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The Age of Digital Transformation

Most digital marketers realize we are in an age of digital transformation.  As Schmidt & Cohen said in their book, The New Digital Age, "What you can watch on your various displays . .  . will be determined by you, not by network-television schedules.  At your fingertips will be an entire world's worth of digital content, constantly updated, ranked and categorized to help you find the music, movies, shows, books, magazines, blogs and art you like."  And not only are consumers finding themselves in charge, the accelerated adoption of new technologies means that as we live our life in the digital world, we more rapidly accept and adopt to new ways of doing things.  Consider a few transformations in the past of how we communicate and find entertainment. 

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Does your company need a Chief Digital Officer?

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Companies are digitally innovating faster than ever as digital assets are often at the center of today's marketing and social media initiatives. The list is long but some of the significant initiatives include user interfaces, apps, social networking functions, personalization options on web pages, subscriber perks and new products and services related to digital assets.  As this inherently crosses over long standing company silos, forward-looking companies are arming themselves with a new senior executive – the Chief Digital Officer or CDO. The CDO’s main role is to bridge the fragmented corporate environment by connecting marketing, social media, IT, research and development, intellectual property and privacy experts and other key stakeholders to ensure digital assets are being developed and utilized strategically.

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Top Brands Who Didn't Apply for a gTLD

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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.

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What’s the P&L for the Brand gTLD?

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For many companies, the gTLDs have added significant line items to the budget.  In the application phase there was the filing fee of $185,000 plus legal and consulting fees to get the project off the ground.  As the asset moves from acquisition to management, there will be registry operator, registrar, data escrow, ICANN and other fees.  And, in brand protection there will be an increase in fees to monitor, protect and utilize Sunrise periods across thousands of new top level domains. 

For many brand gTLDs, the decision to apply was defensive in nature, and accordingly, not a lot of effort went into creating a P&L.  Some companies were strategic enough to recognize this was a capital acquisition and treated the digital real estate as just that – a capital expense that can be amortized over its useful life, which is typically considered 15 years as an intangible asset.  Others may be able to place it in an IP Holding company and utilize certain tax credits for research and development. While some may have simply absorbed the cost in legal or spread the line item across departments as a budget item.

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Building the gTLD Road Map

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Most brands applied for gTLD(s) to protect their brand and ensure they didn’t miss an important new opportunity, but few had a clear business case for how they would use the gTLD platform when they applied.  While the $185,000 price tag was substantially more than acquiring a typical domain, the short window of time to apply and ability to receive a partial refund made it a risk worth taking.  Once the world learned that Google applied for 101 top level domains and Amazon for 76 and half of the world’s top brands all applied (not to mention there will be 900+ new generic terms entering the internet in the next two years), most brands determined it was worth staying in the game.  Many remain skeptical about serious erosion of .com, but the potential for change at an accelerating pace cannot be overlooked. Most teams can see some advantages and ways to use the gTLD, however, the business case, ROI and strategy remain elusive. 

Over the last 18 months, brands have worked their way through the initial evaluation process and are now ready for contracting.  In most companies, the legal department has been charged with acquisition and policy management.   As legal moves into contracting, they continue to call for their digital marketing, IT and business counterparts to step up and build a plan.  To do so requires creative and visionary thinking, new assumptions and objective facilitation to move a diverse group of business leaders to mobilize around this opportunity.  Because there is no external driving force or clear road map, it’s easy to let this one languish.  But, with all brands moving into contracting, the opportunity to be an innovative digital leader in the marketplace is now.  Bridging the gap between IT, Legal, Marketing and Digital Operations with clear direction from the C-Suite on overarching strategy is not most company’s strong suit.  But building a roadmap ahead doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Start with the basics:



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Top 10 Digital & gTLD Trends for 2014

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As digital marketers approach 2014, it’s not hard to see that we are in an age of digital transformation.  Technology is not only being developed but adopted at an accelerating rate.  Access to data is changing how we approach all facets of our business – everything must be supported by data that is so much more easily available.  In 2014, the internet will begin to undergo its long-awaited expansion with thousands of new top level domains launching and changing the landscape of possibilities.  After studying at length the gTLD applications, studying shifts in consumer behavior and interviewing industry experts, a few clear digital trends begin to emerge for 2014.

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The Dot Com Bubble - Part Two?

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In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the world went crazy over websites based businesses with absolutely no revenue model.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were sunk into the “.com” bubble.  Now, those models have evolved into billion dollar industries such as data mining, shopping online and advertising.  As the new gTLDs prepare to launch, I can’t help but ask,   “What is the bubble in the .anything paradigm shift?”  And, what happens to all those companies who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions for their .com – what’s it worth now? 

After years of venture capitalists pouring billions into dot coms and often paying millions just to acquire the .com name, only to have the lion’s share of those companies completely flame out, is it any wonder that ICANN determined a high barrier of entry was required in the next generation of the Internet ($185,000 to apply for a gTLD)?  No one may be crying over the lost VC money, the trickle down impact on the stock market has been felt by all. A brief history lesson provides some guidance.   For example, according to John Cassidy in his book dot. con, the biggest venture capital deal of 1999 was $275 million for Webvan, an online grocery store.  Two months after starting, it filed for an IPO, which was a new record in the craze of .coms filing for IPOs.  It had lost $35 million on sales of just $395,000.  Following this IPO, others quickly followed:  egreetings.com, mothernature.com, smarterkids.com, ecollege.com, toys.com, pets.com and kozmo.com.  The commonality among all of these companies – they had no revenue – only venture capital backing.  The venture capitalists were actually creating wealth out of nothing by speculating and launching IPO campaigns.  Journalists soon began to realize that the jig may be up.  Pegasus Research International predicted in early 2000, that within twelve months at least fifty Internet companies would have no money left.  And on Friday, April 14, 2000, ironically 88 years to the day after the Titanic sank, CNBC and CNNfn reported that prices were rising faster than any point in the last five years.  Waves of selling began to hit the technology driven NASDAQ.  Afternoon margin calls added pressure and the Dow was down 617.78 points and the NASDAQ was down 355.49 points at closing.  This was the biggest percentage fall since Black Monday, October 19, 1987.  In just one week, nearly $2 trillion of stock market wealth had been eviscerated.  This became known as the Internet bubble bursting.  Jim Cramer said “The Gold Rush is over” and the days of entrepreneurs raising money on just an idea to an end.  For companies that had created online divisions or tried to spin off Internet businesses, it was time to rethink everything.  The .com craze had a string of irrational investing that came to an end.  Or, did it?


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Why Digital Marketers Should Care About ICANN

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The 48th meeting of ICANN, celebrating 15 years of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers, came to a close on Friday, November 22, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  As you might expect, the halls were filled with lawyers and policy makers, technical experts, registrars and registry operators discussing the hot topics of the week.   So, why, you may be asking, should digital marketers care what happens at ICANN? 

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Brands & gTLDs – Stopping to Breathe and Strategize

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As I continue to work with companies across the globe on their new gTLD strategies, I have found a few commonalities, regardless of the industry.  Everyone is so busy with their “day jobs” that it’s hard to really get a team mobilized around the new gTLD project.  As a result, many brands are moving rather slowly in developing a plan.  They’ve all passed initial evaluation, but now they have to decide what to do with it. 

Rooms are filled with executives across functions in the business.  The IT guys will tell you that they aren’t about to move millions of pages layered deep within the .com over to a new gTLD without a clear strategy.  The e-commerce team has to re-tool to handle potentially new forms of email addresses in their e-commerce systems.  Legal and privacy experts are concerned about heightened responsibilities and changes to privacy laws, struggling to forecast how that fits in with use of the gTLD – now as a registry operator no less.  The digital team is struggling to handle platform integration and new social media sites popping up daily drawing new users and eyeballs that have to be managed, tracked and analyzed.  The CMO is still trying to figure out how to balance a budget between traditional marketing with the whole new digital age and big data push.  No one has been charged with the P&L of the gTLD (whatever that really looks like) and the poor unlucky soul charged with managing the gTLD project is herding cats to meetings that no one wants to attend (notice how many people don’t show up?)


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Are gTLDs the digital ‘hoods of the future?

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As I continue my quest to consider innovative ways for marketers to use the new gTLDs, I often look back to business books from 10-15 years ago to review the trends of the day.  Faith Popcorn, renowned in the 1990s for predicting the future, may not have foreseen Facebook, Twitter or some of the latest technology.  But she did know that as people sought refuge from the fast paced world of the day by “cocooning,” that they would also seek the sense of community we all desire through “clanning” in remote and safe environments (i.e. social networking).  See Faith Popcorn’s book “Clicking” circa 1997 for more details. 

Today, of course, we see how social media has transformed the ability to connect people anywhere in the world even while sitting alone in the dark with merely the haze of the computer screen, tablet or smart phone lighting the room.  Clanning or social has changed the way we think about our lives.  We are connected to those we’ve never met and feel close to those far away without any interaction other than the sharing of a photo or a post, poke, like, whatever. 


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