Roland LaPlante of Afilias on how changes to top-level domain names (TLDs) in 2012 will impact on brands and marketers
We are about to enter a .brand new world where businesses can see their names on the right side of the dot: a brand name instead of .com or .net. This represents a historic change, allowing businesses to manage their own top-level domain (TLD), giving them more control than ever before over their online presence.
The benefits to brands are three-fold: a .brand extension strengthens online identity, opens new possibilities for customer engagement, and reinforces brand security by decreasing the likelihood of cybersquatters and online fraudsters.
From an online identity perspective, no one disputes the power of drink.pepsi over pepsi.com/drink. In terms of customer engagement, the new TLDs allow great promotional benefits as brands now have the possibility of new.pepsi, which consumers can search more easily. And .brand offers security for industries frequently plagued by counterfeiting. Just as consumers trust the brand when buying in store, this trust can finally be transferred to the virtual space as consumers know they are purchasing from a legitimate source. No one can own real.louisvuitton other than Louis Vuitton.
But time is ticking away for any business that wants their brand to appear on the right side of the dot. The application window runs from 12 January 2012, with registrations of interest required to be submitted by 12 March 2012. As the application process involves 50 questions, including 22 of a highly technical nature, applicants will be unlikely to turn around their submission overnight. If a brand wishes to apply for its own TLD extension, they should make their decision quickly, so they have time to secure buy-in from the business.
It will also give a brand time to secure the support of a global registry services provider to help convince ICANN that the extension will be properly managed from a technical standpoint, without jeopardising the security and stability of the internet.
Although a .brand may not be for everyone, those brands that decide not to make the move may face an indeterminate period of disadvantage compared to competitors who do decide to meet this deadline. The last application window for new TLDs was seven years ago and only seven TLDs were approved.