricing model of the domain industry where there is no Manufactured Suggested Retail Price does work, but it isn’t one that I would have conceived of.

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Q: How have you dealt with the competition in the market from other TLDs?

George: I’ve always said that a good domain name and therefore, a good TLD ultimately, is a name that means something to the person that buys it but also to the person that buys the good or service it offers. In short, a good domain is one you remember.

I think all the industry TLDs are good and they’re all needed, but I personally believe .build is the best for a number of reasons. It’s the shortest and it also is broader than any of the more specific TLDs like .engineer or .construction. I think competitively, it stands on its own without any kind of differentiation needed. If somebody thinks that their company name and ‘.contractors’ is better, then that is the one they should be buying. There are also peripheral TLDs like .property that are related, but they’re distinct. I think that standing back objectively, .build is a different TLD entirely because it is more universally understood than any of the competitors.

Q: Finally, what will be the main challenges and areas of focus for Year Two of .build?

George: General Awareness to the New gTLD Program was and still is very thin. This is partly related to the lack of technical integration but it is also a marketing and messaging issue. You have the challenge not only of how to sell the product, but also in getting the message out there that the product is even for sale.

I think that’s going to continue to be the potential challenge – or opportunity, depending on how you look at it. There are organisations like the DNA and ICANN that are working to push the word out further. We’re just going to continue to reach out in targeted ways that we find cost effective to increase the awareness of what new TLDs and .build in particular can do to improve a business’ online identity. We need to ensure the awareness increases and good stories keep getting told enough to raise all boats in this tide, so that the whole program becomes more successful.

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

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Corey Grant
21 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

What .brands need to know

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

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

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

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

How do you create a TLD plan?

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

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

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

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

Chicken and egg

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

.cancerresearch – Can a new TLD beat a global disease?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I wish cancer research didn’t exist.

Imagine a world without cancer, where a cure existed to eradicate this disease.

Today, the best way for us to achieve this is through cancer research, and extremely bold goals like this require game-changing innovation.

Fittingly, the .cancerresearch Top Level Domain will launch on World Cancer Day (February 4) and use this fantastic new digital platform to show that cancer, its treatments and its cures, are not beyond us. You can see the promotional campaign at theone.cancerresearch – and express your support.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain is unique and something I’m extremely proud to be involved with. Like many people around the world, cancer has had devastating impact on my family and I’m extremely passionate about the potential that .cancerresearch represents.

It is the first Top Level Domain in the world to be launched with a network of websites that provide reliable and trusted information to the global community. And, as the name suggests, its sole purpose is to find a cure for cancer through research.

From today, the internet-using public can type domains such as home.cancerresearch and news.cancerresearch into the URL bar to find information that helps people affected by cancer, and also provides information on world-class cancer research that is aiming to beat this disease.

In addition, the launch will include a series of sites such as lung.cancerresearch or breast.cancerresearch which will provide detailed information related to these specific diseases.

The information is free and available to everyone across the world – and its intention is to build awareness and education around cancer itself and the amazing progress that has been made in relation to its cure, and to provide hope for those who are ever affected by this horrible disease.

How did we get here?

ARI Registry Services has been working alongside the applicant (the Australian Cancer Research Foundation), since the idea was first conceived in 2011. In addition to writing the application during the ICANN application period and being the backend technical partner, we’ve been intimately involved in the development of the strategy and a range of implementation and policy elements. Personally, I’m extremely proud of this project, and it’s a wonderful achievement for our organisation, the TLD industry as a whole, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and a significant opportunity for the Not-for-Profit sector.

In designing the strategy, ARI and ACRF wanted to achieve a method by which we could promote the amazing work being done by the researchers that dedicate their lives to finding cures for cancer. Additionally, we wanted to find a way to provide reliable information – and importantly, hope – to the global community.

During the strategy development, it was apparent that demand existed for this type of information through sources such as Wikipedia, but we wanted to link the TLD strategy to a higher purpose; something that could genuinely disrupt the status quo, something that is necessary to beat a disease that has impacted the lives of so many.

With over a billion websites in existence today, there is already so much content available online, and as a result, internet users are really looking for beacons of relevant, targeted information from sources they can trust.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain provided the platform to design a solution that utilises a unique series of websites which will increase awareness and visibility of cancer research. These sites will facilitate communication and spread the message that, through the support of the cancer research community, we can all work together to help beat cancer.

At ARI Registry Services, we really believe the internet-using public will embrace the simplicity of visiting the series of .cancerresearch sites, such as home.cancerresearch, news.cancerresearch, and even donate.cancerresearch, for those who would like to contribute towards the fight.

After all, simplicity and relevant navigation is really what new TLDs are all about.

Industry Perspective

The industry has made significant inroads since the first delegation in late 2013. Yet despite having delegated almost 500 TLDs, and over 4 million domains registered to date, there is still a long way to go before we can confidently say we have achieved end-user awareness and buy-in.

What the industry is really waiting for is a great marketing campaign by one of the more prominent .brand applicants and frankly, I think that one of the bigger players such as Google have a responsibility to help the program by taking the lead on this.

The reality is that most others are taking a wait-and-see approach – but I strongly believe that in addition to our ultimate vision of curing cancer, .cancerresearch can truly help other TLD applicants by providing a real-world example of how a TLD can be implemented, launched, and used. Ultimately we want this to help all new TLD applicants, in particular those that have applied for a .brand and are struggling with the internal appetite for launching their TLD.

I wish cancer research didn’t exist. I wish we didn’t need it. But we do.

And through engagement with the .cancerresearch experience, we can all help to make big inroads into changing people’s lives.

To get involved, please visit theone.cancerresearch and see the wonderful marketing campaign that has been developed by M&C Saatchi in collaboration with ACRF and ARI Registry Services, or feel free to contact me directly at tony.kirsch@ariservices.com if you’d like to know more about the process of developing the TLD strategy and launch plans.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

.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.

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

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

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

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

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

Vision and execution

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is racing.com?

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

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

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

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

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

Recall

Now let’s try the radio recall test.

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

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

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

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

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

.com .gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The World Cup of new Top-Level Domains

Friday, June 13th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Tony Kirsch

In celebration of O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game), we thought it was timely to do a World Cup themed wrap-up this week and showcase the new Top-Level Domains (TLD) of the football world.

Let’s start with which countries are winning in the World Cup of new TLDs.

While Brazil might be favourites for the FIFA World Cup, the United States smashed the field with the most number of new TLD applications (883 or 46% all applications).

Now that new TLDs have launched, where are the most registrations coming from? Again, the United States leads the way with 275,602 domain names (or 25.8% of the 1.1 million combined names). This is followed by Germany (12.5%), the United Kingdom (6.8%), Cayman Islands (4.6%) and Canada (3.8%).

What about .football? While .soccer (four applicants) and .football (two applicants) are stuck in contention sets, we did see .futbol (Spanish for Football) enter its first day of general availability yesterday with 1,628 registrations.

We can’t forget to mention World Cup cities too. Brazil’s famous Rio de Janeiro had their .rio city TLD delegated on 22 May. Rio will host the final World Cup match on 13 July and let’s hope we see some .rio domain names live in time for this match.

The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and we’ll no doubt see the world’s major brands using their new TLDs by then. Eight new TLDs were applied for from Russia, with two for their capital city, .moscow and their IDN .москва.

I can’t wait until I’ll be able to navigate the Internet intuitively by browsing to websites such as WorldCup.moscow, or Football.nike and Campaign.sony. I predict that in four years time we’ll look back at this moment as the dawn of the modern Internet and vaguely remember a web without new TLDs.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services