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CMO Offers Fresh View on New gTLDs: "They're a Channel, Not Just a Label"

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Annalisa Roger

Several years ago, I had a very interesting conversation with a talented marketing executive from Portland, Oregon who joined the DotGreen Community, Inc. Board of Directors. When I told him about the new gTLD program, which was then under development at ICANN, Dave Maddocks immediately understood the value of what new gTLDs would mean to all businesses that have an online location. While so many of us in the domain or Internet industry think of website addresses as locations, or as real-estate, and talk about new gTLDs being able to place a brand or product into a niche marketplace, or how a new gTLD as a label can help identify the content of the website, we may be missing the value and future implications in the analogy that Dave sees. Just this week Dave reiterated his thoughts, and I wanted to share this particular excerpt about new gTLDs with the community on CircleID as it seems this analogy is very logical and one I have not heard before or since in my years in this industry.

* * *

THE INTERNET IS GOING MULTI-CHANNEL
By Dave Maddocks

"… There is logic to what's happening behind this domain proliferation. The folks at ICANN have thought it through. Thankfully, they're taking the long view on this.

Consider the fact that the internet has been much like the first 40+ years of broadcast television: three networks, public broadcasting and a few orphans on the UHF spectrum. The internet has been .com, .org and .gov.

Enter cable television and Fox Broadcasting.
Regardless of what you think of Fox News and Mr. Murdoch's politics, the guy had vision. While the big three were banking on their monopolies, Murdoch picked up the fledgling fourth network, Fox Broadcasting. His visionary move was that his brand could be multi-channel: Fox News for News; Fox Sports for Sports; Fox Broadcasting for Entertainment. Until then, no network had considered this. You would think that CNN would have taught the big three this lesson.

Smart companies will adapt to this strategy as well: Nike.com for commerce; Nike.biz for investor relations; Nike.green for environmental policy and transparency. Some will even use .green for commerce. For example, there are thousands of environmentally safe products available at Target.com, as there are at WalMart.com. Someone will gain first mover advantage by opening a new "door" into their site that takes you right to their sustainable and biodegradable products.

Younger internet users [read: the future] remember addresses, like street names and are moving away from search and directly keying in assumed addresses. As the multi-channel internet develops, they will be apt to expect to type in brandname.green to fulfill another expectation they have: transparency..." [while brandname.newgTLDs will offer and fill a wide realm of other expectations for Internet users].

David Maddocks is a Director of the DotGreen Community, Inc. and the .green new Top Level Domain. He is presently CMO of Cole Haan and was the CMO who led the turn-around of the Converse Brand. While at Converse, he was instrumental in the launch of the cause-based Product (RED).

* * *

With Dave's analogy, it's easy to understand that a brand name with a new gTLD extension isn't an either/or choice for companies; it's like a channel defined in three ways: 1) a channel as in for broadcasting [information], and 2) a channel as in an additional doorway and access into a big online store. My thought is there's also a number 3) a channel as in a path for positioning the brand in the minds of consumers. Dave makes the comment about .green for transparency — that's positioning.

The Internet is this generation's mainstay for media: music, TV, movies, news, youtube, shopping, games, financial, business, and more. The Internet is the media of today and a part of most everything we do. New gTLDs are progress for the Internet, the way TV was the next step after radio, or cable and multi-brand channels evolved from only three networks.

People can be receptive to media evolution such as new channels. New gTLDs are the new channels for the Internet. Even without a device, special hardware, or software, most new gTLDs are words and are recognizable to the ever valuable pair of eyes. (We all read the news about amazing sums of money companies pay to purchase startups that have lots of 'eyeballs' or views.)

We still live in a brick and mortar world with printed materials everywhere in our daily lives. A new gTLD attracts the attention of eyes/views, can serve a brand and be a new channel on the side of a bus (brand positioning) as easily as it can be a channel of a different nature on the Internet.

By Annalisa Roger, CEO of DotGreen Community, Inc. The .green initiative represents Roger's vision for the first Top Level Domain for social responsibility. You can follow her on Twitter @AnnalisaRoger.

Related topics: Domain Names, Top-Level Domains

 
   

Comments

Putting the cart before the horse John Berard  –  Feb 27, 2015 5:05 PM PDT

Annalisa,

I think Dave is right about the instinct of companies to go multi-channel so as to create the shortest distance between a consumer and a product line or service, but he discounts the complementary urge to do it safely.

For this reason there may be a greater likelihood for companies like Nike so seek their own top level domain. Rather than nike.wearables or nike.futbol or nike.shoes, it'll be fill-in-the-blank.nike.  What comes to the right of the dot will serve as a seal of authenticity.  Phishing.nike will be a thing of the past — if it is marketed well.

But, not everyone is Nike and top level domains like .pharmacy, .insurance, .bank and .green will offer the same kind of halo to companies who do not yet have their own.

My two cents, but I think that is what prompted Nike to apply.

Brand New gTLDs are part of the Paradigm Shift of the Internet Annalisa Roger  –  Feb 27, 2015 6:18 PM PDT

Hello John,
Your point about companies going multi-channel by using new gTLDs is well said, “…so as to create the shortest distance between a consumer and a product line or service.”

I also appreciate that you bring up the fact that some new gTLDs are brands themselves – they will be seen online now and in the next year or two.  Some progressive companies took the opportunity (now closed) back in 2011 to create their own new gTLDs with their brand name – and perhaps with a motivation for safety.  However, brands’ participating in new gTLDs is another positive example of the important uses and value new gTLDs have to offer, and proof that the Internet is starting a massive paradigm shift.

Ultimately, new gTLDs benefit the online consumer with added recognition, clarity, simplicity, ease, and transparency for navigating a busy adn noisy world of messages, products, taglines and ads both on and offline.

Thanks for your discussion,
Annalisa

I hate to throw cold water on Todd Knarr  –  Feb 28, 2015 2:05 AM PDT

I hate to throw cold water on an idea, but the existing TLDs have been able to do this since DNS was created, eg. store.nike.com, investor.nike.com, green.nike.com and so on. In fact that was the way DNS was intended to operate by the techies who built it, with a company acquiring one domain and then creating whatever organization suited their needs within it rather than acquiring a new domain for every different project they thought of. And it has the added business argument of minimizing the cost of domain registration and DNS hosting for the company. Yet for 30+ years companies have ignored all this, and I'm not sanguine about them suddenly coming to their senses at this point.

More likely management's going to go "We need nike.com because that's what everyone's used to. We need nike.biz because we're a business. We need nike.green because we want to advertise ourselves as being ecology-minded to appeal to that segment of the market. We need nike.shoes because we make shoes." and so on. Then they'll just point all that into their existing melange of Web sites because reoganizing everything and building an entire new set of Web sites along logical lines has no concrete ROI (it'll cost money and you can't point to a concrete set of customers who'd start buying the company's products because of the change who aren't already buying the company's products without it).

As for younger Internet users typing in addresses directly, I'd like to see a reference for that conclusion. My experience with the teens-to-early-20s set is that they're almost oblivious to domain names and rely almost exclusively on either bookmarks or one sort or another of search (either Google/Bing/Yahoo-type search engines or user/company search on Facebook, Twitter and the like). Directly typing in URLs is something I only see old-time techies like me doing anymore. And in an era of mobile phones I wouldn't expect a keyboard-intensive exercise to suddenly displace touch-friendly methods such as bookmarks and search listings.

A name with a New gTLD is short, easy, and memorable online and offline. Annalisa Roger  –  Feb 28, 2015 8:30 PM PDT

Thank you for sharing some interesting opinions.  Here are my thoughts along the points you bring up.

As the daughter of techie who worked with TLDs, I understand your comments about third-level domains.  The majority of the business and marketing executives who make decisions on a company's online presence in the Domain Name System, DNS may not share this thinking.  I also believe that when a company spends significant resources on creating their brand, they want their name to be prominent, and to come first.  BRAND.green respects the BRAND and compliments the positioning of the brand, therefor more appealing than GREEN.brand.com. Whatever the reason, I think we can agree that third-level domains while out there for 30+ years, have not become a general or recognized pattern consumers respond to. It's time to move on.

It’s easy to point a domain name to another address, and that’s called re-directing.  However much of the value new gTLD domain addresses offer in my opinion would be lost through a simple redirecting strategy.  New gTLDs are beacons for niche and target markets; they can place a brand amongst segments of Internet users because a new gTLD holds an expectation for the customer about content they can expect to find in that website (a reason for not redirecting).  Matching sales with target markets is what marketers do all day long.  A carefully selected new gTLD extension in the channel analogy Dave talks about is to me like putting the Brand or Product in the “zipcode” of where it is likely to sell more product.  Brands do this today with storefronts in selected shopping malls and zipcodes based on the type of traffic they are known to attract there.  With the Internet being such a tremendous global economy, new gTLDS offer an advantage in marketing online.

The teens-to-early-20s set is not oblivious to domain names printed on the side of a bus, t-shirts, etc. New gTLDs are easy and memorable shortcuts directed at desired content.  Example:  http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/nordstrom-cares is their current green site. Nordstrom.green would look better on the side of a bus.  It’s easy, short, and a memorable shortcut for customers.  Shoppers want a dedicated channel that makes it easy to find what they are looking for. Regarding Return On Investment, ROI: Surveys show that globally 55% of consumers want to buy from socially responsible companies and are looking for places to buy.

Annalisa,You say:[A] channel defined in three ways: Alex Tajirian  –  Feb 28, 2015 10:23 AM PDT

Annalisa,

You say:

[A] channel defined in three ways: 1) a channel as in for broadcasting [information], and 2) a channel as in an additional doorway and access into a big online store. My thought is there's also a number 3) a channel as in a path for positioning the brand in the minds of consumers.

I am not sure I understand (1). Aren’t all active domain names, brands, and labels broadcasting information?  With (2), a doorway “channel” can dilute branding and positioning. As for (3), there is no loss if you substitute channel with label. And would you refer to new geo gTLDs as geo channels?

So, other than semantics and confusion, what are the benefits of the channel designation?
You also say “Nike.green for environmental policy and transparency.” IMHO, that’s a very limiting scope for your .green channel.

@Todd’s arguments in the first and third paragraphs are well taken. However, I would like to see evidence on the ROI argument in paragraph 2.

Channel or Label - both bring ROI Annalisa Roger  –  Mar 02, 2015 8:23 PM PDT

Hello Tajirian,

Thank you for your interesting feedback.  I have reiterated your questions in bold and added my thoughts.

You say: I am not sure I understand (1). Aren’t all active domain names, brands, and labels broadcasting information? (I am sorry if it was not clear) I was writing about TLDs.  Not all TLDs broadcast info.  While I realize, the original or main purpose of a TLD was its technical function in the DNS, I don’t know what .com or .net says to a consumer today about a brand, or which market it targets or even what the content of the site might be about?  If we think of .com as a channel it could mean “online access” but I am not sure how exciting that is.  Many new gTLDs such as; .music, .NYC, .club and .ski are valuable to brands because they broadcast relevant information.  A good marketing team will choose which and what works well.

You ask: “...(2), a doorway “channel” can dilute branding and positioning?” Adding access to a brand alone is unlikely to dilute branding or positioning.  That’s the point of thinking about a new gTLD being a channel or doorway rather than just a label. Imagine that a Brand owns their own building (online address) and now they have decided to put in a new door to access part of their inventory.  They call that door, .green. .soccer, or .app and behind that door are the expected products, services, or even initiatives. 
Branding is tricky business, and that’s why the marketing team should be leading the discussion on which new online address will boost and improve various goals in marketing; positioning, branding, market placement, and ultimately the sales of the company.  Most new gTLDs can provide quite a bit of value to a company’s online presence, branding, marketing, and positioning is also possible on a case by case basis.

“As for (3), there is no loss if you substitute channel with label.” Perhaps, but using the wrong label (TLD) seems it could likely affect branding and positioning...while using a wrong channel (doorway) seems different.  Anyway, the main reason for this article was to offer a new perspective because for marketers out there who don’t understand new gTLDs, sometimes a different way (not a right or better way) can help.  A label can define… while a channel can lead to content, target audience, and market place. I agree with you however, both work.

“And would you refer to new geo gTLDs as geo channels?” Sure, when I am seeking products and information affiliated with Paris, I am looking for a logical channel to get there.  A .paris website is a likely website for me to choose when search results give me 10 options.

“So, other than semantics and confusion, what are the benefits of the channel designation?” New gTLDs are labels – but I just wanted people to know as the headline of the article reads they’re “Not Just Labels.” My thoughts in sharing the new “channel” analogy are that it may offer some addition good sense to someone who doesn’t otherwise understand or appreciate the benefits of the Internet domain name expansion. 
Furthermore historical analogies can be relatable to what’s going on in the present.  I know people (in their 80’s) who remember when broadcasting dramatically changed from radio to TV with 3 networks and then again to Cable-the multichannel model, which was followed by the Internet – the largest source for media consumption anyone has ever seen.  There were skeptics at all those junctions in history, and yet, here we are.  So if someone is skeptical about new gTLDs or can’t see the progress it offers, the broadcasting/channel analogy is now published on Circle ID.

Your comment, “You also say ‘Nike.green for environmental policy and transparency.’ IMHO, that’s a very limiting scope for your .green channel.” Thank you Tajirian! Your point is well made in this interesting article: http://bit.ly/1G6kzT1.  ☺

And finally, in answer to your questions with respect to Todd’s argument in his paragraph 2, about “Then they'll just point all that into their existing melange of Web sites because reorganizing everything and building an entire new set of Web sites along logical lines has no concrete ROI…” The following excerpt comes from the Nielsen Website: “Digital advertising continues to grow as marketers follow fragmenting audiences across screens. Within the digital medium, which has traditionally been dominated by direct response advertising, brand marketing growth is now outpacing direct response. This shift points to a more screen-agnostic approach to advertising. Instead of digital or TV-specific campaigns, marketers view each screen as an equal opportunity to reach their consumers with advertising that resonates with them and drives a desired reaction. This screen-agnostic approach also fuels marketers' continuing need for more brand-relevant metrics that go across screens in a world where agencies and media owners continue to offer digital-only measures of success.” http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2014/the-state-of-digital-brand-advertising.html

In addition, Todd’s remark:  “...(it'll cost money and you can't point to a concrete set of customers who'd start buying the company's products because of the change who aren't already buying the company's products without it).” -TK Nielsen polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries via the Internet and wrote: It Pays To Be Green: Corporate Social responsibility Meets The Bottom Line “… that more than half (55%) of global respondents in the survey said they are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact—an increase from 50 percent in 2012 and 45 percent in 2011. More specific to Todd’s comment is that The results from a March 2014 year-over-year analysis show an average annual sales increase of 2 percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a rise of 5 percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of different brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only 1 percent.” http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/apac/docs/reports/2014/Nielsen-Global-Corporate-Social-Responsibility-Report-June-2014.pdf

“At the moment of truth—in store, online and elsewhere—consumers are making a choice and a choice that is heavily influenced by brands with a social purpose,” said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen. “This behavior is on the rise and we are seeing this manifest into positive impact in our communities as well as share growth for brands.” http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/it-pays-to-be-green-corporate-social-responsibility-meets-the-bottom-line.html

Since we know consumers read labels, seek information, and use the Internet which provides transparency, a .green new gTLD will help these Brands and the global citizens looking for their products, while other new gTLDs will also help Brands, communities and customers because new gTLDs are important online marketing tools now available.

Annalisa,Thanks for taking the time to reply Alex Tajirian  –  Mar 04, 2015 11:18 AM PDT

Annalisa,

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comments. 

We agree on a number of issues related to new gTLDs and the importance of corporate social responsibility, especially as it relates to new gTLDs. However, we have different perspectives on channels.

Regards

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