Are you ready for the age of the .brand?

May 17, 2017

Businesses are certainly wise to the benefits of the internet when it comes to their marketing, growth and ultimate survival. Social media is used with great aplomb and SEO is the watchword in marketing strategies, but have you considered the potential power of having your own .brand?

For those not yet in the know, we are talking of a top-level domain (TLD) name that is personalised to your brand, e.g. .nominet. No longer do you need to be tethered to a generic domain name ending such as .com or .net, or even something more creative but still generic, like .food. Go right in at the top and register your own company name to safeguard your trademark and unlock a myriad of benefits that can boost your overall business.

The practice of using a .brand is still in its infancy – the opportunity was first available in 2012 when ICANN opened an application window for new gTLDs. Over a third of the 1,930 applications were for companies seeking their own .brand. Approximately 500 of these are now in use, with the trend being set by the likes of Phillips, Google, BMW and Mini who are finding unique and impactful ways to leverage their new domains.

There is a cost associated with securing and operating your .brand, but the benefits are remarkable and could give your business the edge in a competitive market. A .brand is often a shorter, easier to remember domain name for your website with new marketing and promotional opportunities. It can boost brand awareness and allow you to maximise your online footprint.

Most importantly, a .brand enables you to maintain control of your online presence and protect your brand across the world wide web. In these times of cyber threats and high-risk attacks, a branded domain name is a security consideration as it can reduce the opportunities for scams or phishing attempts. If you can offer a more secure service to your customers, you are likely to attract more of them.

Time is ticking down to the next round of ICANN applications and interest is rising. Estimates range from 2,000 to over 20,000 expected applications when gTLDs next go up for grabs, likely to be in 2019. Securing your .brand is the equivalent of registering a trademark so ICANN is careful about when and which brands are approved to keep the process equitable. Ralph Lauren tried to secure .polo in the last round of applications but was opposed by the sporting community, while Coach was unsuccessful in their pursuit of .coach as the word is deemed too generic. For many, however, the process will be swift and conclusive, opening up new possibilities in terms of brand identity, marketing and awareness.

That said, these .brands can only reap rewards for a business with a clear strategy for their roll-out and application, and many businesses were simply not ready to maximise their domain names during the last application window. Preparations should involve market research – how will your customers respond to a new domain name? – and assembling a team to handle the transition to the .brand, not to mention careful assessment of how the necessary registry services will be run. Large companies will sometimes establish their own registry, but for many the best option is to defer to the expert and seek support from an experienced registry, like our team, to handle the back end service on your behalf. Our mandate is to help contribute towards a vibrant digital future, and ensuring a safe and secure online space for .brands is a big part of that.

Once the logistics are sorted, it’s important to consider how to optimise your .brand. Inspiration can be drawn from some of the big companies already beginning to explore the benefits of their new TLDs. Mini, for example, uses .mini to identify geographic locations of their dealerships (e.g. weiss.mini) and Swatch uses their domains to differentiate watch collections (e.g. pop.swatch). BMW are using theirs as a marketing tool (next100.bmw) while Cancer Research uses their domain name to help direct website users to the most appropriate site for their needs, identifying disease areas such as lung.cancerresearch and breast.cancerresearch. Whatever your business or organisation, there will be a method of applying your TLD that will enhance and streamline the customer experience, boosting your position in the market.

Experts predict ‘the age of the .brand is coming’ and businesses must be prepared for the shift in brand positioning that will ripple across the online world with the next round of applications.  Make sure you’re ready to ride the wave and take your company to the next level.

More information on .brands is available here.