Putting the Word Home in Front of Your DotBrand Is Not a Strategy
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 23rd June 2016 in gTLD

Some of the first “use cases” by Dot Brands have simply added Home in front of their Dot Brand and redirected existing home page content or replicated content in other traditional country codes or Dot Com.  A few of the more notable ones include Home.Barclays or Home.Cern,  Home.Travelers and Home.Redumbrella.  Many of the reported “use cases” simply redirect back to an older Dot Com page buried behind a series of backslashes, such as disruptaging.aarp, inside.chanel, learn,cisco,  search.bing, and bba.bloomberg.  While it is certainly exciting to see the Dot Brand live and in use and I share the enthusiasm for companies doing something, I fear in the long-term ineffective use like this will do more harm than good because it doesn’t fit with any long-range digital strategy.

The primary benefit of the Dot Brand is not to redirect without purpose or to replicate everything you already have, but to utilize it for the many benefits it has over the traditional Dot Com page and integrate into a longer-range digital strategy.  In fact, in most instances, savvy digital marketers recognize the home page is dead or at least no longer the focal point of a digital strategy.  Digital is about constantly building something new and innovative that adds value to the digital world where consumers connect with brands across mobile, social media, the internet of things, microsites, email, and landing pages.   Most digital marketers are constantly creating, reinventing and leveraging their brands and connections with their consumers in a larger digital ecosystem beyond just the old school home page.

The Dot Brand is a platform for this holistic digital experience.  It can be a backbone to run mobile apps and launch social platforms.  It can serve as a base for new and interesting campaigns, products or trends to start.  It can serve as an important source of authenticity and connection to the brand.   It can add security and give you greater ability to control traffic in and out of your entire digital experience.  It can be a portal to content or shopping.  There are so many good strategies for using the Dot Brand, but redirecting existing home pages ore replicating experiences is not one of them.  In fact, redirecting and replicating content actually detracts from the value and creates marketplace confusion for both humans and search engine algorithms.

The Dot Brand must be CREATING a better user experience or solving an existing problem to support the long term value and return on investment.  It must be original and exclusive (as in not also showing up in country codes and dot com and actually promoted to consumers).   Otherwise, what’s the point?  Redirects of a Home.Brand or replication of content will not get any CMO excited about the future and could ultimately spell doom for that company’s effort in the Dot Brand space.  The cost of operating the Dot Brand is significantly higher than simply renewing an inexpensive Dot Com every year.  If you don’t use it for something more meaningful, strategic and in a way you measure success and impact on the business, ultimately senior executives will question why so much money and company resources are  being invested to simply redirect, set up a landing page or replicate what already existed.   And, no consumer is going to get overly excited about a Home.DotBrand or a redirect of which they aren’t even aware.

Most of the existing use cases also still have up content in other top level domains like country codes or, in most cases, Dot Com.  They have not advertised or promoted the new names broadly to consumers, which means consumers are completely unaware of the new names, diminishing any ability to build search equity or consumer brand recognition. Accordingly, it has no consumer benefit.  When marketers stop and look at the impact of running parallel digital properties in Dot Com and Dot Brand without seeing a benefit, they may opt to shelve the Dot Brand until someone else figures it out.  While holding costs could be considered low for some large corporations and justified for defensive purposes, ultimately someone looking at budgets ahead will question the cost and aggravation of dealing with ICANN and multiple vendors to hold on to an asset if they aren’t going to use it in a unique way compared to the cost of maintain the Dot Com.  Do not underestimate this real threat because if Dot Brands don’t have a real strategy, shelve these or worse start abandoning them, then the Dot Brand movement will slow roll until a few get it right.  I’ve talked to many senior executives at big global consumer brands who did not apply in round one and they repeatedly tell me to come back when someone does something interesting and exciting.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge advocate for the long-term value of the Dot Brand for all organizations.  I’ve written books and columns for years now about it and I believe in the future that every major corporation will want to anchor their digital strategy in a Dot Brand.  But, I fear that in the short term these companies who are going about it without solid strategic planning will ultimately fail in delivering value to their companies.  And when they fail to deliver value,  that just leaves open room for all those people out there who want to kill this whole Dot Brand movement plenty of ammunition to do so.

There are so many powerful ways to use the Dot Brand that will get your CMO and your senior executives excited about controlling one of your most important assets – the hub to your digital world anchored in your brand name.  But that won’t happen with redirects or landing pages.  Building out a Dot Brand Strategy is about answering the “Why” question.  Why is this better?  Why will it help us achieve our business objectives?  Why will consumers care?  To answer the Why question, you have to fully understand your Digital Universe.  It’s not the same for every company, which is why there is no one stock answer for the Dot Brand. There is no one singular naming convention that is going to work equally well for everyone.    Not every company will need the same mobile or social media strategy so why would anyone think that everyone should have the same approach to the Dot Brand?

The old school structure of a web site no longer applies.  It’s a digital world which consists of many components.  So you have to think about it and build a plan with a clear methodology.  We call this approach, Digital Mapping®.

Figure 1.7 Digital Mapping

To answer the why, start by mapping out your digital world.  This is about understanding SEO,  mobile, microsites, digital pay, social media, web properties, the internet of things and trends you create and follow with your consumers.  It’s about using all the data you have and understanding the consumer experience in your digital world.  Only when you “do your homework” and fully understand how consumers are now entering and leaving your digital world can you consider how the Dot Brand fits, how it makes things better and how to build out a long-term strategy that will not only be interesting, exciting and compelling, but actually solve problems and improve your business. With a solid strategy, senior leadership will get behind it and then you can build in a step-by-step roadmap to have a profound impact on the long-term digital strategy for your company.  If you are running your Dot Brand, do you want to redirect, build a landing page or replicate content or do you want to do something that will actually have an impact?