Roadmap to the Brand gTLD
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 09th May 2014 in 360 Blog

I spend a lot of time talking with digital marketing leaders inside companies which applied for a new brand gTLD. They are all facing some of the same challenges – where to begin? It’s an enormous undertaking to even consider what to do with the gTLD. Everyone know simply moving the .com isn’t the answer, but what is the right approach? We’ll be hosting a webinar in a few weeks and cover in more detail a roadmap to planning for a gTLD. In the interim, I’ve outlined a few of the key points in this week’s blog.

Build the team. The first key step inside a brand is to build a clear team. That may sound obvious, but it’s harder than it appears. Getting key executive level sponsorship to understand the potential and put some muscle behind innovative thinking is key. Of course, you’ll also need a team of people to actually do the work and build the strategy, but sponsorship at the C-Suite level is a must-have first step. Once you have this in place, educate key leaders across the organization so that as the discussion of search, navigation, domain names and the new gTLDs comes in from various external sources, leaders across the organization know there is a team working on those issues. In some companies, we’ve built out short videos that help to quickly educate and excite people across the company about the innovative opportunities.

Strategic Planning. Like any new initiative, building a strategic plan is essential. If you don’t set measurable goals, you can’t show success or failure. Because gTLDs are so new, it’s hard to know on what to base decision making. But, there are data points to use in the planning process. You can analyze if your competitors, vendors or customers applied for a gTLD and speculate what they might do. You can review your current data on social and mobile platforms as well as current search data – what’s working and what’s not? And of course, evaluate data on current digital experiences in your digital world. Based upon this research you can start to find the clues that will help you build a successful gTLD experience for your consumer. As part of the strategic planning process, it’s important to consider the various platform strategies available – the gTLD is truly a technology platform so by understanding the platform strategies you can start to narrow into a more concrete plan. It’s also important to build in monetization strategies so you can create the business case for your plan. Once you have the fundamentals to the plan in place, it’s time for an ideation session. We’ll be hosting a webinar on pure idea generation this summer, but, taking time to generate blue sky thinking will be important as part of the strategic planning process. Also during this phase, best practices will need to be identified for how the gTLD is used and how domain names, in general, will be used as part of a holistic digital strategy. How will new campaigns be managed in terms of the digital address? SEO optimization, tracking and assigning subdomains, building a home subdomain, tracking data, migration of .com and partnerships should all be considered in building out the best practices. Finally, in this stage, it’s critical to integrate the experience the consumers has on your new digital platform with their experience in social, mobile and across the internet as they search and find new experiences.

Architecture. With a clear plan in place, it’s time to architect the gTLD. While this is very similar to architecting other web sites, this has a few nuances to consider. You’ll need to think about navigation, landing pages versus a home page, navigation icons, taxonomy and the unique memorable digital addresses, connection with existing digital addresses and, of course, the design and feel of how your brand translates on this new digital platform. Like any new product roll out, you won’t want to leave this to chance. Building in time for clear market testing in order to recalibrate design, navigation or taxonomy is important to initial success.

Promote. As you move toward launch date, you’ll have to decide if this is going to be quiet and stealth or if you’ll promote the launch. Consumer behavior will likely start to shift as the big digital leaders like Google and Amazon begin creating new consumer experiences. Will you wait until they move or will you begin to promote your new digital assets and experiences in traditional marketing like billboards or magazine ads, television or go viral in the social sphere?

Launch. There is of course a technical aspect to the launch that needs to be tested and proven before promoting your new gTLD to the public. Once you know everything works correctly and it’s launched, you’ll want to pay close attention to the data you can now track within your gTLD, as well as traditional data about search, navigation and how consumers are moving from one place to the next in your digital world and be prepared to make adjustments quickly to respond to the ever changing consumer.

Going forward. Of course, on a going forward basis, the gTLD has to be managed so developing a clear process and philosophy for the management of the gTLD as an asset will be important. And, finally, as consumers become aware of new gTLDs and start to navigate the internet differently, what new needs will arise? Are you prepared to be disruptive? Like many paradigm shifts, they happen slowly until the tipping point is reached, but still seem to take companies by surprise. Build in room to be disruptive and consider what could come next.

This is just a very broad overview of a long and complex process. We’ll cover it in more detail in our webinar later this month.