With the advent of some 700 new generic top level domain names (TLDs), brands are faced with some big decisions when it comes to determining which extensions are important for them to control their brand name on the left side of the dot. Historically, when new TLD’s have been introduced the primary concern of corporations and brands has been to protect their names from URLs that could prove to be embarrassing or confusing to their brand image. With the introduction of new top level domain names, many of them generic words with meaning, it may make good sense for brands to consider taking a different approach to their domain name strategy.
Don’t Be Negative
For many brands, protection was certainly the objective when the .xxx TLD was introduced. With the new TLD applications including strings such as .porn, .sex, .sexy, .sucks, .wtf and many other words with potential “gripe” or negative connotations, the notion of brand protection can be a complicated and costly process. Some registries, such as Donuts, are offering comprehensive blocking packages that will allow a brand to pay one price to keep a trademark off the market for all of the 100 plus extensions Donuts owns. But looking at the new TLDs only from the perspective of protection and blocking may be short sighted.
Looking Beyond Protection
Smart brands should be looking at the new domain extensions for opportunities to extend and enhance the reach of their brand by making use of memorable and marketable URLs with their trademarks, as well as memorable and marketable generic category killers for the industry and market they are in. The interesting thing about this current wave, to some a tsunami, of new domain extensions, is that there are a lot of them that are actually words that mean something. Extensions with meaning are a double edge sword for brands because it is the meaning that could be abused by someone else, but it is also the meaning that can create opportunity for the brand. For example, in the case of .CLUB, if you put any brand name or trademark to the left of the extension, the resulting URL clearly seems to represent an official group or community around the brand. Nike.club, Walmart.club, Ford.club, Mustang.club, etc., all are very appropriate and authoritative domain names for the brand’s loyalty or affinity programs. From a brand’s perspective, “brand.CLUB” = their community of customers and fans. This is a valuable asset that a brand should want to control.
As part of their domain name strategy, brands should be also be thinking about the vertical(s) they are in, and the markets they want to lead. With the expansion of the domain namespace there is a new opportunity for brands to go after generic “category killers” that they may have missed the opportunity to obtain during the first wave of .com, .biz, .net. etc. Wouldn’t it make good sense for AutoNation or CarMax to have “Buy.Cars ,” or for Amazon or Barnes and Noble to have “Book.Club”? High profile generic domain names such as these are logical and easy to remember. As consumers become more and more accustomed to new words to the right of the dot they will be more and more likely to begin a search by looking for common phrases as URLs. As a brand, you should be looking at the new domain extensions as an opportunity to grab hold of the best domain names to support your position as a market leader.
Protect and Serve
With domain extensions such as .CLUB, and others like .wiki and .shop, etc., it is important for brands to consider a domain name strategy that both protects their brand and serves their customers. A brand, especially a retail or consumer facing brand, should want to own its respective .CLUB name in order to own and control its community. A brand should be the logical authority for its community and not let a third party appear to be so because they have the .CLUB for your brand. More importantly, domain extensions like .CLUB give brands the opportunity to better serve their community of customers and fans by branding the destinations of their loyalty/reward/affinity programs. After all, aren’t your customers already a member of your club?
Now, more than ever before, marketers know that no matter what business you are in, being social, being authentic, being human, is the most important thing a brand can do. Consumers want to do business with people and companies they like and trust, and there is no better way to be liked and trusted than to be real and authentic. It is human nature to be drawn together around common interests. That’s why membership in a club, any club, creates a sense of belonging. It makes us feel special, even human, to be a part of a tribe, part of something bigger than ourselves. This is why so many companies and brands have embraced social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus and others. Smart brands understand that their community is important. We believe the .CLUB extension gives such brands a simple, logical and effective way to give their communities an identity. Whether “brand.club” re-directs to a social site, or to the main destination for a loyalty, reward or affinity program, we believe having a .CLUB name can be a valuable asset for any company.
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