There’s little question that the Internet has profoundly changed the way that brands do business and the way that associations relate to their members. But while the impact of the Internet on the businesses has been largely positive – giving companies the ability to drive growth and brand awareness through ecommerce, social media, and paid search advertising – the impact on associations has been, until more recently, less overwhelmingly beneficial. As a contributor to Associations Now explained in 2010:
The rise of the World Wide Web has wreaked havoc with the traditional association business model. Membership, education, and access to information—three of the most common value propositions and most important revenue streams found in association business models—have been disrupted by what often feels like an infinite variety of acceptable (and occasionally superior) online alternatives that can be delivered at lower cost and often free of charge to end users. Meanwhile, associations have struggled to imagine new value propositions they can offer to slow down this process of commoditization.
Fortunately, associations are now using the Internet to provide new value propositions to members, such as those offered through the use of new generic Top Level Domains (or gTLDs). Let’s look at how the following three associations—the National Association of Realtors, AARP, and the Financial Services Roundtable – are using new gTLDs to get the most out of the Internet expansion.
1) .REALTOR and the National Association of Realtors
The National Association of Realtors is one of the largest and most powerful lobbies in the U.S. The NAR represents its 1.1 million member base on matters related to commercial and residential real estate.
With its new gTLD, the NAR offers domain names in .REALTOR to NAR members. According to the NAR’s application for .REALTOR, the new gTLD “will support branding and marketing efforts” of realty industry members. In effect, .REALTOR domain names serve as a membership benefit. By enabling Internet users to quickly confirm – by looking at a website address – that a particular real estate agent is an official REALTOR®, NAR provides a unique benefit that helps its members distinguish their services online. The provision of this exclusive benefit aligns with the NAR’s mission to help members “become more profitable and successful,” demonstrating NAR’s savvy, strategic use of the Internet to strengthen its relationship with members and its industry.
2) .AARP and AARP, Inc. (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)
AARP is 37 million-strong membership and interest group based in the U.S. that serves individuals aged 50 and over.
AARP’s gTLD, .AARP, was added to the Domain Name System in November of 2015. While .AARP is currently in development, the non-profit provides information about its planned use for .AARP at nic.AARP, explaining:
What we do might surprise you, like launching a global top level domain. It will help you find valuable AARP tools, resources and services on the web. And, when you see an internet address ending with .aarp, you can be certain that it’s authorized by AARP and overseen by us. At AARP, we believe no one’s possibilities should be limited by their age. Discover your Real Possibilities at .aarp.
Only AARP and its qualified Affiliates and Trademark Licensees can own domain names in .AARP. As a result, AARP members can be assured that websites with .AARP at the end of the address are legitimately associated with or run by the Association. The trustworthiness established by .AARP’s registration and use policies is especially important to AARP’s target audience, as Internet users age 50 and up are often the victims of online phishing and scams. By offering its target audience a way to easily identify its websites as legitimate, AARP is helping its members and prospective members to feel more secure navigating to AARP websites.
3) .BANK and the Financial Services Roundtable
Since the mid-1990s, online banking services have revolutionized the financial services industry. Customers can conveniently access their accounts from almost any location, and companies have reduced the operational costs associated with physical branches. Unfortunately, phishing and other cybersecurity issues threaten consumer trust in online banking sites and portals, costing the financial sector upwards of $28 million in 2015.
To help address this problem, fTLD Registry Services – a coalition of banks, insurance companies and their respective trade associations – applied for and now run .BANK.
As outlined in the fTLD Registry Services application, .BANK is a “trusted, verified, more secure and easily identifiable location on the Internet” thanks to stringent registration requirements that limit .BANK users to regulated entities. The gTLD is also subject to technical security protocol that go beyond those found on most domain names. Through these features, the associations involved in fTLD Registry Services are ensuring that members have access to valuable, trusted online “real estate” that can be used for online banking and marketing.
How Associations Can Use gTLDs – Now and in The Future
Associations are emerging as early adopters of new gTLDs. Of the 23 associations that applied for their own gTLDs, 14 have launched, including .WTC, managed by the World Trade Centers Association, Inc.; .ARTE, managed by Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne G.E.I.E.; and .CFA, managed by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute.
As Nao Matsukata, CEO of FairWinds Partners notes, “As much as the Internet has been disruptive for associations, associations are now using the disruption as an opportunity to recast themselves as innovators by using new gTLDs to develop new channels of communication and value to their members.”
The first application round for new gTLDs is closed. However, a second round may open in several years, allowing companies and associations to apply for gTLDs once again. In the meantime, associations can register domain names in open or certain relevant, restricted gTLDs, which allow registrations by parties other than the organization that owns or runs the gTLD. For example, the Consumer Technology Association took advantage of the open gTLD .TECH and now houses online content on CTA.TECH.
If your association or business is interested in learning more about using gTLDs, please contact us about which ones might be the best fit given your goals and budget.
The New Year is another opportunity to reflect on what we want to achieve and what we wish to change. Perhaps make resolutions to pursue a new skill or eat more healthily. For brands this year, it might mean making the resolution the develop a leaner and cleaner domain name portfolio.
A domain name portfolio, like any other part of your company’s digital strategy, needs to do some heavy lifting to help achieve your company’s business goals. In this New Year, here are some questions that brands should be asking themselves to make sure their portfolio is up to the task:
Have you reviewed the domains in your existing domain name portfolio for their continued relevance and optimal quality?
Each domain name should add strategic value to the portfolio, either to drive traffic to the company’s sites and engagement with its online content or to protect the company’s brands from infringement.
Are customers able to easily locate and identify your products and services online?
A quality domain name that resolves to relevant, expected content contributes value to a brand, since it ensures that Internet users ultimately arrive at the content they were seeking in the first place, thereby delivering a reliable and positive experience.
Could you use your existing domains to spotlight upcoming product or service launches?
You may be able to register or purchase some valuable domain names for new ventures.
Overall, if the purpose of a domain name in your existing portfolio is unclear and it is not being used as a current or potential marketing opportunity, you should consider scrapping it and repurposing the costs associated with that domain for better use.
Some other related questions to ask to make sure that you keep that good momentum going:
Do you have a streamlined approach to which domains company stakeholders are allowed to register?
Consider how domains get into your portfolio. Do you have a clear-cut internal domain registration policy? Having a centralized policy and the right people at the table (across departments like legal and marketing) is important in ensuring that your domain name strategy stays strong over the course of time.
Could a new gTLD help you achieve your business goals?
Consider what registrations in generic new gTLDs would make strategic sense, but also brainstorm whether your own .BRAND might be a good idea. It’s a long evaluation process that, to paraphrase Nao Matsukata, starts with one question: Would it solve a problem for you?
Get a head-start now. Conduct an in-depth review of your domain name portfolio (we can help) to ensure that you are capturing all potential growth areas and current marketing opportunities. A streamlined portfolio allows you to make the most effective use of your budget and targets the spaces most critical to protecting your brand reputation.
Every year, retailers try to predict consumer behavior in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to make big sales. While these shopping days are a week away, we can look to China’s designated day of shopping – Singles’ Day, November 11 – where Alibaba has already made record-breaking sales for insights and lessons.
What Is Singles’ Day, and Why is it a Big Deal in Retail?
Created in China as a day of celebration for single people, Singles’ Day has been held every year on 11/11 since the 1990s. Six years ago, Alibaba turned Singles’ Day into a major buying holiday: Total sales in 2009 added up to ￥52 million, and in each subsequent year, the figure has jumped to ￥936 million, ￥5.2 billion, ￥19.1 billion, and￥36.2 billion before hitting a new high of ￥91.2 billion this year. That is equivalent to $14.3 billion.
According to the World Economic Forum, Cyber Monday had been the world’s biggest online shopping day every year since its introduction – until Singles’ Day surpassed it in 2012. Moreover, Singles’ Day boasts a much higher year-over-year growth rate than Cyber Monday, as demonstrated in this Reuter’s chart.
This year, a forecast by Adobe’s Digital Index has Cyber Monday sales reaching $3 billion. While this would represent 12% growth from 2014, the sales gap between Cyber Monday and Singles’ Day continues to widen.
What were Some Standout Keys to Singles’ Day Success?
Star Power and Television
This year’s Singles’ Day was bolstered by popular star power and a “sales push” gala on November 10, directed by Feng Xiaogang, who is known for his top-grossing comedy movies. The gala invited celebrities including British Actor Daniel Craig, American singer Adam Lambert, American actor Kevin Spacey, as well as famous actors and actresses from China who were also spokespersons for products sold on Alibaba’s marketplaces. After the performances and promotions at the gala, which was broadcasted live on TV, online traffic and sales substantially increased.
According to the data publicized by Alibaba Group, 68.7% of transactions were done via mobile device and using mobile payment, which translates to 158% growth year over year. Mobile sales alone, which added up to $9.8 billion, exceeded total sales on Singles’ Day a year ago.
Alibaba CEO Zhang Yong mentioned that, besides strengthening technical infrastructure for the influx of traffic on Singles’ Day (which included setting up hundreds of tents in their campus for support engineers rest between shifts), the company had also focused on gathering and analyzing all consumers’ previous shopping behavior to provide highly customized product recommendations, thereby improving user experience and better supporting sales.
The Growing Reach of Singles’ Day Underscores Alibaba’s Influence on Retail
Alibaba continues to push Singles’ Day globally – this year marked the first time the event was officially named the “11.11 Global Shopping Festival.” Consumers found that not only did the gala include international celebrities, but also that the online shopping malls had more international brands participating in the event.
According to Alibaba, more than 5,000 brands from 25 countries joined the festival, and over 30 million consumers (over 33% of total consumers who participated in Singles’ Day) purchased products from foreign brands.
Alibaba’s President Michael Evans has spoken about the company’s focus on attracting U.S. retailers to China and, as expected, the U.S. ranked as the top market selling to China during the festival. While some American brands sold their products through available platforms such as Alibaba’s Tmall (Macy’s opened a Tmall store a few days before Singles’ Day), others sought to draw customers directly to their own sites. For example, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus were part of the 130 American brands that worked with a Chinese deal site dealmoon.com to sell directly to Chinese consumers with specific Singles’ Day online coupons.
As global brands continue to navigate ecommerce in China, Alibaba will help set the tone for opportunities – its successful promotion of Singles’ Day helps make that clear. As we’ve written before, Alibaba’s Tmall is an appealing way for a foreign company to engage in e-commerce in China, and some eyes are on IDN gTLDs as another avenue to consider into foreign markets. Alibaba itself, for example, acquired some of its primary brands in Chinese characters under the .在线 (.ONLINE), .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE), and .移动(.MOBILE) IDNs.
The lessons from Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still ahead, but brands can already consider the insights gained from Singles’ Day and Alibaba as they prepare their digital strategies for 2016.
However, this opportunity doesn’t come without some serious challenges. As luxury brands enter the online marketplace, they often find themselves battling the online sale of knock-off and counterfeit luxury goods.
These illegal sales, which take place via stand-alone websites and online marketplaces, cost the global economy as much as $250 billion each year. According to a 2015 report by Europe’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), the sale of counterfeit goods, both online and offline (but increasingly online), cost the EU economy approximately €43.3 billion ($49.1 billion) in lost sales. Additionally, the loss to the clothing, shoe, and accessory market in Europe is estimated to be €26.3 billion ($29.8 billion) or approximately 9.7% of the industry segment’s total sales.
Below is a look at some steps along the luxury goods industry’s e-commerce journey – from its initial reluctance, to its embrace of e-commerce, to some of the more recent battles against counterfeit sales and cybersquatting – as well as a look at the preventative steps that companies (luxury or otherwise) can take to protect their valuable intellectual property online.
Once Reluctant Adopters of E-Commerce, Luxury Brands Now Increasingly Rely on the Internet
Offering merchandise via e-commerce was once unheard of for luxury brands. After all, luxury denotes exclusivity, whereas easily accessible e-commerce sites typically do not.
Over time, however, consumers came to expect that luxury goods would be available for their purchase online, and luxury brands catered to these demands by opening new sales channels. Elegant packaging and 24-hour delivery services have maintained and reinforced the aura of exclusivity around brands like Moncler and Bottega Veneta as they entered the e-commerce sphere. The success of multi-brand, high-end online retailers, such as Net-a-Porter and LUISAVIAROMA.COM, has further demonstrated the viability of e-commerce for even the most discerning of customers.
While luxury brands proved able to maintain exclusivity even online, initial fears that e-commerce would open the doors to counterfeiting and cybersquatting turned out to be very valid. These challenges threaten to undermine another tenet of a luxury brand: superior quality.
Luxury Brands Attempt to Combat Counterfeit Sales, Cybersquatting
Unfortunately, while online sales have been a boon for luxury brands’ profits, cybersquatters operating independent sites facilitate the sale of mark-infringing materials and certain multi-brand retail platforms are known for permitting sellers of counterfeit goods to use the marketplace. The most notable of these is TMall, which is owned by Chinese company Alibaba.
China is particularly problematic for luxury brands. The country accounts for one third of worldwide luxury good sales, but, the Chinese government’s relatively high tolerance for counterfeiting harms the same luxury brands. In May of 2015, Kering, the Paris-based luxury parent company of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and others, sued China’s online retail giant Alibaba after talks to curb sales of counterfeit Gucci handbags on the site failed. While Alibaba has legitimate partnerships with numerous brands that maintain storefronts on its website, countless other no-name entities hawk fake wares on the site.
High-end American retailer Tory Burch was recently awarded $164 million in damages from a China-based network of more than 200 counterfeit sites, many of which included the Tory Burch mark in URLs such as ToryBurchMall.com and also featured the brand’s marks and logos. Similarly, French retailer Louis Vuitton recently filed a lawsuit in a U.S. federal court asking for over $10 million in damages against China-based cybersquatters targeting residents of South Florida through abusive use of their mark in 98 domain names across generic and country code TLDs. As noted in Louis Vuitton’s official complaint, the brand suffers from “daily and sustained” infringements of its mark, the “explosion” of which due to the Internet has created an unparalleled “financial burden” in defense fees.
Brand Protection Options Available to Luxury Brands
The financial burden of defense fees inevitably factors into the decision to take legal action against cybersquatters and counterfeiters, and online perpetrators know this. Given that the cost of taking legal action is likely to remain high, how can luxury brands thwart cybersquatters and protect their reputation online?
Aside from filing expensive lawsuits against the infringing party in a federal court, brands also have access to specialized procedures such as the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). As Steve Levy, an attorney who has a 99.6% UDRP win record explained in a recent webinar, “The UDRP can be a very useful tool – but it’s not a cure-all. All cases, even ones that you think are absolute winners, carry some risk of negative outcomes for brand owners.”
However, Levy went on to say that more proactive and preventative options are available to brand owners. These include: 1) building and maintaining a comprehensive but selective defensive domain name portfolio and 2) choosing the right managed monitoring service.
1) Building and Maintaining a Defensive Domain Name Portfolio: To be cost-effective, a luxury brand’s domain name portfolio should
be compiled and managed based on data and domain name expertise;
be tailored to the company, its risk tolerance, and marketing plans; and
include defensive registration of names in relevant new gTLDs (.LUXURY is one example of a new gTLD for luxury brands to consider).
2) Choosing the right Managed Monitoring Service: Monitoring services should improve a brand’s ability to combat infringements while – and this is important – also reducing the amount of time that corporate teams, especially Legal, spend reviewing spreadsheets. This means that brands, including luxury goods companies, should avoid monitoring services that deliver long lists of unsorted and unqualified domain names. Instead, these companies should have a managed monitoring service that
goes beyond domain name monitoring to also include mentions and logo use across website content and code, social media, and e-commerce platforms;
delivers concise, actionable results based on a combination of algorithm-driven data and expert human analysis; and
is fully customizable according to the company’s internal resources, industry, goals, and risk tolerance.
Despite Cybersquatting, E-Commerce is Here to Stay for Luxury Brands
While cybersquatting and online counterfeit sales threaten to undermine luxury brands, these same companies have come to depend upon e-commerce for an increasingly significant portion of total sales. Fortunately, defensive domain name portfolio management and advanced, managed monitoring services provide luxury brands with two cost-effective options to supplement, and hopefully minimize the need for, expensive legal action.
Looking forward, luxury brands with .BRAND gTLDs, like .GUCCI and .CHLOE, may also experience a reduction in luxury brand confusion by becoming the exclusive trusted sources of online luxury good sales.
If you have any questions about the topics discussed in this blog, please contact us; we are happy to provide more information via email or phone call.
That was the assessment of one participant at the Beyond the Dot 2014 conference Wednesday, February 19 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The conference focused on the effect of new top-level domains on average Internet users and drew a capacity crowd of over 150, several well-received speakers, and multiple media stories. In Washington D.C., #beyondthedot was even trending on Twitter.
9:10am – 9:45am
Mr. Jim Messina, Campaign Manager, 2012 Obama Re-Election Campaign
9:45am – 10:45am
Panel Discussion: “Erasing Geographic and Linguistic Boundaries: .GEOOs and Community-Driven Generics”
Moderator: Ms. Kathy Baird, SVP, Social@Ogilvy
Mr. Shaul Jolles, CEO, Dot Latin, LLC, .UNO
Mr. Will Martinez, Director .GOP Registry, Republican State Leadership Committee, .GOP
Mr. Jeff Neuman, Vice President, Registry Services at Neustar, Inc., .NYC
Mr. Scott Seitz, President, dotgat LLC, .GAY
Mr. Nils Wollny, Managing Director Strategy, SinnerSchrader, .HIV
10:45am – 11:15am
11:15am – 12:00pm
Panel Discussion: “Governments and gTLDs: New Frontiers of Regulation?”
Moderator: Mr. David McAuley, Legal Editor, Electronic Commerce & Law Report, Bloomberg BNA
Dr. Richard C. Beaird, Sr. International Policy Advisor, Wiley Rein, LLP
Mr. Steve Del Bianco, Executive Director, NetChoice
Moderator: The Honorable John Negroponte, Former United States Deputy Secretary of State
Mr. Guy R. Fridell, III, Executive Vice President, Domanion Enterprises
Mr. Sami Hassanyeh, Chief Digital Officer, AARP, Inc.
Mr. Scott Jensen, Sr. Director of Interactive Marketing, Extra Space Storage, Inc.
1:00pm – 2:00pm Panel Discussion: “The Right Stuff: Corporate Management of a gTLD”
Moderator: Mr. Thomas O’Toole, Managing Editor, Electronic Commerce & Law Report, Bloomberg BNA
Mr. Sean Baseri, Senior Product Manager, Neustar, Inc.
Mr. Erwin Cruz, Dir. Intellectual Property Strategy & Management, W.W. Grainger, Inc.
Mr. Geoff Noakes, Vice President of Business Development, Symantec
Mr. Guillaume Pahud, Director of Digital Projects, Richemont International SA
2:00pm – 3:00pm Panel Discussion: “What is ICANN and What is Its Role?”
Moderator: Ms. Erin Mershon, POLITICO Pro Technology Reporter
Mr. Akram Atallah, President, Global Domains Divison, ICANN
Dr. Laura DeNardis, Internet governance scholar and Professor in the School of Communication at American University
3:00pm – 3:30pm Coffee Break
Part 2: Who’s Beyond the Dot?
3:30pm – 4:15pm Panel Discussion: “Global Perspectives on What Lies Beyond the Dot”
Moderator: Ms. Sarah Langstone, Director of Strategic Partnerships, VERISIGN
Mr. Jordyn Buchanan, gTLD Guy, Google
The Honorable Erika Mann, Board of Directors, ICANN (Invited)
Mr. Peter Van De Wielle, Marketing Manager, TMCH-CHIP
Mr. Nils Wollny, Managing Director Strategy, SinnerSchrader
4:15pm – 5:00pm Panel Discussion: “What Lies Beyond the Dot for Internet Users?”
Moderator: Ms. Kathy Baird
Ms. Anjali Hansen, Deputy General Counsel at the Council of Better Business Bureaus
Mr. Ray King, Founder, ICANN Wiki, & CEO, Top Level Design, LLC.
Ms. Melissa Madigan, Policy & Communications Director, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
Ms. Christie Susko, Professor, George Washington University School of Business Past President of the American Marketing Association, DC Chapter (AMADC)
“Please extend kudos to the entire FW team, a spectacular execution of a wonderful event.” Erwin Cruz – Director, Intellectual Property Strategy & Management, W.W. Grainger, Inc.
” … kudos to you and your team’s efforts to pull together what was a great event!” Andy Weissberg – CEO DotHealth
“You put on an amazing conference, and I was blown-away by the quality of the people you had there.” Thomas O’Toole – Managing Editor Electronic Commerce & Law, BloombergBNA
“You guys thought of (every) detail and put (together) an agenda that was extremely relevant. I have yet to be (at) a conference that absolutely everybody felt was well done. Well, here it was the consensus. Well done.” Shaul Jolles – CEO DotLatin, .UNO
ICANN 54, which took place in Dublin, Ireland, last week, featured some familiar scenarios, including IANA transition-related challenges and expressions of interest for another round of the New gTLD Program, alongside some unexpected conflagrations and controversies regarding ICANN’s role in online content regulation.
Ongoing IANA Transition Work
While a core focus of the meeting was the IANA transition, it proceeds as haltingly as ever, delayed by the sticky subject of ICANN accountability reforms, the most recent community proposal for which was rejected by ICANN’s Board.
After ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé ruffled some feathers with an ill-received presentation on accountability mechanisms at the beginning of the meeting, the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN’s accountability (CCWG) made headway at the meeting, opting to ditch the model that had been rejected by the Board in favor of a less controversial “sole designator” model of enforcement mechanisms. During the week in Dublin, the CCWG stated that it expects to produce a third accountability proposal by November 15; this new proposal will be subject to a 35-day public comment period. CCWG members and others invested in the broader IANA transition hope that this next proposal will be finalized by early 2016 so that the NTIA can then review a combined plan for the IANA transition and accountability reforms and, in the best of scenarios, meet the goal of a late September transition date.
The Question of Content Regulation
A topic of keen interest that arose somewhat unexpectedly at ICANN 54 was that of ICANN’s role and responsibilities with regard to online content regulation.
For those who follow a strict interpretation of ICANN’s organizational remit, ICANN’s responsibility in this arena is non-existent. As Chehadé strongly argued last week, “ICANN’s remit […] is not in the economic/societal layer [of the Internet],” within which content policing takes place. Although this stance reflects the fact that ICANN was established in the 1990s as a technical organization, law enforcement officials and IP owners present at the meeting would argue that ICANN as a whole—and thus, its responsibilities in this area—has evolved significantly since then. While this issue will only become more contentious and central to Public Meeting discussions in time, for now, ICANN is resisting discussion of any involvement aside from supporting the development of voluntary efforts and remediation practices from within the domain name industry.
Looking Ahead Towards Round 2 of New gTLDs
Also of note during ICANN 54 was chatter regarding subsequent rounds of the New gTLD Program. As has been the case with past meetings, there is still no clear date for when a subsequent round will take place, though the internal wheels within ICANN have begun moving, albeit slowly. As ICANN’s policymaking community begins looking at how to conduct a next gTLD application round, there are many different questions on the table, including whether new rounds should be opened for specific categories of gTLDs. For example, Twitter, which made waves prior to the Dublin meeting by publicly announcing its plan to apply for a gTLD in the second round, asked the Board to consider giving brands their own dedicated rounds so that those (like Twitter) that missed out on the first round, can acquire their own gTLDs swiftly. Board members acknowledged this consideration while deferring comment to the GNSO, which has authority on the matter.
Looking ahead, the above issues will continue to be on the agenda at the next ICANN meeting in March, though, hopefully, by that date, the IANA transition will be well on its way toward approval and implementation.
Some of the popular topics at ICANN Dublin included the ongoing scrutiny of the current gTLD round – such as security and stability reviews, reviews of the rights protection mechanisms, and policy work that relates to a second round. As this work grinds on, here’s a look at some of the latest news around .BRANDs:
Sony and Its .BRAND
In advance of the November 5 release of Spectre, the latest Daniel Craig installment in the famed 007 franchise, Sony launched an interactive game at AssistMoneypenny.Sony. The sleek website hosts a game where visitors can help M’s indispensable Moneypenny target assailants. The nature of the “game” encourages users to return again and again.
.BNPParibas Continues to Grow
It comes as no surprise to anyone following the gTLD space that BNP Paribas is continuing to grow its global presence through its .BRAND. The French bank has been promoting its services and products, featuring www.usa.bnpparibas and www.cib.bnpparibas on media campaigns including billboards in major travel hubs like Chicago’s O’Hare and London’s Heathrow airports. An ad was also spotted the Wall Street Journal:
In addition to the brands discussed above, there’s also Abbott’s LifetotheFullest.Abbott, which we’ve recently written about.
Lastly, late last week Twitter, absent among gTLD applicants in the 2012 gTLD round, declared their intention to apply during a second round. Since social media giants like Facebook and Twitter declined to apply during the first round of applications, many experts have speculated on whether or not they would throw their hats in during subsequent rounds. Twitter’s stated intention to do so reinforces the confidence brands have in the eventual success of the New gTLD Program.
On the ground at ICANN, it continues to look like a second round is still some time away. In the meantime, as .BRANDs and other new gTLDs continue to launch and consumers become more familiar with the concept, businesses will have to keep their digital strategy nimble in order to adapt to this changing landscape.
ICANN’s 54th Public Meeting is taking place in Dublin, Ireland, next week, October 18-22, 2015. As ever, a number of issues related to new gTLD policy, compliance, and operations will be up for debate. However, given the significance of the timing of this meeting, the IANA transition will almost certainly dominate discussions in Dublin, potentially even displacing work on other pressing issues.
The IANA Transition and Work to Enhance ICANN’s Accountability: Update
The IANA transition has seen much turbulence over the past few months, with community members clashing with the ICANN Board over what the shape of ICANN’s corporate governance structure will be after the transfer of the IANA functions stewardship. At recent face-to-face meetings between the two groups, it emerged that the Board is opposed to the single statutory member model proposed by the community that was designed to grant it increased legal leverage to push back against the Board’s decisions, if necessary.
Given this challenge, it would seem that the community must return to the drawing board; nonetheless, the desire of all to bring about a swift and successful transition may militate against any complete rewrites of the accountability component of the IANA transition proposal. Should the community need to substantially revise its proposal, it would then need to be subject to a lengthy public comment period (as have prior versions of the proposal). This would unduly delay the process, making a transition date of September 2016 impossible. According to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling, respectively, a new plan would best be delivered to the NTIA prior to the end of 2015 or just after it in order to meet next year’s deadline.
Although the IANA transition has been a feature at all recent ICANN meetings since it was first announced in March 2014, it will certainly be a more substantial fixture on next week’s agenda in light of the current unsustainable impasse.
Impact on Other ICANN Issues
The pressure to resolve the IANA transition plan in a timely fashion is felt beyond the ICANN Board and community members dedicated to the issue. Indeed, the centrality of the topic has meant that it has lately dominated many ICANN staff members’ work. Some constituencies have become concerned that the resolution of other important issues has been unnecessarily delayed.
However, members of ICANN staff have begun certain processes designed to streamline operations and interactions with new gTLD owners, which should be of some help. Work continues on other important operational issues and compliance topics, which will be covered during next week’s sessions. In addition to regular sessions dedicated to gTLD registry compliance topics, there will also be sessions dedicated to finding ways to deal with ‘bad actors’ online through voluntary actions on the part of domain name registries, a topic that has received significant interest from the international law enforcement community, a growing presence at ICANN meetings.
Pressure to Make Headway on IANA Transition at ICANN 54
The IANA transition is a critical issue for world governments—indeed, it has received renewed attention as a U.S. government-led effort to appease other governments on matters of cyber-governance. There is therefore further pressure to make significant headway on the IANA transition proposal in Dublin so as to allow participants of ICANN’s March 2016 High Level Government Meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to focus on other public policy issues and make constructive progress there.
With several staff members in attendance at ICANN 54, FairWinds will be watching these issues next week. For daily updates, follow us on Twitter .
Abbott, maker of popular products including Similac, Ensure, and PediaSure, released its new brand campaign “LIFE. TO THE FULLEST.” The new campaign is designed to increase consumer awareness of Abbott and the company’s efforts to help people around the world live healthier and happier lives. Abbott introduced the campaign on LifeToTheFullest.Abbott, a unique digital platform housed on the company’s new gTLD. The website, which showcases an interactive quiz and videos of people around the world discussing how they strive to live their best lives, is part of a multi-channel campaign that sets the standard for how brands can use their new gTLDs to deliver impactful consumer messaging and branding initiatives.
In this post, we take a look at how Abbott became one of the first U.S. companies to delegate its new gTLD and the first U.S. headquartered brand to put out extensive, unique content on its new gTLD.
Abbott’s Brand Transformation
Over the past few years, Abbott has transformed itself. With the separation of its research-based pharmaceutical business, 50% of sales are now made by consumers and 70% of sales are made outside the U.S. As part of its initiative to communicate more directly with consumers, Abbott redesigned its original website, Abbott.com. The company began engaging consumers on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WeChat (China). Abbott then introduced a refreshed end line — “Life. To the Fullest.” — signaling a modern, innovative approach to its identity. This culminated in the introduction of its new campaign to ask a million people around the world what a full life means to them.
Abbott’s decision to use LifeToTheFullest.Abbott as the campaign hub was deliberate and well considered. As a part of Abbott’s identity-building efforts, Abbott adopted the gTLD as an integral piece of its broader digital strategy.
Abbott’s Dirk Hoerter, Director, Digital Marketing, says that LifeToTheFullest.Abbott is an essential “tool” in a broader “toolkit” of digital capabilities. For example, by undertaking global surveys on the meaning of healthy living and presenting these on its multi-lingual site at .ABBOTT, the company is demonstrating the universality of these aims and the global consciousness of its brand. Through its interactive site at .ABBOTT, complementary outreach efforts, and content on social media, Abbott is building deeper and stronger relationships with consumers. The more consumers begin to interact with Abbott through the new platform, the more they will begin to associate the company with its new slogan, thereby reinforcing the Abbott name.
By using .ABBOTT, a secure, fully brand-controlled site, the company is also inspiring consumer trust. Unlike .COM and other familiar extensions, the .ABBOTT gTLD is for exclusive use by Abbott. Whenever consumers see a domain name ending in .ABBOTT, they can be assured that the site contains authoritative, brand-generated content. This underlies the soundness of Abbott’s strategy.
As one of the first to actively use its new gTLD—among a sea of U.S. and E.U. brands that are not using their own gTLDs—Abbott has demonstrated that it is tech savvy and innovative.
What Can Brands Learn from .ABBOTT?
With the launch of LifeToTheFullest.Abbott, Abbott joins European-based new gTLD investors like Barclays, BNP Paribas, and AXA in paving the way for global consumer acceptance of new gTLDs. Abbott also provides other brands with an example for how to successfully launch a new gTLD. Abbott’s approach demonstrates that new gTLDs can support global communications, marketing, and branding efforts alongside established channels. New gTLDs are transforming how companies are represented online and, as .ABBOTT shows, should be an integral part of a brand’s overarching digital strategy.
A colleague of mine recently mentioned that a client of theirs, a large software company, had heard about Google’s use of .XYZ to announce the formation of its new holding company, Alphabet, and is now concerned about whether they, too, should register in the same TLD.
While Google is a renowned trendsetter in the tech world, I pointed out that following the company’s suit isn’t necessarily the go-to strategy in this case.
Google (hereafter Alphabet) has obviously put some thought into the decision to use ABC.XYZ, and, before doing anything, others should as well. To start, consider the following three points.
Three Observations about ABC.XYZ
Companies can get away with not owning all domain names containing key terms and marks.
Alphabet can, anyhow.
As news outlets have reported, BMW owns alphabet.com, while others own various Alphabet-related social media handles and domain names. Google owns none of them and, at least with alphabet.com, won’t be obtaining them anytime soon.
While some commentators have therefore suggested that registration of ABC.XYZ was done because the holding company’s name was not available for registration in the conventional choice of .COM, it seems more likely that the name was deliberately chosen for its pleasing syntactical symmetry, the humorous connection to the Silicon Valley TV show, and for the novelty of using a new gTLD—Alphabet-owned Charleston Road Registry was a major investor in the First Round of ICANN’s New gTLD Program, applying for 101 new gTLDs.
Why not use the opportunity to publicize multiple ventures at once?
If brands want to make a big splash with a new initiative and do so in an innovative way with new gTLDs, the opportunity is there.
The .XYZ domain received a huge popularity boost thanks to Alphabet, and all it did was register in the domain and put up a simple landing page.
Clearly, a new gTLD can very quickly become popular and well-known if a big brand uses it. Within the first 48 hours of Google’s announcement, .XYZ had gained 20,000 new registrations; prior to the announcement, .XYZ had seen an average of 3,000 new registrations per day.
With dozens of new gTLDs under its ownership, Alphabet may well use those custom extensions for its various projects.
Nobody knows how Alphabet will ultimately build out its online presence. The ABC.XYZ site serves as dedicated space for the new initiative’s announcement in the form of a letter from Google co-founder Larry Page; it does not amount to a particularly informative site for actual or would-be investors or other interested parties.
Perhaps the ABC.XYZ site will remain even as its subsidiaries use Alphabet’s new gTLDs for other uses: SEARCH.GOOGLE, for instance, would be logical. While .XYZ was a reasonable choice for announcing the creation of the new holding company, the TLD may very well be a poor choice for Alphabet’s projects; likewise, the TLD is unlikely to be useful for a large software company’s marketing initiatives, though defensive registration could be a legitimate motive.
.XYZ and new gTLDs
So, is Alphabet onto something with its registration of ABC.XYZ or is it just getting creative with a tongue-in-cheek online address?
All bets are off, but this is a great time to step back and reexamine how more abstract TLDs may be relevant to your business and, maybe, take a cue from Google and have some fun with this.