The introduction of unlimited numbers of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) has increased customer and company confusion about the role of brand names and their product labels, as noted in an earlier post. This essay outlines the various possible scenarios for coupling TLD branding and labeling, and it explains why duplicating the benefits of branding under.com may be difficult.
Let's look at the benefits of having default solutions for decision making. Harvard Law Professor Cass R. Sunstein makes the case in his recent article "Deciding by Default." He provides the rationale for default rules, and explains why and when organizations should use blanket rules instead of making their own choices. He notes that default rules don't impose mandates or banes, that instead they work by steering people in a particular direction.
We can extend the argument to domain names. For example, .com benefits searchers by providing better navigation to their desired sites (by direct navigation or by clicking on a .com link from keyword search results). It benefits companies by increasing their sites' targeted visits and reducing accidental drop-ins. The significance of the .com default shows up in the percentage of direct-navigation visits, the number of registrations, and the registrations' market prices. However, with the new gTLDs, a searcher has to guess the brand name and the desired product label, thus increasing the cost of search and navigation.
The various possible TLD branding and product labeling scenarios are:
|Scenario||Banding TLDs||Product Labels|
|2||.com||Ranked new gTLDs|
|3||.com + new competitors||New gTLDs|
|4||.com + new competitors||Ranked new gTLDs|
|5||.com + .brand||New gTLDs|
|6||.com + .brand||Ranked new gTLDs|
|7||.com + .brand + new competitors||New gTLDs|
|8||.com + .brand + new competitors||Ranked new gTLDs|
Alternatives 3 and 4 include possible new branding competitors to .com. Some factors to be considered by anybody who's looking at a branding jump from using .com to .brand:
So far there is no evidence of users adopting any of the new gTLDs as substitutes for branding under .com. Rather customers seem to be using them as labels. That's a bad idea because, unfortunately, confusion has sprung up because of registries' marketing choices and the tendency of consulting firms to treat labels as branding tools.
Some of the gTLDs seem to be based on hunches and passion, on registries being in love with the idea implicit in the gTLD, and not on thoughtful review of data gathered to indicate economically viable labels and branding. There have been some long-bomb attempts at replacing .com with newcomers like .web or .global. Either the wrong words got picked or the marketing was inadequate, or maybe the problem was both those things plus the lack of any real need to go beyond .com. At any rate, the newcomers have mostly flopped with companies.
With .com based branding, companies should try innovative, unexpected words, whether real (Tesla, and Twitter, for example) or made-up (recent creations include the famous Snapchat and WhatsApp). Of course, only a finite number of permutations are actually desirable, which is a big reason we have new gTLDs.
To make the current overlapping mesh of gTLDs efficient and more user-friendly, there is a need to create searchable ranked sites per label that are ranked on multi-attributes such as product reputation, customer service, and site user-friendliness. Obviously, this is not an easy task, and no clear practical winning strategy presents itself. Option 4, above, looks like the best choice available, but it's only a substitute for having a single .com branding TLD. We had better start thinking about answers now or the second round of new gTLDs will only mean a bigger mess.
By Alex Tajirian, CEO at DomainMart
Related topics: Top-Level Domains
|Data Center||Policy & Regulation|
|DNS Security||Regional Registries|
|Domain Names||Registry Services|
|Intellectual Property||Top-Level Domains|
|Internet of Things||Web|
|Internet Protocol||White Space|
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