The Ultimate Guide to Brand Top-Level Domains

Navigating the Domain Name System (DNS) can prove to be quite tricky for marketers. It is likely that you have come across the terms subdomains, top level domains, hyper-text transfer protocol, and more if you have ever had to buy a domain name.

But before we go into the technical stuff, let us begin by breaking down a domain name. Let us use the domain name “www.newcoupons.info” for this example. The domain name above is made up of three major sections.

  1. The subdomain (www) comes first before the leading dot.
  2. Next, the domain name ‘newcoupons‘ comes between the two dots.
  3. What we are however interested in is what comes after the training dot and that is what we will be looking at today: the TLD (Top Level Domain).

When the internet began in the 1980s, only a handful of TLDs existed. They included: .com, .net, .org, .mil, .int, and .gov. Since then however, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has increased the size of the domain name system by introducing new TLDs called Brand TLDs.

So what is a Brand TLD? Who owns them, and how are they using them? For the answer to these questions, please read on.

What is a Brand TLD?

what-is-a-brand-tld

A Brand TLD is pretty much like any other TLD like .com, .org, and .net. However, instead of using a generic term, the brand’s trademark is used instead. This would mean instead you would have TLDs like .google or .apple (A brand Top Level Domain is proprietary meaning that only the brand owning the TLD can register second level domains like search.google or nic.apple).

There are however many considerations to make when it comes to security and opportunities of these brand TLDs. it begins with understanding that the Domain Name System is the building stone of the internet. There is no internet without the DNS because everything runs on the DNS. A company therefore gets great opportunities by owning a proprietary space of the DNS. Such opportunities include security, innovation, control, and trust. Now more than ever before, brands have an opportunity to own a slice of the internet.

For marketers that are thinking of making a switch, it is important to monitor the effect that these TLDs will have on brands that already won them since it is still too soon to tell what the long term impacts might be.

Why now?

ICANN governs and sets rules that manage the internet. In 2008, it approved a program that would drastically increase the domain name space by introducing several Top Level domains. It began accepting applications for new TLDs in 2011 from entities from all over the world. Any company of organization had the freedom to apply top own and operate a new top level domain. The application fee was however a staggering $185,000.

Later in 2012, ICANN announced that it had received more than 1,900 new applications for TLDs and 1,400 of these were unique. They separated these into five categories: Geographic, Generic, Category, Brand, and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). In round one, a little over 600 Brands applied (complete list here).

What does the program look like today?

New TLDs began rolling out in February of 2014. By May 1, 2016, more than million domain names had been registered on 978 newly registered TLDs. This represents 13.5% of the 125 million of .com’s population, which took a staggering 30 years to reach.

As of December of 2015, 314 million domains had been registered. As 2016 progresses, it is expected that the remaining 300 to 350 top level domains will be added to the internet. ICANN recently announced the 1000th delegation of the program. It also stated that there are now almost 50 times as many top level domains as there were in 2013. It is however expected that the speed of change will increase as people become more aware of the new TLDs and their usage grows.

ICANN is committing to allow brands and other entities to be able to apply for new TLD in future rounds. It is therefore expected that round 2 will see increased applications of geographic and brand TLDs.

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Why big brands are making the shift

change-to-winBusiness leaders are now beginning to understand the positive effects the new brand TLDs can have on the performance of a business. To help you see the big picture, let us look at some of the main points.

1. Cost benefit

Many people are complaining that applying for and managing a TLD is very costly, and will add considerable burden to a business while offering very little benefit. They are right concerning the initial investment of getting the TLD. It is however more important to consider the brand and what the TLD means for it.
To understand the cost implications better, you would need to dissect the benefits for a brand TLD in comparison to current market conditions.

What is the worth of domain names?
Because of rarity and power of language, one word domains are highly valued – even to millions of dollars. Wikipedia’s list of the most expensive domains has domains that range from $35 million (insurance.com) to $3 million (loans.com). These one word domains also called “category killers” in the industry are very valuable because they are short, easy to remember, and mean something to readers.

If you compare this to the cost of acquiring a brand TLD that offers unlimited one-word domains for a few hundred thousand dollars, it becomes very practical for an entity go get a proprietary TLD.

What is the cost of protecting a brand?

It is common for a company to hold multiple domains for protection purposes. Doing so however usually results in high costs that include administrative costs and registrant counsel costs. Additionally the cost of brand protection, layer on legal fees, writes protection, and recovering infringing domain names is high.

Now consider the efficiency of defending domain activities today, and in the future when there will be thousands of TLDs to protect against. It becomes impractical from a cost and efficiency point of view.

Brand owning a brand TLD could educate its audience to only trust websites using their TLD. The more consumers learn about brand TLDs, the more the cost of managing them in a bit to protect the brand reduces.

2. New capabilities

The number of uses of brand TLDs is in many cases equal to the number of business problems. It is therefore important for brands making this investment to ensure that they are making use of cases that address their objectives and priorities.

To give you a better idea of the way brands benefits from the variety of opportunities, let us look at three initiatives.

customer.brand
This is a customer-oriented initiative that helps brands create advocacy that generates experiences. Brands can take advantage of the new brand TLDs to increase customer engagement, collect intelligence, and motivate influence. A good example of this is where are brand like apple could allow some of their most ardent customers to use their “customername.apple” web presence under some set terms and conditions.

Doing this can help brands take advantage of user-generated content and acquire customer data to better serve the customer. Brands could also reward their customers with points that they accumulate depending on the traffic they generate.

channel.brand

This is an initiative meant to take advantage of brand TLD technology. Its use is to distribute unchanging content experiences all over their point of sale with the intension of increasing the performance of the channel.

For example, insurance companies use middlemen to sell services to their customers. If each middleman had its own “middleman.amfam” domain, they would get more trust from their customers and also feel better supported by the organization.

marcom.brand

This is where marketers use cases to create simple, elegant, yet memorable messages. They can also use this cannel to deliver engaging experiences that match the message and promise of the brand.

This is a wonderful opportunity for brands to experience heightened campaign performance especially taking into consideration the fact that brand TLDs are very easy to remember.

Does Everyone Need to Make the Switch?

conclusion-newcoupons-info

A digital shift is currently underway with the extension of the domain name space. It is therefore important to remember that we are still in the early stages of this shift. As the next round is being processed. The domain name space can only continue to grow.
A brand TLD gives a company an effective way of securing its brand’s future in an increasingly complex online ecosystem. In this ecosystem, customers’ demands trusted and authentic properties to interact with businesses.

The new line of brand TLDs are not like the current URLs. They are also not just any other tool for use to build an online presence and engage with customers. Brand TLDs give companies a platform for increasing digital innovation and trust at the heart of internet’s building blocks.

You may be wondering whether a brand TLD is right for your business. You may also be wondering if it is worth the investment and if it is necessary for businesses in all industries. Well, it depends. It could also be too early to give a final answer.

Irrespective of whether your brand falls into one of these groups or not, it is important to understand the changes that are happening. We recommend that you take these steps to help you start planning for the shift:

  • Work hard to understand the activities in the market and the digital implications.
  • Create a small working team.
  • Ask for advice from experts in the industry.
  • Grade your domain name life cycle and management processes.
  • Create a plan to lead in your target market

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