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What will you do with your brand gTLD?

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If you are in charge of the gTLD inside your company, there are no shortage of ideas, but getting them into concrete form that can move forward may prove a bit challenging.  We’ll be hosting a webinar this month to discuss the ideation process and offer ideas on how the new gTLDs can be used by brands, but offer here a few ideas of our own, as well as structure to help you consider how to facilitate these discussions inside your organization. 

What’s in a Name? How to secure the new Digital Addresses

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Digital marketers are likely aware or are starting to hear about new ideas in the domain space or digital addresses as I like to refer to them in marketing terms.  Whether it’s how your company could use a .guru or .technology address or how new campaigns like or could be used as part of a digital strategy, what do you really need and how do you get it?  In the past,  domain names were usually just one part of building out new campaigns and usually an afterthought.  The fact that agencies viewed acquiring the domain name as an after thought is why many brands have shelled out five, six and even seven figures for a domain name.  Once they’ve spent hundreds of thousands or more in building a new product, business model or campaign, why wouldn’t they shell out a little more for a memorable domain name.  But with 900+  new segmented spaces on the internet launching over the next two years and half of the world’s top brands launching their own digital worlds at the top level, what do you need to acquire to have in your digital arsenal?  Will agencies start to think more strategically when they develop campaigns?  What about smaller businesses  - will they move into a more segmented space? 

Budgeting for Brand gTLDs

For most companies, the gTLD was an investment in the future of the internet in response to a short time window in which to apply for a gTLD.  Wanting to gain a competitive edge, half the world’s top brands invested the $185,000 application fee for one or more gTLDs.  Now that gTLDs are moving forward and more money will need to be invested to actually develop the gTLD as platform, whose budget should cover the costs?  In many companies the initial application fee came out of a slush fund or extra fund for these types of unexpected opportunity costs.  In others, it came out of legal, IT or marketing.  As the gTLD moves forward and development costs begin, however, it is helpful for companies to consider how to structure the gTLD in the budget as a capital asset. 

Roadmap to the Brand gTLD

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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.

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. 


Does your company need a Chief Digital Officer?


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.


Top Brands Who Didn't Apply for a gTLD


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.


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.


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:


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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