Gucci is doing it – are you?

Oli Hope, director of registry services at Nominet, explains the benefits of branded domain endings and to make the most of them.

Gucci and Google are doing it, the French SNCF is going wild for it, yet 61% of marketing agencies have no awareness of it. The digital revolution is offering your clients a superb new opportunity, yet 84% of them remain ignorant of the potential for boosting a brand and safeguarding customers within the domain name space.

I am referring to branded generic Top Level Domains (TLDs); this is the word that appears after the dot in a website address. No longer are companies limited to .com or .uk – the opportunities for TLDs are as varied as .bentley to .vip, encompassing people, places, lifestyles and even food. For ultimate online autonomy, however, brands can register their own personalised TLD, such as .mini or .bbc, from which to operate their online business.

More than 500 have now been registered by big hitters such as Canon, Google and Philips, and many are being used to superb effect. Branded TLDs are likely to become part of a brand’s digital real estate in the future, so it’s time to wise up on how your clients can keep pace.

Why get a .brand?

Having a personalised TLD helps an organisation to stand apart in a competitive market. Firstly, the exclusivity of the domain name, owned and operated by the organisation, provides complete autonomy over their online space and the data that derives from it. Customers also benefit; they are reassured of authenticity, whether that be for online banking on www.home.barclays or when shopping for a new car with .mini.

The branded TLD also offers a more secure service. A protected, controlled environment is impossible for scammers to use in phishing attempts, keeping consumers safe and boosting trust in and loyalty to the brand.

In the digital marketing sphere, a branded TLD can be transformative. It can offer more opportunities to attract the attention of would-be consumers through clever campaigns that ride on the back of unusual, unique domains. Chanel has been using www.inside.chanel to connect with customers through a series of short films on a fictional character ‘Gabrielle’, taking their perfume into a multimedia digital experience.
Providing enhanced online support to customers is facilitated by branded TLDs. Gucci has created websites for their different products to give buyers advice for caring for their new buys, such as www.Sylvie.gucci for the Sylvie handbag. This boosts engagement with consumers and is great for a brand’s reputation, especially when the price tags are high. Showing your customers they are getting more for their money by utilising a business’ marketing technology stack is proven to reap rewards.

Branded TLDs can help divide a business into product categories or store locations, simplifying the customer’s online journey and differentiating the areas of the organisation. Car companies use their domains to identity car showrooms while manufacturers like Phillips direct customers to the products they seek: www.airfryer.philips or www.sonicare.philips. Audi uses www.twitter.audi to redirect to its Twitter page; yet another way to unite all branches of a company’s online channels.

One of the most crucial if seemingly flippant reasons for getting a branded TLD is because so many other organisations are doing it. Across the automotive, banking, technology and luxury product industries many of the biggest and most influential companies have registered their own TLDs and are starting to experiment with them in new and unique ways, pushing ahead with the digital evolution of their brand.

Organisations can’t afford to fall behind their competitors or miss out on what is becoming a crucial aspect of the digital marketing strategy, especially as more consumers are searching online for products and services than ever before.

Technical requirements, process and cost

The next round of applications for registering a .brand is likely to be in 2019. That said, the preparation process is lengthy and should be started soon to ensure an organisation is well positioned to take on their branded TLD when the time comes.

The process will not be the same as simply registering a domain name. Branded TLDs are only acquired following a thorough application that pleads the case for the name and provides evidence of the business’ capability to support the continued running of it. Some companies will create their own registry service team to manage this, while most outsource to a reliable third-party expert to handle the technical infrastructure and the creation of domain names within the brand, i.e. www.bag.gucci or www.shoes.gucci.

The financial cost of running the gTLD must be considered on top of any application fees. In the last window the fee was US$185,000, but the prize is an exclusive domain name that safeguards customers and boosts marketing.

Organisations must also think carefully about whether their brand is likely to be accepted as a TLD. There are strict rules on registering names that could cause confusion by similarities to generic terms or geographical places to organisations. Amazon faced a lengthy struggle to register .amazon after the Peruvian government appealed against it, while Coach couldn’t register .coach as the word is commonly used. Companies with unique words as names have more success: Audi, Google, Barclays and BNP Paribas are just a few examples.

Those with serious intentions can review the application guidance that was shared ahead of the last round of applications. This answers many of the FAQs and can offer an indication of requirements for applicants and the process by which you can secure a branded TLD. Time will disappear; starting early is key to ensure your application is successful.

The digital revolution is impacting all areas of our lives. Customers will soon access brands online through an entirely different journey to today due to the myriad of benefits of a branded TLD. Don’t miss out on a rare opportunity to secure a unique piece of powerful internet real estate to cement your client’s place in the digital future.

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