The internet is changing. With over 1,000 new suffixes coming onto the market and becoming available, brands, cities, communities and other organisations will be launching their new or updated profile over the coming months with their newly acquired top level domain. This expansion of the web address system represents a brave new world for both companies and internet users. Especially for brands, it offers a great opportunity to strengthen their online presence and to tailor it in a way that will help them to reach new markets and audiences.
The Big Bang
But is it really so important for a brand to adopt a new web suffix in order to reach these new audiences in question? To respond to that, one would need to read reality correctly: this massive appearance of new web address endings is similar to an internet big bang. It paves the way to a future where any brand, local, regional, or international alike, can expand globally across new audiences and be identifiable by people who may live in another country, in another continent. This is the reason why a brand would look to adopt a new domain suffix; in order to adapt to the new internet era and stay ahead of the curve.
Up until today, this has been impossible to achieve for a brand that did not have the .com suffix –pragmatically and symbolically .com has been synonymous to a company’s international character. Now however, any brand can expand its business to reach new audiences all over the world by embracing this internet change. Especially if we are discussing things on a global level, the scenario outlined above will begin to take shape after March 25, 2014, when .globaldomains will start being offered for sale via an open application and auction process.
Your URL Is Your Brand
Some argue that a URL carries about as much weight as a telephone number, as it performs an essential function but is ultimately invisible to most people that visit the website, and that increasingly people use search to reach websites. However, increasingly the domain name in the URL is central to a brand’s identity: in order to exist, any business –from the largest global corporation to the newest start-up with great aspirations –needs a name in order to be able to create a geographical and innovative identity. Nowadays a domain is a name, it is an ID. Even when using Google to search for something, consumers will still need the reassurance of a recognised name in the search results. Standing out form the crowd in this vital space can make the difference between being clicked on and being ignored. This desire to differentiate is underlined in a study , published last month, which found that in a sample of 1,000 small London businesses, one in four plan to register for a .london web address – many in the belief that it will help customers identify them more easily online and thus generate more sales.
The Brand Benefits
Some brands have moved into this space and have taken the view that having a clear brand identity means owning their own brand as a top level internet domain. In practice, this is expensive, and the window for new applications has now closed. So what should brands do if they have not so far been part of this process? My view is that brands should now consider which of the new top level domain provide relevant and clear opportunities to reach their customers in new and exciting ways, but which remain authentic to their brand proposition. Depending on which new top level domains they consider they could find they have the freedom to utilise the Web in ways not imagined before: for new business purposes. They can re-define or enhance their business model, renovate their distribution channels and refocus the company's strategic positioning.
For example a brand may want to create a global portal that promotes its services to an international audience, differentiated from local customers. It could therefore buy its brand name on .global to support this strategy. Alternatively, a fast moving start-up, one of what The Economist has called ‘micro-global enterprises’ may want to rapidly gain traction with a distinct community around the world and so launch itself on .global. The added advantage here is that securing a sensible, memorable name on of the older domains is almost impossible, whereas the new domains offer a huge range of new naming potential, as well as the added benefit of being part of the new wave of internet branding.
Another benefit for businesses who will now own an entire top level domain space is that greatly increased inventory of website domain names they will be able to apply for specific sub domains to market specific sub-brands and products. These domain names will be able to communicate at once the company in question’s product and brand for less than the price of a high-in-traffic premium .com domain that said company could buy in past aftermarket auctions.
How To: Market Global
To conclude, brands are presented with an opportunity and a challenge here: owning a piece of the internet landscape in order to reach new audiences, boost sales, and even rebrand themselves is a demanding project for any company to undertake. This is regardless of whether we are talking about a big or small business, established or now entering the market, international in size and capacity or a start-up.
CMOs need to acknowledge that most businesses will sooner or later get to use these new domain suffixes and therefore online audiences will be de facto presented with thousands of new choices. It is therefore imperative that CMOs rethink the way they position their brand in front of the public who is navigating the web –and that they do it in a way that will touch upon an international audience. In this online era it is crucial for a brand to not only be global, but also market global. And towards this end, businesses need to think of the issues and the opportunities of doing so, which are lying ahead.