The gTLD Factor — Digital Brand Strategy for 2014
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 02nd July 2013 in 360 Blog

As brands start to think about budgeting for 2014, it’s important to consider the impact of the launch of nearly 1400+ new top level domains. This new external force impacts how you think about your domain name and search. As digital leaders such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and half of the world’s top brands begin to reshape the consumer experience on the internet in 2014, do you need to invest in these new domains? Consider a few key questions to ask yourself about the impact of the new gTLDs on your digital strategy. To develop your strategy, ask yourself these key questions:

Do any of the new gTLDs fit within your brand category?
Does your current data analytics suggest that any of the new generic top level domains might be related to how people find you?
Would there be a benefit to securing a Google domain name? What about Amazon? Doe these fit with your existing digital strategy?
Why will these new gTLDs impact my digital strategy?
Will consumers go somewhere else if I don’t adapt?
Did my competitors apply? What will they do that I can’t do?
Will search change as a result?
What could it cost me to secure the domains I want if I don’t get them early in the process?
Will this be like .com?
How fast will that change occur?
If this does change everything about the way people use the Internet, how will it impact by bottom line?
How does your current digital strategy work in the new landscape?
Can you map it out against competitors?
Do you need disruptive innovation now? Is this the catalyst?
Can your .com strategy just evolve or do you need to reinvent it?

Generic and Community Sites

Once you develop your strategy, survey the landscape of the generic and community sites that impact your industry. Map them out along with your competitors to try to predict what competitors will do and where you want to be. Likewise, map out these sites with what you think will be important to your customers and stakeholders. How will they be using these sites? What can and should you apply for? Community sites may provide a greater badge of authenticity and may be held to a higher standard in the minds of consumers so if counterfeiting is a problem in your business – this is definitely something for you to look to. Of course, once you determine where you want to be, you have to go back to your strategy – how do you execute on that plan? Securing the real estate is important, but moving consumers is another.

Also, remember to piggyback off of what others are doing. Monitor Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo and others to see what they are doing and how they are maneuvering. Where they go, others will follow.

Geographic Sites

Depending upon your business model, geographic sites may be very important. For example, if you are in the restaurant or entertainment business – any business where people still actually go to a physical location – you will want to register on these geographic sites. For example yourbusiness.nyc. Or, consider partnering with a geographic site to help build a generic such as restaurants.nyc orrestaurants.cincinnati. They or the local associations may be open to partnering with you if you take a community activist approach. This not only helps you build your strategy, but to be a leader in the community building online.

Back Up Plans

Build in back up plans. While there are safeguards in place, if your entire strategy is built around a generic or community and they fail entirely or just fail to generate the critical mass anticipated (such as .tv or .travel), you will want to continue to have other strategies and build plans in tandem with one another. Sometimes you have to throw a lot up and see what sticks and then throw everything you have behind what sticks. Like any unchartered business territory, we can use past experience and similar paradigm shifts for guidance, but we can never be 100% certain of what will happen. Accordingly, build in back up plans so that wherever the next generation takes us, you are ready.

Build Relationships with Brand Applicants

Evaluate which brands did apply that may have a strategic alignment with your business. Can you partner or affiliate with them to build a better consumer experience.

Acquire or Partner

Of course, if you didn’t get in and want to be in quickly, you can acquire a site that fits your strategy. Alternatively, you can find other domain owners that might partner with you. Use your map of competitors and your industry on the Internet to identify potential partners or acquisition sources. Can you license, collaborate or in some way leverage your success with someone else’s?

Don’t Sit on the Sidelines

This next generation of the Internet creates new global opportunities for businesses around the planet to be connected in a deeper way and create a universal language of branding on the Internet. Use this as an opportunity to this about new opportunities and find ways to be engaged. And, if you think a top level domain is right for you, carefully monitor ICANN. The plan is that if all goes well, they’ll do this again.