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Can Your Brand Afford to Not Have a dotBrand?

Roland LaPlante

Are these web addresses for real?

annualreport.axa
innovandconnect.bnpparibas
study.monash
play.samsung
m.sohu

An emphatic YES! In fact, more than six hundred brands have applied for their own dotBrand (a new top level domain associated with a trademarked brand). These represent every segment of our economy: banks, tech companies, media, food, luxury goods, etc. Quite a few dotbrands have already gone live.

The current application period is closed, but the next round will likely begin in 24 months or so. While 24 months may seem a long time, ramping up a dotBrand effort across the company will take all of that time. We know, because we provide back-end service support to many dotBrand applicants, and most of them need help from experienced, professional experts.

If you missed round one, you likely now have competitors who did apply, and when they launch, you will find yourself in a different competitive situation. So NOW is the time to assess whether your brand should apply (indeed, whether you can afford NOT to apply) when the application period opens again.

Grab the Significant Benefits

I have discussed the significant marketing opportunities dotBrand brings along in a previous blog:

  • Better branding: no more random terms (like .com) as web addresses; instead you can now have your proprietary address that's 100% under your control
  • Total security: you decide who may have an address and what content is allowed in your domain
  • Enhanced customer experience: with your own space to nurture customer relationships, you no longer need to chase after the latest social media "hot properties!" You will also have access to all the site data and can do deep-dive analyses.

dotBrand is really THE digital future of bigger brands. While the benefits are significant, as expected, they come with costs.

Be Realistic about the Costs

Owning a dotBrand will make you a "registry operator", and this role is not simple or inexpensive. Here are a few illustrative costs:

  • ICANN, the operating body of the Internet addressing system, requires a US$185,000 evaluation fee at the application stage (this was for the first round; the next round may be a bit less)
  • You also need to pay an annual fee of US$25K, plus US$0.25 per name registered in your domain, or "domain under management" (DUM)
  • Having your own domain means you are running a domain registry. You have to take care of all the technical aspects, such as ensuring ICANN compliance, having the necessary Domain Name System (DNS) technology and infrastructure, maintaining uptime standards of you domain, etc. You should partner with a technical specialist in this area, and not tax your own technical team with this unfamiliar set of requirements.
  • Of course you also have to determine how to best merge your "dotBrand" into your ongoing branding activities.

Bottom line: While the branding aspects of running a top level domain clearly belong with your brand team, the complex administrative and compliance aspects are generally outside of your core strengths. There are significant hard costs and soft costs involved — financial, people, technical.

The 600+ plus brand leaders who have applied for their dotBrand have obviously found the benefits outweigh the costs. What about YOUR brand?

How long can you afford to wait?

As you evaluate the dotBrand costs and benefits for your brand, you must assess the opportunity cost of NOT having your dotBrand and assess it accurately:

  • Have Marketing lead the assessment: DotBrands are primarily about BRANDING, not technology or legal issues. You certainly need to build a cross-functional team to perform your cost and benefit analysis, but that team should be led by Marketing and your CMO should be the executive sponsor. You must quantify the lost marketing opportunities thus lost revenue for not having your dotBrand.
  • Review your entire portfolio of web addresses: Create an inventory of all of your sites including corporate, all products and brands, resellers/channels, partners, promotions, even pages on social media. You need to compare the costs of maintaining a consolidated, global Internet presence (your dotBrand) vs. the status quo.
  • Know the price of catching up: DotBrand round 2 will be here before you know it. For an initiative of this level of strategic importance, you must START NOW with evaluation, strategy development, budgeting, and change management planning. If you decide to wait and see and competition starts actively engaging with their dotBrands, you know you will be paying additional to catch up.

We have helped guide many clients throughout the dotBrand process — from application to launch. Running a domain registry isn't the core of your business but it is the core of ours. Reach out to us and let's get the conversation started — this you can definitely afford!

By Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias – An expert on new TLD development, LaPlante is an original member of the management team at Afilias and has over 30 years' senior marketing experience building brands at companies like Procter and Gamble, Citibank, and McGraw-Hill. Visit Page
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Unless, of course... John Berryhill  –  Jun 22, 2015 7:25 PM PDT

...your brand happens to have two letters - HP, VW, GE, etc. - or if your brand has any numbers in it - 7UP, 747, 7ELEVEN.

Then there is the most famous arbitrarily screwed trademark - 3M - which is a double whammy (along with also-rans A1, F1 and V8).  I'd like to hear the poor TLD consultant who has to explain to them, "Well, we know you are one of the most famous brands on the planet, but we can't have you confused with a country code; and someone at ICANN decided to read an RFC wrong, and banned all numbers in mixed strings because they didn't understand the reason why a solely-numeric TLD could be confused with the terminal octet of an IPv4 address.

Of course, we'll never see PPG using Paint.Olympic, since the right to use their brand as a TLD, along with J&J;'s private "RED CROSS" brand first aid supplies (or the Red Cross shoe people), has long since been horse-traded away.

Clearly, there are substantial brands which will have to make do without a TLD.

Re: Unless, of course... Roland LaPlante  –  Jun 24, 2015 12:22 PM PDT

John - you are unfortunately correct and the situation is frustrating for all of us. However, we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and many brands CAN take advantage of the many benefits that dotBrands offer. Major brands that missed the last round (and who are likely to be eligible) should be banging on ICANN's door demanding a level playing field.

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