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

Published on July 20th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
20 July 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

What needs to happen: legal

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

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

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

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

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

What needs to happen: financial

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

A quick breakdown of typical costs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing it all together

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

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

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

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

Easy, right?

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

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

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

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