Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Thursday, 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

Opportunity missed. Hilton checks-out of new domains boom

Friday, January 25th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, explains why Hilton Hotels’ decision to withdraw their .hilton new Top-Level Domain application is an opportunity for success wasted

American author Mark Twain once wrote: “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Last month we learned that Hilton Hotels & Resorts joined six other new Top-Level Domain applicants in withdrawing their application and exiting the program.

I was disappointed when I first heard the news. My initial thoughts were centred on the enormous potential .hilton offered the company and the innovative business opportunities they were now abandoning.

Just imagine the ease of content access Hilton could have delivered their guests through associating their products, locations and services with .hilton. Instead of Googling to find the nearest Hilton Hotel in a city (which I commonly do), guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need. Not only would this deliver improved trust, customer engagement and message recall with consumers, it would allow Hilton to localise and tailor their messages to suit guests’ needs.

I asked myself, what circumstances could force Hilton into giving up on these benefits?

Some brands may have made decisions to apply for a new TLD based on fears about brand protection. Perhaps Hilton applied simply to prevent someone else owning .hilton?

I can understand why some applicants have withdrawn from the program, be it due to competition or GAC Early Warnings. However, none of these reasons apply to Hilton.

The truth is we don’t know why Hilton withdrew their application because neither Hilton nor their representatives have offered an official explanation for the decision.

It is my proposition that Hilton lacked two crucial elements in their new TLD plans and that these were the reasons for their withdrawal: Expert support and intestinal fortitude.

Expert support

I find it odd that a lot of new TLD applicants hit submit on their application in early 2012 and naively thought the revenue and rewards of their hard labour would somehow magically start rolling through the door.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done in order to transform your application into a fully operational component of your business.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to me that Hilton fell into this trap. They may have lacked the expert support needed to help them through ICANN’s complicated processes and the authoritative guidance on how to build a successful TLD. Ultimately, they probably just needed someone to hold their hand.

My team and I have taken on this role with our own clients. While we are polishing our backend registry systems in preparation to launch new TLDs, we are also spending a significant amount of time consulting with our clients and helping them develop an operational strategy capable of delivering them the revenue and rewards they so eagerly seek.

Essentially, what we’re trying to do is help our clients and other new TLD applicants stand up robust and successful businesses. Simple, right?

This involves tedious planning sessions and workshops to produce assets to execute a winning business plan. To do this, you’ll need TLD policies, procedures for dispute resolution, integration with registrars and other third parties, technology support, operational guides and a host of other requirements. The reason we know this is because we have done this many times before for other TLDs.

However, it’s understandable if the prospect of getting all of these elements in place scared the living daylights out of Hilton. They’re leaders in operating hotels and resorts. Launching and operating a TLD is about as foreign as it gets.

They needed an expert they could rely on for support.

Intestinal fortitude

While getting the right advice is important, I’ve also been telling folks from day one that you’ve got to have intestinal fortitude if you want to be a leader – especially in the new TLD game.

By its very nature, everyone participating in the new TLD program is breaking new ground in an attempt to achieve greatness.  This is where leaders and innovators separate themselves from followers. It takes guts!

I suspect Hilton lost confidence and didn’t have the courage, determination and chutzpah to see it through. It’s a shame really because they were sitting on a gem of a TLD that had enormous potential, particularly given the online nature of the travel industry.

My team and I are working hard for our clients to give them every confidence in achieving success. We do this by reducing the burden on our clients by providing the expertise they need at this crucial stage in a TLDs development. We will stand side-by-side with them and face every challenge together.

Opportunity realised

With the right advice and support from a trusted partner, combined with the intestinal fortitude capable of withstanding ICANN’s ever flexible timelines, applicants should be set to achieve every success in this program.

The unfortunate reality for Hilton was that they were in an enviable position compared to many others. They just didn’t know it. I wish they had given me a call before making the decision to withdraw.

Clearly, there is significant interest and demand in the program and the benefits are there to be seen.

It’s true; one of my clients could come to me next week and ask to withdraw from the program. However, my team and I are prepared to get our hands dirty and work hard for every one of our clients to ensure they have the opportunity to realise success.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Google’s Matt Cutts responds to our opinion piece

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

By Adrian Kinderis

Today, Matt Cutts, an engineer in the search quality team at Google, published a response to my article on the impact new Top-Level Domains might have on the search results produced by Google and other search engines.

Mr Cutts wrote:

I read a post by someone offering new top-level domain (TLDs). They made this claim: “Will a new TLD web address automatically be favoured by Google over a .com equivalent? Quite simply, yes it will.” Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.

In response, I would like to thank Matt Cutts for contributing to the debate on this important topic.  I welcome the discussion as the aim of my opinion piece was to get people talking and I encourage a healthy and vigorous conversation on this topic.

I will be the first to admit there were some controversial statements included in the article to spark discussion and raise awareness of the overall debate on how new Top-Level Domains will be treated by Google.

One point that concerns me though is that some people may form a view of my opinion without reading the entire article. It is therefore important to highlight that Matt has commented on one sentence within a 1200 word article where the intention was that the article is read and reviewed in the context of every point and argument put forward, rather than simply one sentence in isolation.

For instance, if you read my article, you will note that I discuss how search engines like Google handle information contained to the right of the dot. I also explain the impact of domain name bias and I sought the views of three industry experts. To conclude the article, I specifically address the importance of creating a relevant TLD that is a signpost for good, trusted and authoritative content – something that Matt identified as being important.

If someone was going to pull out one quote from my article, I think it should be my conclusion:

“It’s here I remind marketers that buying a new TLD isn’t just about buying a key word to the right of the dot – it is about buying an entire slice of the internet. So whilst a new TLD provides clear Google ranking benefits and domain name bias, a first class content strategy to underpin a new TLD will help even more. Define a target market, create credible content for your new TLD community and the Google results will follow.”

This is my personal opinion and I stand by it. Ultimately, we’ll all have to wait and see what policies will be adopted by certain TLDs and how TLD owners will build value and relevant content into their namespaces. Only then will we be able to accurately judge the true impact.

I appreciate the views of Matt and other industry experts. As far as I’m aware, this is the first written statement from Google on this topic and follows a brief web chat by Matt last year. I urge Google and Matt to further expand upon this discussion as the new TLD program develops.

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

New domains open up unique opportunity for CMOs to own an entire online category

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Adrian Kinderis

In this special guest blog which first appeared in Marketing Magazine Australia, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says savvy CMOs are poised to get exclusive ownership of an entire product category as the application window for new Top-Level Domains opens this week.

In its short history, the Internet has transformed the way brands reach and engage their customers. It has been the source of numerous innovations that have revolutionized the way we influence our audience and target our customers – CMOs have been at the forefront of this revolution. We only have to look at the impact of Facebook and Twitter for examples of how innovative thinking using Internet technology has led to the advancement of the marketing and communications industry.

However, the majority of the change and innovation experienced within the online channel has been at the application layer through the likes of tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Starting this week, a core component of Internet infrastructure (the Domain Name System) is about to undergo a dramatic change that will provide marketers with a unique opportunity to make a statement of leadership, improve message recall and target consumers online like never before.

It’s called a new Top-Level Domain, and will allow brands and marketers across the world to insert their brand name or a generic term relating to their category to the right of the dot, creating an entire domain namespace like .com completely dedicated to their business. This will provide forward thinking CMOs the chance to claim exclusive rights over this opportunity in their product category. In fact, I call it a category killer. More on this point later.

The introduction of these new domains has had little mainstream attention and this fact has angered many. Only recently, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) began a campaign publicly criticizing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) over its decision to implement this program. In my opinion, the arguments the ANA have raised against the program are weak and have already been addressed, as ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom noted in his letter to the ANA last year.

The fact of the matter is that new Top-Level Domains are a reality and they’re coming, whether or not you agree with ICANN’s decision. The time has come for CMOs to develop a clear understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with this dramatic change to ensure they are able to build the appropriate strategy for their brand.

What is this .brand thing all about?

This is not just another domain name. Owning a .brand will allow you to operate your own domain name registry at the root of the Internet which will provide several new business and marketing opportunities never before seen in the corporate world.

One of the benefits of .brand will be the ease of content access. Under .brand, we will see brands moving away from long, unwieldy and generic website addresses such as “www.americanexpress.com/potential” to a far more intuitive and easy to recall domain structure such as “potential.amex”. From a consumer perspective, content will be easier to navigate to in its truest form – via short, relevant and memorable domain names.

If you’re still unsure of the many uses for .brand, imagine tigerwoods.nike, creditcards.hsbc and 911.porsche and you’re well on the way to capturing the opportunity presented by this unique change.

We have already seen major global brands such as Canon, Hitachi, Motorola, Deloitte and UNICEF publicly announce their intentions to secure their .brand. It is expected that hundreds more are keeping their cards close to their chest to avoid competition for the same name (eg: Apple Records vs Apple Inc. for example).

Why is a .brand important?

Online marketing is crucial, but something that has bothered me for some time now has been the overreliance on third-party applications in the online world. Actions to engage and connect with consumers to convey your brand promise are diluted and less effective when delivered through a platform outside of your brand.  An example of this is the strict control many third-party applications, like Facebook, have over your activity, customer data and brand message when actively participating in their ‘walled garden’.

However, a .brand Top-Level Domain will allow trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall to shine through by providing a direct connection between the customer and the brand experience – creating your very own branded ‘walled garden’.

For instance, I could certainly see value in Apple securing .apple or .itunes and implementing a customer registration process whereby each registered customer is provided with a branded online portal, such as adriankinderis.itunes, where they can interact with the brand and associated products.

Similarly, from a customer engagement perspective, imagine if Porsche were to provide all customers with an adriankinderis.porsche domain name with the purchase of a new vehicle to allow access to critical information such as service scheduling and technical information. Not only would it deliver value to the customer, it would also play a role in the introduction of the customer to the Porsche brand experience and lifestyle (car clubs, forums, social networking etc).

In a world where knowledge is truly power – imagine the data collection ability for marketers who have complete control over the infrastructure of their own branded name space.

There will also be huge improvements in online security and trust. Take the HSBC bank for example, a .brand will bring clarity and security to customers online with the simple message, ‘If it’s not .hsbc, it’s not us’. Not to mention making it easier for customers to find content online through the delivery of intuitive and easy to recall domain name structure such as creditcards.hsbc, for instance.

Truly global megabrands will also be interested in the fact that for the first time in history, you can register your .brand in any language around the world. This means you can now offer your customers in the fast growing economies of Asia and the Middle East the same online experience as those in English speaking nations, completely in their own native language. Not only will this show you are serious about your business in these regions, it will reinforce your brand’s local credibility and provide a clear point of competitive difference.

Category killers

These new Top-Level Domains are not just limited to brands. Any generic term like .bank, .doctor, .shop or .hotel can be registered to represent an entire category. A research report commissioned by ARI Registry Services in November found significant revenue potential for entrepreneurs to own industry-specific Top-Level Domains and commercialise them by on-selling second-level domains to relevant businesses (e.g. retailername.shop or lawfirm.law). It suggested that multi-million dollar annual returns are on offer for applicants willing to invest in a new TLD.

Innovative brands wanting to be leaders in the online space will invest in these generic terms on top of their own .brand to completely own their product category and starve the competition of relevance.

The implications for category domination are huge. There is no other opportunity in the world where one brand has the opportunity to completely own a single product category within a channel for its exclusive use.  Imagine if Coca-Cola was the only soft drinks brand allowed to advertise on television, or if Budweiser was the only beer allowed to appear on billboards. The implications would be enormous.

Take a .hotel as an example, the one-stop-shop for online accommodation options for consumers around the world. A brand like Hilton could apply for the .hilton and .hotel Top-Level Domains to completely dominate the online accommodation category. Whether a consumer was looking for Hilton or not, it is likely that the category dominance delivered by .hotel would result in Hilton being highly prominent in consumer search results. This is before considering further domination by applying for .resort, .spa or .holiday.

For me, the age of category killers is now.

How do I get a new Top-Level Domain?

The opportunity to own a new Top-Level Domain doesn’t come cheap. The application fee to ICANN alone will set you back $185,000 and then you will need to add on technology and operating costs. Furthermore, to be a category killer, you’re going to need to apply for multiple names. In total you’re looking at approximately $500,000 to $1 million to make this a reality.

Also, the application window for new Top-Level Domains will close on 12 April 2012. If you miss this window, it may be many years until you get another chance to participate. I fear there will be many brands out there that will miss out on this opportunity.

I’m telling my clients they need to act now. With less than three months until the application window closes, CMOs need to get moving on this once in a lifetime opportunity or otherwise they will miss out. The unfortunate reality for many CMOs is that by the time they recognize the value of this leadership opportunity, it will be too late to do anything about it.

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.

New Top-Level Domains, not Facebook, the future for online brands

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry International, explains why brand owners should ‘dislike’ the idea of a heavy Facebook presence and instead should consider creating their own new Top-Level Domain for their brand.

It was with great shock, horror and a little amusement that I read a recent news report about Facebook’s ambitious plan to eliminate the need for standalone company websites and instead have companies adopt dedicated microsites within Facebook as their primary online presence.

Stephen Haines, commercial director of Facebook’s UK operation, told a technology and marketing conference in London that the power of Facebook may see major companies no longer bother with their own websites.

According to CNET, Mr Haines said many more Facebook users click a company’s “like” button than have visited the company’s website. For example, he said Starbucks received 21.1 million likes compared to only 1.8 million site visits per month.

These are impressive figures for Facebook. However, it’s important to remember that success in the online space is determined by a combination of high volume exposure and a deep brand or product engagement that can only be delivered within the walls of a corporate website.

Why Facebook websites may be a bad sell

Facebook is a ground breaking application that has revolutionised society. However, it’s just an application and should be used as such. There are many opportunities for brands to leverage Facebook as part of their online presence, but this should not mean the centralisation of all digital activities within the Facebook site.

A Facebook-only approach would:

•    Dilute the brand’s identity with Facebook’s identity
•    Place the brand at the mercy of facebook.com’s performance. There are no Service Level Agreements nor repercussions should the facebook.com website go down – which it has done on a number of occasions
•    Reduce the target audience to only Facebook users (there are more than two billion Internet users worldwide, and only 700 million Facebook users). You can’t get the full Facebook experience unless you are a Facebook member
•    Limit the scope of digital campaigns to the restrictions of the Facebook platform
•    Pose potential risks due to Facebook’s policies (Facebook’s privacy policies are under increasing scrutiny from a number of national governments)
•    Place your customers or clients at risk to potential online security threats that are out of your control (such as the recent Facebook privacy data risk identified by Symantec)
•    Marry the brand with Facebook (for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health)

Why have facebook.com/brand when you can have product.brand

A revolution taking place within the domain name industry will revolutionise the way end users navigate the Internet, providing global brands with the foundation they need to build the digital strategy of the future.

ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program will allow for new Internet extensions to be introduced and we’ll see brands such as Apple and Toyota move from their current .com addresses to .apple and .toyota. It won’t be long until we see advertisements directing consumers to ipad2.apple or prius.toyota for an engaging experience built solely on targeted, specific content.

With applications opening on 12 January 2012, we’ll start to see .brand domains in operation from early 2013.

So what does this mean for you? Building a digital strategy around a .brand Top-Level Domain will ensure all online traffic is directed to a content environment that delivers a deeper and more influential experience to those customers who recall your message. What’s more, it’s done so in an environment that you control.

Benefits will include:

•    Increased global brand visibility
•    Intuitive Internet navigation (product.brand, service.brand, campaign.brand)
•    Better brand and domain name protection (customers can trust that your .brand represents your company)
•    Deeper customer engagement and increased long-term brand loyalty
•    Search Engine Marketing/Optimization cost reductions (there is a whole blog post on the implications for search).

At one end of the spectrum, we have the “walled garden” of Facebook. Their website, their control their audience. At the other a new innovative way of having complete and utter control of your web presence by owning and operating your own slice of Internet real-estate. Facebook and other social network platforms provide powerful features that should make them important components of any digital strategy. No major brand however, should be considering the loss of control that is inherent in any strategy that places Facebook as the foundation of their online presence. The new Top-Level Domain program provides a unique opportunity for major brands to reinvent themselves in the online space, enabling them to leverage all of the benefits of the web, including but by no means limited to those offered on the Facebook platform.

By Adrian Kinderis, new Top-Level Domain name expert and Internet industry thought leader

The original article can be read here on iStrategy.