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Now is the time for companies to prepare themselves for a ‘dot brand’ domain, says Roland LaPlante, chief marketing officer at Afilias, on behalf of NetNames.
An emphatic yes.
More than 600 brands have now applied for their own so-called dot brand, a new top-level domain (TLD) associated with a trademarked brand.
These represent every segment of our economy: banks, technology companies, media, food, luxury goods, etc.
The current application period is closed, but the next round will likely begin in two years or so. While that may seem a long time, ramping up a dot brand effort across a company will take all of that time.
We know, because we provide back-end service support to many dot brand applicants, and most of them need help from experienced, professional experts.
“WHILE THE BRANDING ASPECTS OF RUNNING A TLD CLEARLY BELONG WITH YOUR BRAND TEAM, THE COMPLEX ADMINISTRATIVE AND COMPLIANCE ASPECTS ARE GENERALLY OUTSIDE OF YOUR CORE STRENGTHS."
If you missed round one, you will likely now have competitors who did apply, and when they launch, you will find yourself in a different competitive situation. So now is the time to assess whether your brand should apply (indeed, whether you can afford not to apply) when the application period opens again.
I have discussed the significant marketing opportunities that a dot brand brings in a previous blog:
- Better branding: no more random terms as web addresses. Instead, you can now have your proprietary address that’s 100% under your control.
- Total security: you decide who may have an address and what content is allowed in your domain.
- Enhanced customer experience: with your own space to nurture customer relationships, you no longer need to chase after the latest social media ‘hot properties’! You will also have access to all the site data and can do deep-dive analyses.
Dot brand really is the digital future of bigger brands. While the benefits are significant, however, as expected, they come with costs.
Here are a few illustrative costs: Owning a dot brand will make you a registry operator, and this role is not simple or inexpensive.
- ICANN, the operating body of the internet’s addressing system, requires a $185,000 evaluation fee at the application stage (this was for the first round; the next round may be a bit less).
- You also need to pay an annual fee of $25,000, plus $0.25 per name registered in your domain.
- Having your own domain means you are running a domain registry. You have to take care of all the technical aspects, such as ensuring ICANN compliance, having the necessary Domain Name System technology and infrastructure, maintaining uptime standards of your domain, etc. You should partner with a technical specialist in this area, and not tax your own technical team with this unfamiliar set of requirements.
- You also have to determine how best to merge your dot brand into your ongoing branding activities.
While the branding aspects of running a TLD clearly belong with your brand team, the complex administrative and compliance aspects are generally outside of your core strengths. There are significant hard costs and soft costs involved—financial, people, technical.
The 600 or more brand leaders who have applied for their dot brand have obviously found the benefits outweigh the costs. What about your brand?
As you evaluate the dot brand costs and benefits for your brand, you must assess the opportunity cost of not having a dot brand and assess it accurately.
- Have marketing lead the assessment: dot brands are primarily about branding, not technology or legal issues. You certainly need to build a cross-functional team to perform your cost and benefit analysis, but that team should be led by marketing, and your chief marketing officer should be the executive sponsor. You must quantify the lost marketing opportunities and lost revenue for not having your dot brand.
- Review your entire portfolio of web addresses: create an inventory of all of your sites including corporate, all products and brands, resellers/channels, partners, promotions, even pages on social media. You need to compare the costs of maintaining a consolidated, global internet presence (your dot brand) v the status quo.
- Know the price of catching up: dot brand round two will be here before you know it. For an initiative of this level of strategic importance, you must start now with evaluation, strategy development, budgeting, and change management planning. If you decide to wait and see and your competitors start actively engaging with their dot brands, you know you will be paying additional to catch up.
We have helped guide many clients throughout the dot brand process—from application to launch.
Running a domain registry isn’t the core of your business but it is the core of ours. Reach out to us and let’s get the conversation started—this you can definitely afford!
Roland LaPlante is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Afilias. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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