Top Brands Who Didn’t Apply for a gTLD
Posted by Jennifer Wolfe on 19th March 2014 in 360 Blog

Some of the top tech brands who didn’t apply for a gTLD includeFacebook, Pandora, Twitter and EBay. In the consumer goods sector, companies like Kraft Foods, Coca Cola, Pepsi, KFC, Hershey, Unilever, United, American Airlines, Disney, ESPN, and Verizon didn’t apply.

When I speak at conferences, people often ask me why I think they didn’t apply. While I only know for sure in a few companies, I can speculate that most often their digital budget was focused on other initiatives. While $185,000 isn’t exactly a lot of money for powerhouse companies like Disney, adding up the application fee across multiple brands, the question of whose budget it comes out of was center stage during those discussions. Additionally, during the application period, we didn’t know that half the world’s brands would apply or that Google would apply for 101 or Amazon for 76. If we had those data points, it may have changed some thinking. And, I often found that in some companies the business case wasn’t presented as clearly as it could have been. For most CEOs of a major company, if he or she learned the internet could undergo a paradigm shift and that it cost $185,000 to apply for a .brand, the CEO would ask for a business case weighing pros and cons. But, if instead, I told you we could apply, wait and see who else applied and then either go forward or withdraw to get most of our money back, most CEOs would understand that was a risk worth taking. But for many brands, the idea of a defensive play was the only one that got real traction, which wasn’t enough to pass the $185,000 hurdle. So while the money wasn’t the issue, it many ways, it clogged thinking about the value.

So the big question now, “What should they (the companies who didn’t apply) be doing now?” In most companies, the only people paying attention to the new gTLDs are the lawyers. And they, rightly so, are focused on protection. But there are many digital strategic opportunities to acquire important digital real estate for your company, not to mention to understand how the new gTLDs could change the way consumers search and navigate the internet.

CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and CDOs (Chief Digital Officers) should, at a minimum, become educated about what brands did apply, what they might do with it and how it could transform search and navigation of the internet. Coupled with other digital transformations occurring such as Google Chrome Cast, fiber optic cable, the internet of things, consumption of internet across devices, the scaled expansion of the internet with these new gTLDs will drive changes in consumer behavior. The brands who didn’t apply need to pay event more attention than those who did apply because they may need the new extensions more so than those who did and now control their own top level domain.

In the 1990s there was a gold rush to acquire names and most companies were left without the critical assets they needed, forced to pay a premium. Based upon early reports on registration of the new domains including .guru, .singles, .lighting, to name just a few, Digital investors are buying up new domain names focused on generic terms that could be valuable for big brands to integrate into campaigns.

It is forward thinking to buy up names and campaigns ahead of the curve, but visionary companies are made by thinking ahead. For brands who didn’t apply for a gTLD, it is important to understand your current data analytics and ask yourself what could be an important landing page or campaign in these new spaces and be prepared to secure those domains. Of course, with 900+ new generics, you can’t afford to buy and maintain everything proactively, but in this gold rush of new domains, you don’t want to be left without important digital real estate. For the many brands who did not apply, round two is likely several years away. But in the interim, the way we use the internet could change right in front of your digital eyes. Be prepared by educating key leaders, evaluating the landscape, strategically evaluating your digital real estate and consider the impact if your competitors have a gTLD and you don’t.