Big changes ahead - Why B2B marketers need to plan for .brand?
The biggest change to the Internet’s domain name system in more than 25 years is just around the corner but many marketers remain unaware of the opportunities (and potential market disruption) the changes may bring. On June 20, the governing body for Internet domain names, ICANN, is anticipated to approve the final rules to allow organisations to register their own name at the top of the Internet naming hierarchy.
As well as .com or .co.uk, in future you will see names like .canon or .deloitte, as well as a host of generic industry domains such as .legal or .computer. The American Bankers Association has already made clear its intention to apply for .bank, and other generic terms like .car are likely to be highly sought after.
ICANN is estimating around 500 applications in its first round, around half of which are expected to be from global brands. Hitachi, Canon and Deloitte have already publicly stated their intentions to apply for ‘.brand’ status, and many more have privately signalled their interest.
What does this change have to do with marketing?
For B2B brands, having your own .brand presents a significant online branding opportunity in terms of shorter, more memorable domain names for advertising, increased trust and security for partners, resellers and customers, and SEO opportunities.
The creative possibilities around .brand are endless. A .brand owner has exclusive rights and control of their brand name and unrestricted availability of sub-domains, giving them virtually limitless freedom to choose and assign domain names in any way they want within that .brand.
Companies can expand their brand awareness by creating short memorable domain names which capture their target audience more effectively. For example, Hitachi could profile its financial performance at ‘investors.hitachi,’ while IBM could run a campaign for business customers at ‘cloud.ibm.’ .brand is also an effective way for global companies with a significant presence across multiple regions to demonstrate unity and consistency across these territories, plus provide a single, globally trusted point of entry to the company’s online presence.
.brand owners also have complete freedom to give selected partners, resellers, distributors and even customers their own personalised domain within a trusted community. For example, a business partner selling Sage software could operate online under the .sage umbrella, effectively marking the partner out as part of that trusted community.
There’s also a certain level of prestige that comes with owning your own domain name extension. But at $185,000 USD, applying for a .brand does not come cheap, so it’s likely only the biggest organisations will have the means to apply.
So why should I care right now?
If the decision on June 20 goes as the industry expects, applications for .brand will open in late 2011 and close about 60 days later. After that, it will be two to three years before more top level names are released. While a .brand might not suit all organisations, the ‘wait and see’ approach that many B2B marketers took with social media will not work this time, as it is not possible to be a fast follower.
Given the size of the investment and the planning required to apply, companies need to start considering their options now so they can make an informed decision.