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Big Business Has Been Using the New TLD Concept for Years

Michael Twist

The recent practice of major corporations abandoning the use of forward slashes in domain names and placing the product or service in front of their corporate domain name reinforces the business case for why we need new Top-Level Domains.

By now we've all had a chance to digest the concept around the new TLD program and in some cases even come up with our own amazing ideas for the next .com or a niche TLD that will make us millionaires overnight!

Well maybe some of us have…

Others are taking a far more practical approach to the exciting new changes to the Internet and how it will be adopted and used, in particular within the corporate arena. While there is still much conjecture around rights protection and trademark issues, the biggest unknown I think is how and when the new .brand TLDs will be used.

Speaking with a number of corporate clients recently it has become painfully clear that not everyone is as excited about the prospect of .brand TLDs hitting the online marketplace as I am. Whilst there is a large number of forward thinking organisations out there that can see the future ahead, the reality is that there are still a number of companies who see the whole program as a waste of time and money and will only be applying purely as a brand protection mechanism or even worse, not at all!

It's these clients that ask me, how can a .brand do anything but hinder our marketing and strategic plans?

Well the answer to this question came to me as I was reading an industry publication over my afternoon coffee and biscuit. I saw an advertisement for a new shoe from global sporting powerhouse, Nike.

Now the product itself, although quite ingenious wasn't what caught my eye. What caught my eye was the web address — nikeid.nike.com

This got me thinking…

  1. Why did Nike choose this address as opposed to the commonly used www.nike.com/nikeid?
  2. Why didn't they choose www.nikeid.com?
  3. Is this proving a more effective way to deliver their message?
  4. Is anyone else doing this?

The first three questions are there for Nike to answer but I would guess they chose the structure to assist in message recall and easier direct type into the web browser, which all lead to a simpler and more effective way for their customers to interact with them.

I also looked at nikeid.com and it resolved to the nikeid.nike.com page — interesting.

The third question I can answer for you very simply — "yes" other companies are doing this. Taking just five minutes on Google I found four of the biggest brands in their respective industries doing exactly the same thing:

  • software.intel.com
  • podcast.bmw.com
  • ebookstore.sony.com
  • store.apple.com

As you can see the trend is to bring the product or service ahead of the TLD in order to enhance customer recall which leaves the .com as a superfluous suffix that is only utilized because current protocols and domain name infrastructure dictates that the address would not work without it.

How much easier would it be for customers to remember the promotions if it was simply;

  • software.intel
  • podcast.bmw
  • ebookstore.sony
  • store.apple

If you're having trouble noticing the difference, try saying it to yourself like you were listening to a television commercial or a radio advertisement!!

So what does this really mean?

In my humble opinion the take up time of .brand and its transition to main stream usage may not take as long as some may think. With these big brands already utilizing the product.brand way of addressing it's clear that the exercise of merely dropping the .com at the end is the only obstacle that needs to be overcome for the .brand way of thinking to revolutionise how we navigate the Internet.

That… and a few short sighted people looking beyond a digital marketing strategy that lasts a year or two!

By Michael Twist, Chief Marketing Officer at dotHIV
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Related topics: Domain Names, New TLDs, Web
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There are technical issues to consider The Famous Brett Watson  –  Feb 17, 2011 8:55 PM PST

Why did Nike choose this address as opposed to the commonly used www.nike.com/nikeid?

There may be a human comprehension component to the decision, but it also has the purely technical benefit that the product-specific website does not need to be co-hosted with the main website. The subdomain can have its own address records, and these may or may not be the same as the "www" generic address record. This separation makes it easier to separate administrative oversight of the brand-specific website from the generic website, and allows it to be hosted on a separate server farm if needs be.

You can achieve a similar result with a proxy server setup and placing the brand name in the path rather than the host component, but this tends to result in a slower and more complex setup, with the proxy server being a single point of failure that will take out the entire site if it goes down.

Why didn't they choose www.nikeid.com?

Clearly they did register this name, probably as a pre-emptive measure against cybersquatters and other malicious registrations. The fact that it redirects to nikeid.nike.com suggests two lines of thought: avoid market confusion by ensuring that all Nike properties end in ".nike.com", and avoid catastrophe resulting from failing to re-register a plethora of domain names. In the words of Pudd'nhead Wilson, "put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket." If the registration on nikeid.com lapses, the worst they've done is expose themselves to possible malicious registration of a domain they haven't promoted.

Is this proving a more effective way to deliver their message?

I doubt that the considerations are purely driven by marketing, given the other issues I've raised, but concentrating on "nike.com" avoids potential market confusion, as mentioned.

I find it mildly disturbing that you — a consultant for a domain name related business — have addressed the issue as though marketing were the only consideration.

Thanks for your comment Brett. I think Michael Twist  –  Feb 20, 2011 10:34 PM PST

Thanks for your comment Brett.
I think you make a good point that the considerations for Global Brand Holders goes far beyond the marketing aspects. There is also a technical component that must be addressed.
It’s great to see that we agree that global brands have already taken the initiative to modify the way they use their domain names – for both marketing and technical reasons, now it’s just time for us to drop the .com and catch up!

Must We Continue To Limit Ourselves To The Walled Garden Of .COM? Ray Marshall  –  Feb 20, 2011 9:25 PM PST

Michael,

Thank you for providing us with a fresh perspective on this issue.  I wonder what would have happened if companies were allowed to acquire their .brand from the very beginning.  For instance, what if every domain name owned and operated by Nike had the company name to the right of the dot?  What if Nike's customers only looked for domains with Nike to the right of the dot?  Would they have ventured beyond the left-hand side of the dot, i.e. nike.anyextension?  Would they have wanted to venture beyond the left-hand side of the dot?  Would they have trusted websites on domains with Nike to the left-hand side of the dot?  If such an arrangement were made available to companies long ago, would we have experienced the kind of trademark infringement issues due to company names to the left-hand side of the dot?  Perhaps this is why certain companies are starting to head in that direction, i.e. .Canon.  If history has taught us anything in the Information Age, it's that walled gardens don't last forever.

Subdomains Daniel R. Tobias  –  Feb 22, 2011 8:18 PM PST

The use of subdomains in a logical manner to reflect things that are subsidiary to the main company/organization is merely using the domain name system as it was originally intended, as for instance cs.cmu.edu (in use since the 1980s for the Carnegie Mellon University computer science department).  Seeing more such use by major corporations is a good sign; maybe their marketing types are finally moving away from the concept that they need a Stupid Unnecessary Domain Name for every marketing gimmick.  (Only in baby steps, though, as seen by their still registering the plethora of other domains resembling the subdomain.)

Thanks Daniel. Logical flow in domain names Michael Twist  –  Feb 22, 2011 11:30 PM PST

Thanks Daniel. Logical flow in domain names increases brand and product recall which is essentially what brand holders are after in their online strategy. Giving them the ability to create a new, but also easily remembered domain name for each product and promotion can only increase the effectiveness of their communications, their brand awareness and the efficiency of their message, which is ultimately what all online brand strategies are looking to achieve.

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