The Five Year Dot Brand Engagement
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 12th May 2016 in 360 Blog

It’s been four years now since the “Big Window” of opportunity to own a gTLD closed and we all learned that Google had applied for 101, Amazon for 76 and half of the world’s top brands had applied to operate their own gTLD:  the “Dot Brand.”  While many consultants, registrars and others who are hoping for a boon in “round two” celebrate the “use cases” by brands, the reality is the only uses by brands have been to either redirect (which I don’t count as a use case)  or put up a lonely landing page that is not supported by any other marketing or promotion.  The few instances of adding the antiquated term “home” in front of the brand have resulted in SEO debacles due to poor planning and understanding of how SEO actually works.    The result:  consumers know absolutely nothing about this, the advertising and digital industries believe it’s pointless and don’t see the value and many inside all of those Dot Brands question why so much time and money has been spent and is continuing to be spent on this “domain name.”  Others simply recant that it was all a scam to begin with and that ICANN and a bunch of lawyers and consultants are the only ones who benefited.

With all of that going on out there, it would be easy to give it another year of “engagement” just to be sure and then call it quits, but that would be a mistake.    The reality is that these new gTLDs when closed for exclusive use by a brand are, in fact, a new technology platform capable of delivering better performance internally and externally for companies.  Google and Amazon have made and are continuing to make significant investments in their portfolios.  Just look at what they have and how many they have acquired in contention sets, with Google paying $25 million for .App.

Digital Leader TLDs

They know the benefits of operating at the top level domain.  Google is already operating its own registry and registrar and Amazon could be next.  Facebook recently bought a registrar.  Twitter is advocating for an early second round of gTLDs just for brands so they can get in and start innovating at the DNS level.  Usually these facts alone get those in the C-suite to agree there may be more to this than just a big scam.  But they long to see someone else do something first, preferring to be a “fast follower”.

The reality is, to really use the platform, you have to fully understand the long-term benefits, build out a 5 year migration plan and commit to this as the future.  Most companies simply aren’t willing to do that yet.  Google and Amazon are likely in the process of doing this and when consumers start to see their real use cases in a couple of years, everyone else will quickly want to follow.  But when they find out what’s involved, they’ll realize they are a couple of years behind.

There are some real benefits in the long term for migrating into the Dot Brand, I refer to these as “the Big Five”.  We have detailed research briefings on all of these issues, but in short:

Security. The number one reason every company should be carefully looking at a migration into their Dot Brand is for security. You can add layers of protection to mitigate malware, bots and bad actors so you can stop them across your entire digital landscape at the top level.  You can promise consumers who are looking for an authorized dealer, reseller, franchise or partner that when it ends it your Dot Brand, it’s really you and not a counterfeit or phishing site.  You can help your own internal people recognize a fraudulent typo email versus ones that are really yours.  In the long-term, you can completely control this space in a way that allows you to build a better system.

Data.  The second of the Big Five is data.  You can design your digital neighborhood with data in mind.  There are new sources of data like what domain names are not resolving that can be added to your data mix and you can see traffic patterns at the top level to test various theories as you build out new name spaces tied to programs and events.  Other data driven opportunities include the evolution of cookies, single sign on, crawling at the top level domain level and the increased likelihood that consumers might remember a domain name as a first point of entry versus search.

SEO.  The long-term benefit of using the new Dot Brand space is that the search algorithms will begin to learn and recognize who you are at the top level.  Once it learns that your Dot Brand means that everything in that top level domain is authentic, then the algorithms will see that as a signal and it will become easier to build out new spaces within your Dot Brand.  Additionally, the brand as a signal could increase click through rates in search results when viewed as “more authentic” than others.  As natural language, voice based search merges with smarter algorithms, the Dot Brand provides a stronger signal.

User Engagement.  For consumers, the opportunity to engage with them at a more tailored and custom level is built in the new Dot Brand.  When you consider that we continue to move to a time when consumers expect not just one big massive home page, but microsites, social media spaces, mobile and the internet of things to be tailored to who they are and what they want, then the new Dot Brand space just makes sense.  With endless possibilities of natural language, the blank canvas to innovate and create, along with greater social authority are all possibilities for the future of the Dot Brand.

Control & the Future of the Internet.  Finally, the ability to own and control the entire space is the underlying purpose of operating the dot Brand.  Everything we do online somehow connects back to the DNS and the top level domain is at the very core of it all.  Why not own it and control it into the future?

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If you could go back to the late 1990s and give most CMOs a choice of putting their company name in dot com, or electing be a Dot Brand, they would all choose a Dot Brand.  Why wouldn’t you want your brand to be at the top level and exclusive?  But it wasn’t available back in the late 1990s when most companies started building out the early concept of a web page.  Instead, they began down a twenty year journey of building out an online presence, optimizing it for search engines, adding  e-commerce, then social media and mobile and now the internet of things.  That’s why the thought of moving the digital landscape into a new Dot Brand is daunting.  And, make no mistake, it is a big project, but the benefits in the long-term will be worth it.  However, none of this will happen if your C-suite executives don’t learn and understand the benefits.  It’s easy to sit around and wait and see what Google, Amazon or others do.  But, by the time you see it, you’ll already be years behind.   As the engagement with the Dot Brand comes up on five years, it may be time to consider if you’re ready for the commitment it takes to really use the Dot Brand.