We are about to enter a dot Brand new world. For the first time, businesses can have their names on the right side of the dot on a website or email address: a brand name instead of .com or .net. This is an historic change for the Internet and it means businesses can now manage their own top-level domain (TLD), giving them more control than ever before over their online presence.
The benefits of a bespoke top-level domain are three-fold: a stronger online identity, new possibilities for customer engagement, and reinforced brand security. From an online identity perspective, no one disputes the power boost of “drink.pepsi” over today’s “pepsi.com/drink.”
In terms of customer engagement, the new TLDs allow great promotional benefits; brands now have the possibility of “new.pepsi,” which consumers can remember and hence find more easily.
And dot Brands offer security for industries plagued by counterfeiting. Just as consumers trust the brand when buying in store, this trust can be transferred to the virtual space because consumers will know they are purchasing from a legitimate source. No one can own “real.louisvuitton” other than Louis Vuitton.
But time is ticking furiously for any business that wants to own a dot Brand domain. The application window closes on April 12th 2012, with registrations of interest required to be submitted by March 29th. Since the application process involves 50 questions, including 22 of a highly technical nature, applicants will not be able to turn around their submission overnight. If a brand wishes to apply for its own TLD, they should make their decision quickly so they have time to secure buy-in from the business.
A brand also needs time to secure the support of a global registry services provider to let ICANN know that the extension will be properly supported from a technical standpoint, without jeopardising the security and stability of the Internet. The level of Internet domain experience needed to run a dot Brand usually is more than a standard IT department will have. With a dot Brand, you’re not buying a “dot com” name; you’re buying the “dot com” itself.
Although a dot Brand may not be for everyone, brands that decide not to apply for one may face an indeterminate period of disadvantage compared to competitors who do meet the deadline, especially when you consider that the last application window for new TLDs was seven years ago (and then only seven TLDs were approved.)
With this in mind and the deadline fast approaching, brands need to decide now how they’re going to pursue the dot Brand application process to ensure the right technical capabilities and support are in place.
Roland LaPlante is Chief Marketing Officer at internet infrastructure firm Afilias