Is racing.com a half-million dollar mistake for Racing Victoria?

Published on August 15th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

What’s a domain name? What business function do they serve? Can a domain name generate ROI?

I imagine these were the questions the Board of Racing Victoria asked before signing off on the purchase of racing.com to support a Victorian racing industry joint initiative to establish a digital media and content platform similar to that of the AFL.

My industry sources suggest the domain name cost them at least half a million dollars, if not higher. Allow me, from a marketing perspective, to explain why the purchase of racing.com is tantamount to flogging a dead horse.

Vision and execution

A domain name is the digital asset that underpins your entire web presence and acts as a universal signpost to help guide an audience to your website.

In many ways, they’re the mainstay execution tool of nearly every marketing strategy you create.

Marketers constantly push the innovation envelope in search of more visionary methods to engage stakeholders. However, a vision without effective execution is merely an hallucination.

For me, effective execution is creating a signpost that let’s your audience know exactly what your proposition is even before they land on your website.

And with the rise of search-based call to actions and QR codes in marketing, I’m inclined to think some marketers are completely missing this point.

In the case of racing.com, the vision to establish an industry leading content platform is worthy of praise. It’s let down though by an ineffective signpost.

What is racing.com?

The problem with underpinning a $15 million digital media business under racing.com is that it fails the signpost test.

Let’s think about it for a second. What is racing? Is the word synonymous with horse racing? Not really. What about car racing, boat racing or bike racing? Perhaps you’re talking about pigeon racing!

When I Googled the word racing, the first result was a news item about American NASCAR racing.

Also, what inference does the .com add? Where is .com located? What does it stand for? Does it tell your target audience that your business is focused on Victoria? Certainly not.

The domain name racing.com is not a very useful signpost to direct people to a website about horse racing in Victoria, Australia. It’s too generic, won’t be assisted by search and is a poor execution of a good vision.

Recall

Now let’s try the radio recall test.

Imagine you heard an ad on the radio for Victoria’s new digital horse racing news platform and there was a call to action at the end of the ad for racing.com. What do you think most people would remember about the ad and how would they act upon it?

I think the theme of horse racing in Victoria would be the strongest key message. Whilst you might remember a mention of a .com web address, my intuitive reaction would be to visit horseracing.com or Racing Victoria’s corporate website.

Interestingly, our research shows Australians have been conditioned to visit websites ending in .au when looking for locally-based content. This is because .au is Australia’s home online.

My experience tells me that an ad for racing.com in Australia will leak a lot of traffic to racing.com.au, which is unfortunately owned by betting company Tabcorp. That’s a nice win for Tabcorp!

The problem is that racing.com does not have an intrinsic connection with Victorian horse racing that would lend itself to intuitive navigation and recall.

.com .gone

The most unfortunate aspect about the decision to pay a high-end, six-figure sum for racing.com is the fact domain names are now radically transforming.

Hundreds of new domain name suffixes such as .menu, .monash and .sydney are being added to the Internet alongside the familiar .com, offering individuals and businesses like Racing Victoria greater domain name availability, choice and innovation.

Unlike the meaningless and unintuitive .com, these new domain names allow for a clear and descriptive signpost that lets your audience know exactly what your business is about even before they land on your website. They provide an affinity to a geographic location or market vertical that .com is unable to do.

Take for instance .racing which is set to launch soon. It would offer a more creative and relevant domain name such as horses.racing, victorian.racing or vichorses.racing.

Another option would be .melbourne. Country-level geographic locators such as .au, .nz and .uk have helped organise the Internet and now we have the option to take this to the city-level. I’m not saying racing.melbourne or horses.melbourne is appropriate, but it would be somewhat more specific.

There is also a .horse Top-Level Domain and almost 1,400 other options that will become available over the next year.

The fact is, the launch and use of these new domain names will soon make the purchase of half-million dollar .com domain names look silly.

It’s all about connecting your vision with an intuitive, memorable and efficient signpost.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

The World Cup of new Top-Level Domains

Published on June 13th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Tony Kirsch

In celebration of O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game), we thought it was timely to do a World Cup themed wrap-up this week and showcase the new Top-Level Domains (TLD) of the football world.

Let’s start with which countries are winning in the World Cup of new TLDs.

While Brazil might be favourites for the FIFA World Cup, the United States smashed the field with the most number of new TLD applications (883 or 46% all applications).

Now that new TLDs have launched, where are the most registrations coming from? Again, the United States leads the way with 275,602 domain names (or 25.8% of the 1.1 million combined names). This is followed by Germany (12.5%), the United Kingdom (6.8%), Cayman Islands (4.6%) and Canada (3.8%).

What about .football? While .soccer (four applicants) and .football (two applicants) are stuck in contention sets, we did see .futbol (Spanish for Football) enter its first day of general availability yesterday with 1,628 registrations.

We can’t forget to mention World Cup cities too. Brazil’s famous Rio de Janeiro had their .rio city TLD delegated on 22 May. Rio will host the final World Cup match on 13 July and let’s hope we see some .rio domain names live in time for this match.

The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and we’ll no doubt see the world’s major brands using their new TLDs by then. Eight new TLDs were applied for from Russia, with two for their capital city, .moscow and their IDN .москва.

I can’t wait until I’ll be able to navigate the Internet intuitively by browsing to websites such as WorldCup.moscow, or Football.nike and Campaign.sony. I predict that in four years time we’ll look back at this moment as the dawn of the modern Internet and vaguely remember a web without new TLDs.

By Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

Still think .brands might be a waste of time? Google doesn’t!

Published on May 7th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

The new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program was designed from the outset to enhance competition and foster innovation.

It was a great result for the wider industry to see approximately one-third of the applications received by ICANN submitted by some of the world’s largest companies seeking to own and operate their own .brand TLD.

Even with organisations such as Apple, Citibank and IBM applying for their respective TLDs, scepticism remained on the potential for .brands to succeed.

Where would the utility come from? How would customers embrace such a change? How would large organisations be able to incorporate this into their marketing mix?

Finally perhaps most ominous, what will it mean for search and will there be any advantages for .brand applicants?

While it’s still very early in the process, a few trailblazing true innovators have given us some preliminary answers and the news is extremely positive.

Evidence of real success

French insurance giant AXA recently launched their .axa TLD to the world and offer the best evidence to date that .brand TLDs have a definite future in the digital marketing landscape.

Less than two weeks after registering annualreport.axa and rapportannuel.axa in their .brand TLD, AXA now appear on the first page of Google search results. When searching for “axa annual report”, the .axa domain is the third result in English and “axa annuel rapport” appears in the fourth position for French searches.

Beyond just Google, Bing shows the result at number two and Yahoo at number eight.

This is a truly impressive result given the number of applicable web properties for this topic and the short amount of time the domain has existed. Yes, this has a lot to do with the relevance of the content – as it has been and will continue to be.

However, the domain is clearly reinforcing some level of credibility here and despite being new, hasn’t negatively impacted the rankings of the page.

The AXA annual report example also illustrates other key benefits of .brand TLD ownership. Using differing language versions of the same domain, they have been able to provide customised content for differing user bases.

With these included, the list of tangible benefits .brand TLD operators can realise immediately from their new asset are compelling:

1. Control

Being completely in control of domain name allocation within their TLD. No more competition for domain names in the open market, as well as the ability to define intuitive parameters for users to find content (eg. annualreport.axa for English, rapportannuel.axa for French).

2. SEO

Globally applicable search benefits. While the sample size is admittedly small, the reality that Google, Bing and Yahoo are actively embracing .brand TLDs for their authenticity and showing strong search results has the potential to be a huge boon to brands and end users.

3. Messaging

Guaranteed authenticity for messaging from the channel. Customers can rest easy knowing with 100% certainty that the content on annualreport.axa is sanctioned by AXA, since no one outside the corporation can register an .axa domain name. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible for bad actors to register domains in competing TLDs with the aim of confusing end users, and a .brand is a new and extremely strong tool to combat this confusion.

AXAdomain

AXA’s .brand strategy actively combats bad actors.

While we’ve already seen three new .brand applicants sign registry agreements (.sharp and Google’s .gmail and .youtube) this month, the last several months have seen 256 total TLDs delegated, with only a handful (five total, or less that 2%) being .brands.

This is in addition to the world’s first .brand TLD, .monash for the Australian University and the recently signed .bmw and .samsung TLDs which are soon to join the digital landscape.

All in all, it’s really positive news for those innovators that took the plunge by applying in 2012.

So why wait?

There is no denying that ICANN has made the path through contracting and delegation complicated with various hoops to jump through.

The good news for .brand applicants is that there is help available should they require it. The upside is that the carrot is very real and very attainable.

Delegating and realising the benefits of a .brand TLD as soon as possible should be the goal of every brand marketer worth their salt, as .brand applicants push to delegate their TLDs and non-applicants clamour to apply to ICANN in the second round.

By Ryan Baker
Domain Name Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services

Registration numbers not the only success measure for new TLDs

Published on March 19th, 2014

Adrian KinderisBy Adrian Kinderis

Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.

Since the delegation of شبكة. back in October, we’ve seen all sorts of TLDs launched – from brands like .monash to generics like .build.

There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.

To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.

Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.

How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.

Early numbers mean nothing

The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.

Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.

The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.

What is success?

New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.

Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.

Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.

In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:

1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?

Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?

A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.

In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.

TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.

Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Published on February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Marketers place trust in domain names for AFL Grand Final

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisAnother year, another grand final and another win for domain names. Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says domain names are the premiers as Australia’s marketers again show a preference for using .com.au as the preferred call to action in AFL Grand Final ads.

By Adrian Kinderis

It surprises me that our local marketing industry hasn’t yet embraced the AFL and NRL Grand Finals as the marketers in the US do for the Super Bowl.

Where’s the hype like you see for the Super Bowl? I think our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia. We should see the country’s best marketers sporting their wares.

They certainly have a good reason to. More than 3.6 million Australians tuned in on Saturday for the AFL Grand Final, representing more than 80% of all free-to-air viewers for the time slot.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL Grand Final to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found…

The statistics

Like in previous years, domain names were the primary call to action seen in Grand Final ads. Out of the 34 ads aired during the game, 40% included a domain name while only 9% referred to social media.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw last year with almost identical figures (38% and 9% respectively).

The other significant calls to action exercised this year included of telephone numbers (14%), search (9%) and mobile apps (7%). Interestingly, 21% of ads did not include any call to action.

Within domain names, marketers clearly showed a preference for .com.au in their ads, with more than 70% directing viewers to a .com.au website. Again, this is almost identical to last year.

What does this mean?

Clearly, social media has its place, but it’s not in Grand Final marketing.

Despite all the hype and importance of social media to modern day brand communication, domain names still remain the primary call to action. While we saw NAB make effective use of a Twitter hashtag in their Footify campaign, they largely stood alone on this front.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs up to $100,000.

However, it was interesting to see the rise of search which tallied a 7% rise in the number of ads directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website. The Australian Defence Force and Holden were the major brands utilising this method.

I’ve been a vocal critic (as you can read in my recent Marketing Magazine blog) of this emerging trend, and these statistics confirm my observations that marketers are relying on search in greater numbers. It is narrow minded, short sighted thinking and it needs to change.

Future trends

It’s my prediction that marketers will make a big splash for the 2014 AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here. Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

By early 2014, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl will be launched, offering marketers an additional option in their menu of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

In Australia, local brands such as the AFL, TAB, iiNet, ANZ and RMIT are leading the way with these new domains. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Grand Final, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as sponsor.afl, product.tab or promotion.rmit on our TV screens.

If you take this year’s TVCs as an example, it is possible that in the future we could see the TAB use a domain name call to action tailored specifically for the Grand Final, such as www.grandfinal.tab or even specific content like www.firstgoal.tab. This would allow the TAB to deliver a highly personal experience and enable viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

Also, brands that have not purchased their own .brand domain can purchase domain names under .melbourne or .sydney to create targeted campaigns that have a direct affiliation with either city.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to appear on the Internet from next year. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I think we’ll see some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for the 2014 Grand Final.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Looking internally for the success of your TLD strategy

Published on October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, discusses the importance of getting internal support for the success of your .brand Top-Level Domain strategy.

By Tony Kirsch

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting at the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress in London on how to create a TLD strategy and activate your path to market for launch.

Some of the best and brightest minds in the industry attended and it was encouraging to hear from major brands such as Phillips, Microsoft, Google and KPMG, as well as a variety of other applicants.

While in my previous blog I discussed why a .brand TLD strategy is important, let’s now delve deeper into engagement strategies and why this is the key to a successful .brand.

Why do I need internal engagement?

Internal engagement is a critical element of a TLD strategy because your .brand TLD is going to impact every aspect of your organisation. From technology to marketing and even customer service, everyone in your organisation needs to be engaged in your TLD strategy at differing degrees.

While you may have already engaged key decision makers during the process of applying for a new TLD, many haven’t sought the necessary strategic input across the organisation – something that is extremely challenging for multinational enterprises (and for some of their consultants!!).

You have to appreciate that how one department approaches your .brand TLD might be different to another department.

However, done correctly, your TLD strategy is the perfect mechanism to align key department’s .brand aspirations with your organisational goals.

Who should you engage internally?

Ideally, the critical areas of your business to target are your C-Suite executives, IT infrastructure and systems teams, digital, brand, legal and marketing departments. This is where the key decision makers lie who can make or break your .brand.

You should also consider bringing in the finance department, PR and internal communications teams, and any agency support your organisation receives from digital, branding and advertising specialists.

Finally, don’t forget that even though you are a .brand, you’ll need to engage your Registrar too (if you haven’t already done so).

Remember, engaging with some internal audiences might be a challenge because there are still people out there that don’t know anything about new TLDs.

Change management

Adopting a .brand is a massive change for any organisation.

It’s important to remember that change is never easy and often clouded in risk as people intuitively resist transformation.

This is why your TLD strategy serves two purposes: 1) To provide purposeful direction in the launch of your TLD; and 2) To act as a mechanism to engage internally and gain the support of your key stakeholders.

The reality is that you’re not only taking ownership of your .brand strategy, you will also be seen as the change facilitator. Leaders of large change programs must take responsibility for generating the critical mass movement in favor of the change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement; it demands complete ownership of the entire change process.

The five steps

I detail these steps in far greater depth during our TLD strategy workshop sessions. At a high level, below are the five key elements you should consider as part of internal engagement for your TLD strategy:

1. De-risk

A successful TLD strategy will need to take a ‘whole of business’ approach if it’s to be effective. Remove the target from your back by involving key stakeholders early and de-risk your .brand TLD investment.

2. Get support from your TLD advisors

Get support from your trusted TLD advisors to guide you through the process. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

3. Secure budget

You’ve made an investment in a core piece of Internet infrastructure. Now it’s time to activate this investment. Engage internally to make a business case to secure budget.

4. Get internal resources

You can’t do this yourself. Collaborate and consult with key stakeholders in all departments to share the load. It’s often far more effective to have others champion the cause for you.

5. Align with corporate goals

Does your .brand TLD strategy reflect your organisation’s mission, vision and values? Now’s the time to engage every department to get collective buy-in.

Your plan

You’re building something from scratch and you need to get your plans in place. Internal engagement is the key to successful project planning and management.

Think about the construction of a house. You would never build a new house without detailed plans.

Similarly, with the creation of your TLD strategy, you should facilitate constructive internal engagement so you can build a plan that provides visibility across all facets of your business operations – and provide a digital platform for your organisation for many, many years to come.

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and is employed by ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

Bring your .brand to life

Published on September 20th, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, previews his upcoming presentation for the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress on why your TLD strategy is paramount to making or breaking your .brand.

By Tony Kirsch

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

With the first new TLDs slated to be delegated in only a matter of weeks, effective development of your TLD strategy is your most important asset to guide you on the path to the successful implementation of your .brand.

Your strategy will be the most significant weapon in your Top-Level Domain arsenal to drive the launch of your .brand, and you’ll only get there with preparation and engagement. For the vast majority of .brand applicants, ICANN have recently informed you that you have passed your application. You’ve come this far. Now it’s time to get the traction and key stakeholder buy-in that is required to justify the investment to date, and support the initiative into the future.

No matter the motivation for applying for your .brand TLD, effective use of your ‘slice of the Internet’ has the potential to be a significant competitive advantage… when activated and incorporated into your digital presence carefully and strategically.

So what is a .brand TLD strategy?

Your TLD strategy is fundamentally about integration; firstly within your organisation, secondly into your existing digital environment, and thirdly, with all of your external stakeholders.

Other new ‘generic’ TLDs (i.e. those available for sale) will be greenfield business – and in most cases have a significantly different value proposition to their target markets.

Large organisations on the other hand, have invested heavily in the development – both online and offline – of their brands over many years. Simply moving to a .brand without clear direction, and a reason for users to find your .brand compelling to try it, will result in the rapid and public death of your .brand.

Remember that Internet users, even the most innovative ones, are not all that forgiving. Your TLD strategy should demonstrate immediate reward and give them incentive to follow you in your .brand TLD journey.

Great responsibility

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you recognise you are part of a bigger movement.

As a .brand applicant, you are trailblazing the frontier of a new Internet and the whole world is watching. Your individual success adds to the collective success of the new TLD program, and your participation in this evolution means our shared responsibility to get it right rests heavily on strategy and execution. This will be the cornerstone of much of my presentation, in collaboration with NetNames and Philips, at the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress in London next week.

One size fits all

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s largest brands to deliver strategic guidance in recent months and the one consistent theme from the workshops I’ve been conducting is that there is no one-size-fits-all TLD strategy solution. As a .brand, you must recognise you need a tailored approach to activating your TLD in line with your corporate vision and success is all about tailoring your strategy to deliver on your specific needs.

Use momentum to build your TLD

As a .brand applicant, you will own your own piece of the Internet; this is your digital asset that separates you from your competitors and demonstrates to your customers that you are leaders in innovation. Drive the momentum of your launch activities to generate ambassadors of your .brand and invite them to join this historic movement.

Then, importantly, don’t get lazy after launch as it’s important to understand that launch success does not equate to ongoing success. Your .brand TLD strategy should have multiple stages of activation to continue breathing life into your .brand, and thus ensure it evolves into your future global digital footprint.

Are we there yet?

The distance between today and launch may seem miles away, but the horizon of this Internet evolution is right in front of us and I can assure you there is lots of work to be done. The key is engagement, education… oh, and a little bit of courage and passion too!

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and leads Global Strategic Consulting for ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought-after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

Who are the true multi-stakeholders in ICANN?

Published on September 19th, 2013

By Donna Austin

Adrian Kinderis

During ICANN Durban, I attended the ccNSO 10 year anniversary celebrations.

ICANN Chairman, Dr Steve Crocker, was on hand to congratulate the ccNSO on their 10 years and revered them as the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

Post Durban, I was reviewing notes and I came across a similar statement made during a ccNSO session that ccTLDs “represent the best functioning multi-stakeholder model” in the ICANN ecosystem.

Is this entirely accurate? Is the ccNSO really the golden child of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model?

While there is no doubt that the ccNSO has been instrumental in influencing policy development and championing change for their cause, are they really ICANN’s “true multi-stakeholders”?

Let’s recap

When I first started attending ICANN meetings back in 2001 representing the Australian Government as the coordinator of the GAC, ccTLDs were pretty much sitting outside the tent. There was considerable distrust between the ccTLD community and ICANN at the time and regular meetings between the ccTLD operators and the GAC could be rather frosty events.

In 2005, when I joined ICANN staff as policy support for the ccNSO, relationships were slowly mending and both the ccTLDs and ICANN were recognising the mutual benefits of having ccTLD operators inside the ICANN tent.

So against this background, it is a tremendous achievement that the ccNSO is now well-established and an important contributor in the ICANN community.

However, the ccNSO has a stronger focus on collaboration, information sharing and best practice adoption, rather than a true aspiration for the Policy Development Process (PDP) that underpins a multi-stakeholder model. This is in large part because the participation of a ccTLD registry operator in the ccNSO and ICANN – and adoption of any policies that might be developed – is on a ‘voluntary’ basis.

ccTLDs are not bound by ICANN consensus policies and operate largely unfettered without interference from ICANN.

I don’t deny that within their respective countries or territories ccTLDs engage in multi-stakeholder style consultations and policy undertakings, but I do not agree that they are the ‘true multi-stakeholders in ICANN’.

While the ccNSO thoroughly deserves plaudits on a highly successful 10 years, I question whether they are the preeminent representation of the multi-stakeholder model.

The GNSO

Instead of the ccNSO, I would argue that the GNSO is the prime example of the multi-stakeholder model operating at its full capacity. It might at times look like a dog fight, but that’s the beauty of the model.

The GNSO has a long history of undertaking policy development processes and perhaps the most contentious and the one that still lingers is the PDP that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs.

I used to think it was inappropriate for those that stood to benefit from the new gTLD process to be involved in the policy development process that recommended the introduction of new gTLDs. But what I’ve come to appreciate and understand is that the only way for the ICANN experiment to succeed – at least in the short term – was to ensure that those who had a dog in the fight were involved in the process.

The development of the new gTLD program has been the process – while often times messy – that has led in large part to the maturation of ICANN and the expansion of the GNSO into a more diverse and dynamic set of interest groups. The process has also brought considerably more interplay across ICANN’s structure of supporting organisations, advisory committees, the ICANN Board and staff.

As ICANN contracted parties, there is also much more at stake for the gTLD registries in these PDPs as the outcomes will have some impact on their business. All gTLD registry operators sign contracts with ICANN acknowledging that they will be bound not only by consensus policies that exist at the time of signing the agreement, but any consensus policies approved at a later date.

So it’s understandable that some of the policy debates that take place within the GNSO are very robust, hard fought and lengthy. Finding consensus in such an environment should be applauded and exalted by ICANN and time should be taken by those new to ICANN to understand and appreciate the machinations of the process.

The GNSO should be ICANN’s flagship. It is the central policy organ that is so important to the bottom-up, consensus driven, multi-stakeholder model that is ICANN.

As Jonathan Robinson, Chair of the GNSO Council, noted prior to Durban:

“… ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model is complex, dynamic and necessarily evolving.”

Those of us that have been engaged in this community for a long time will understand the multi-facets of the SOs and ACs that collectively are the “true multi-stakeholders in ICANN”.

After 12 years of following this circus, I am finally starting to get it.

By Donna Austin
Policy and Industry Affairs Officer
ARI Registry Services

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Published on September 19th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special feature article first published by Marketing Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, investigates recent trends in advertisers directing their customers to conduct search-based queries to find their products or services.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 27 August 2013

I’m a businessman, but I’m also a consumer, and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with advertisers sending me to search engines to go looking online for their product or service as their call to action.

I often find myself distracted by the other search results (you never know what you’ll find!) when conducting these searches. Other times, I’m insulted that they expect me, the customer, to go searching for them, the advertiser.

But what baffles me the most – from my business perspective – is the exorbitant costs expended by advertisers to drive customers on a hunt to find them in such a competitive landscape, especially when they can be directed to the exact destination in one click.

My findings have illustrated that search is not the solution to advertisers’ reaching their customers and driving conversions; search is the problem.

What we know about search

Recent studies indicate the growing dependence on search engines, revealing that 91 percent of us use search engines online, and 59 percent rely on search engines.

While there’s no denying the increasing use of search engines globally, the emerging trend from marketers to use search as their call to action in place of direct web addresses has become more and more prevalent in above the line marketing. Open the newspaper or turn on your television and you’ll find it’s not uncommon to see the term, ‘search <product name/campaign>’ in advertising.

But is the tail wagging the dog? Do marketers believe their customers aren’t savvy enough to navigate the Internet using domain names, or are they just encouraging us to become slaves to the search bar?

No certainty

Above the line marketing has reached new lows if advertisers believe consumers are more likely to search for keywords like “Colorado Serious” to find out more about a four-wheel drive. When I typed that in, I discovered that there was a serious virus in Colorado infecting locals! Similarly with an Audi ad I recently saw; when I typed “Audi A3” into my search bar, Audi wasn’t the top-ranking search result.

Further, what happens when your immediate advertising campaign finishes? You do not own that search keyword and unless you plan on paying for it well into the future, any residual engagement you create through your campaign will be lost – potentially to a competitor. You must continually invest in your keyword to own it and that can be financially draining overtime.

In spite of the stats that drive marketers to believe search is where it’s at for customer conversion, there is no certainty that for all the money spent on search engine rankings – in addition to the ad production and placement – that the promise of being the top-ranking search result is achieved.

Competitive environment

Granted, advertising in any format is a competitive landscape, but do marketers believe that keyword searches are a more effective means of driving their audience to their campaign?

Search is a highly competitive environment and recent court cases have ruled that competitors are permitted to purchase your keywords.

Clever competitors may even try to artificially inflate your cost per click (CPC) price by under bidding you and forcing you to pay more for each click. CPC is not a set fee, it’s volatile and an advertiser pays above immediately what an under bidder pays.

Lack of control

The crux of the problem I have with advertisers using search as a call to action is that not only is it expensive, but the outcome can be fallible due to the fact that search results are controlled by a third party and can be influenced by anyone else to your detriment.

Even worse, there is no control over what may appear next to your brand in your keyword search terms. What if a major breaking news story occurs on the same day as your campaign and the story involves terms that match your keywords? The consequences of negative stories being tied to your brand could be disastrous. Like Colorado Serious… four-wheel drive, anyone?

Not efficient

Search engines have made us lazy. Many of us have become slaves to the search bar and its auto-fill convenience. Have you ever googled Google rather than typing the domain name into the web address bar?

Search should help us find content, not replace the web address bar as an online navigation aid. Often, typing a domain name into an address bar will be far quicker than the multiple steps required to search for a website.

However shameful it is, using search engines to navigate the Internet is a reality for many. I believe some advertisers have attributed this to be a user preference, rather than recognising this point as a wider Internet navigation problem.

In my eyes, search is an unnecessary two-step process. Why should Internet users search for advertisers to only end up at their corporate website or microsite anyway? Search can only introduce unnecessary risk to the equation.

100% visibility on poor performance

Because the data indicates the vast majority of Internet users rely on search, marketers see search engines as a channel with which their audience is familiar and regularly use to navigate the Internet.

However, just because their website analytics reports show most of their traffic originates from Google doesn’t mean it should be promoted as the preferred way to navigate to your website. With ROI as the major focus of digital marketing, are marketers simply trying to justify their budget because the data is available? Isn’t that just spotlighting poor performance?

Bring back the slash

Marketers went a little crazy with the use of slash extensions on their domain names in advertising, but there are clever ways to use them. For example, featuring the entire url, including the http://www. is often not the best way to encourage memory recall or positive brand association in advertising, and the same can be said for using domain name-slash something-slash something. Treating your audience as savvy consumers is one thing, but don’t make it difficult for them to remember who you are and what you’re selling.

With the introduction of the new Top-Level Domain Program into the marketplace, a new world of options will be available to marketers. Not only will it support the expansion of the Internet, it offers customers a more memorable, direct solution to finding your product/service/campaign, and will allow greater conversion. Imagine directing your customers to holden.car/colorado, or even better, colorado.holden? All the benefits of web analytics and customer recall, minus the expensive keywords and competitive landscape.

Marketers are adding to the wider web navigation problem by not raising greater awareness and education among their audience about their corporate online mainstay – their website and domain name. Remember, you own your domain name and all the traffic and IP rights associated to it. This is in contrast to search terms, where you are building equity into an asset you will never truly own.

It all boils down to the basic marketing principles of message recall, brand recognition and trust. Control the message and send your customers straight to your website via a domain name. No detours required.

Not only are websites and domain names far cheaper to set up and maintain, they’re yours to own forever and cannot be influenced by your competitors.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services