Brands: Here's How You Can Take Advantage of ICANN's New Top-Level Domains

While Marketers Have Reasons to Be Concerned, New Domains Offer Significant Opportunities

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Next month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, will initiate a major shift in the digital landscape as it begins accepting applications for a new type of domain structure, known as generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs).

While there are some valid concerns around the introduction of gTLDs, we've played Devil's Advocate and believe there may be some significant digital branding benefits for marketers.

To put it simply, gTLDs may open the door to a new world of creative opportunities for brands. Here are just a few ways brands can take advantage of this transformative moment in the evolution of the web.

Here, are but a few:

Owning a bespoke .brand
gTLDs will shift the online landscape away from the current .com structure and toward a .brand structure where enterprises' names can become their domains. As a result, companies will be empowered to take ownership of branded digital properties such as .coke, .starbucks, and .ibm—or, if they so choose—can own an entire category gTLDs, like .food, .shop, or .money.

Linking product with master brand
A branded gTLD is a way to tie together the various elements of a brand's online architecture in a beautiful and elegant way. For brands like Nestle , Coca-Cola, and Viacom , using a .brand can be a major asset as it allows these brands to link their products to their master brand in a compelling way. For example, Nestle could create a group of URLs under a .nestle gTLD such as californiapizzakitchen.nestle, haagen-dazs.nestle, leancuisine.nestle, and crunch.nestle that tie these disparate sub-brands more closely with both one another and the Nestle master brand.

Creating a truly global brand platform
For brands invested in a global brand platform (think: Coke and 'Open Happiness'), a platform-centric gTLD could prove a significant amplifier to their global branding efforts. Crafting a suite of URLs like coke.happiness, cokezero.happiness, and fanta.happiness would allow the brand to couch each of these products within a platform context. It can also allow these brands to appeal to global consumers in a non-regional way, as shedding the .com of their URL will make them feel less distinctly American and, as a result, more authentic.

Personalized user pages
gTLDs offer a breakthrough opportunity for brands to connect with those who matter to them the most by creating bespoke URLs for individual customers. For financial services brands like American Express, this is particularly exciting as it allows them to craft customized portals, such as seanmacdonald.amex, where content is tailored to the customer's particular needs. This personalized portal could also be accessible via smartphone apps.

Security benefits
gTLDs offer an opportunity for brands to limit both the security and reputational risks posed by fraudulent .com identities. Because .com-based URLs are available for general purchase, they are subject to the risk that essentially anyone with a credit card can own them. By contrast, gTLDs can only be obtained via a thorough vetting process, meaning that any .brand gTLD property has been authenticated by ICANN. Companies operating gTLDs then, can avoid the risk posed by fraudulent .coms by building their web presence within a trusted .brand gTLD ecosystem. This can be particularly useful for financial institutions.

Overall, we at Ogilvy believe that the introduction of gTLDs present an opportunity for brands to embrace creative innovation in their digital branding. For a deeper look into our vision of gTLD opportunities, read our latest digital marketing Insight Paper, "From .com to .brand: the changing face of internet domains," on our blog.

From .com to .brand
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean MacDonald is executive director, digital strategy at Ogilvy & Mather in New York where he develops marketing strategies for clients such as Time Warner Cable, American Express, Cisco, Fanta, Aflac, The Economist, Continental Airlines, DuPont and Ford. Sean came to Ogilvy from Ho Chi Minh City, where he was a founding partner of VietnamWorks, the leading recruiting website in Vietnam.
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