Planning Your Brand gTLD
For gTLD applicants, the acquisition phase of the process is nearly complete. Even applicants with high prioritization draw numbers are starting to receive clarifying questions. Each week more applications pass initial evaluation. Within the next 30 – 60 days, all applicants are likely to have received their clarifying questions and be on their way to contracting with ICANN. While contracting could take time for large brands, given the current policy debates about contract terms, brand gTLD applicants need to start building their digital management team, operating budget and P&L for their new gTLDs to launch in 2014.
Time to Move on from Legal
For most brand gTLDs, the project is being managed by legal through acquisition. Unless the leadership of the company understands the real strategic opportunity behind gTLDs, there probably aren’t a lot of resources or time being dedicated to building a plan around gTLDs right now. Taking a wait and see approach or just planning to migrate what you have in .com over to your .brand is a mistake and a lost opportunity over competitors who did not apply. In most companies I talk to, someone had enough vision to understand that this could be valuable internet real estate, but in most cases it hasn’t gone that much further. This means it’s time to get the gTLD project out of legal and into business operations.
The Power of the Brand gTLD as a Digital Asset
The real opportunity for all brand gTLDs is the ability to offer a secure environment for consumers, unmatched in .com, and to track and utilize big data. There are many other innovative opportunities in the expanding internet environment, but if the top level domain is not designed with the right architecture, those opportunities will be lost. If you applied and your competitors didn’t, you won’t want to miss out on this big competitive advantage. It will likely be another three years or more before your competitors could launch a gTLD so don’t throw away this opportunity.
Building the Digital Team
So, what’s a brand gTLD to do? First, start by selecting someone in digital operations, or at least outside of legal, to own the project. This is a critical digital asset of the company and should be managed by someone with expertise in managing digital assets and projects. Second, educate the C-Suite and particularly the CMO, on the opportunities that exist, as well as what digital leaders like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are doing with their gTLD portfolios. Once someone high enough in the chain understands that this is going to be a paradigm shift in the internet, that it will change search and navigation and that it is a valuable asset, and then there is more interest in dedicating time and resource to the building out the gTLD strategy.
Now, it’s time to develop your gTLD working group team. This needs to consist of technical engineers and designers, IT and security, legal, brand, marketing subject matter experts, as well as some of your visionaries or innovative thinkers in the organization. It’s helpful to have a facilitator brief this working group on what’s happening in the gTLD landscape and provide big thinking. Once the working group is fully informed, then a facilitator can lead a strategic planning session(s) to develop a clear strategy that integrates with your overall digital, social media and mobile platform plans.
Building the Return on Investment Model
Once you complete the strategic planning process, detailed financial models can be built. In many cases, brands likely already have digital operating budgets for existing .com operations and for social media and mobile platforms. There are some resources that will need to be dedicated to the gTLDs in particular, but for the most part, you are likely already budgeting for many of these functions within existing digital. Accordingly, it may be necessary to build a budget for gTLD best practices and then integrate remaining budget into existing digital models. The profitability flows from new revenue opportunities that are generated with gTLDs. Depending upon your organization’s structure, allocating budget and profits may take time to resolve. This is why building the team and the strategy now is so critical. And, as we move into summer months, most companies start thinking about budgets for 2014.The acquisition phase of gTLDs is coming to a close. Start building your digital management team now and educate your leadership to be prepared for launching in 2014.