The Business Case for Your Own Top-Level Domain Name

Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership brought us a free webinar: “Who Should Invest in a dotBRAND?” Now here’s the deal: Beginning on January 12, 2012, you can apply for any kind of new dot–not only the dotCOMs or dotORGs, but a whole new world of generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). Coke might buy .Coke and Pepsi .Pepsi. You could even buy .Happiness.

I should that mention that while some of the brand domains won’t be available to the public, as many as possible will be found at Name.com. That covered, we hoped to find out something else: Is this right for you?

Evaluate Business case of your own dotBrand

In the beginning, it was weird. The presentation was stilted and filled with nervous trepidation, like they were being held hostage by a gun-toting naysayer. I pinged that to Ashley, our marketing coordinator, and she said that maybe they were trying to weed out the bad applicants. The awkwardness highlighted the very real debate about the necessity of these new domains. Our hosts were wrestling with the negative aspects of owning one. However, if you stayed long enough, you would be comforted by benefits of paying $185,000 to apply for your own top-level domain. First, let’s take a look at the downside of ponying up for your own TLD.

Downside to your own gTLD:

1. Cost. Yah, you’re looking at $185 grand to get started, and there’s ongoing annual costs that could run at about $250,000.
2. From start to finish it seems like a lot of work. Think about all that comes with migrating to a new site let alone a whole new gTLD. You’ll have to reignite your SEO, spend on a new awareness campaign and get your already overworked IT to segue your old dot into your new dot.
3. There is some vagueness in the application process. It opens up January 12, 2012, and just how they’re going to process the influx of requests was not answered very clearly.
4. The application sounds intense. This is where they’re going to weed out the bad apps; with 50 questions, many of them very technical, and some of them requiring multiple pages for answers.
And now some benefits:
1. It was mentioned by panelist Paul Twomey that if you’re worried about costs, then think of how much you might spend on a major advertising buy, and see the “costs” as an important investment.
2. Places that don’t have trademark can get one with their shiny, new dotBRAND.
3. You can control your brand and who can have a second-level domain in your gTLD. For example, Toyota can control traffic, inviting only those they want in their realm. Denverdealer.Toyota = Yes! Priusnearlykilledme.Toyota = Probably not.
Another example is that a premium brand like .ROLEX could let customers know who their authorized dealers are, and Rolex saves on fraud an abuse.
4. You can control what is acceptable use of your branded distributors and better define your online franchise agreements.
5. You have a built-in business model of reselling your domain (assuming anyone else wants to be on .BP.)
6. Your domains will be simplified. Imagine much of what you see now, like product.com/newyork shortened to newyork.product. That’s a user-friendly promotional bonanza.
Good or bad, there’s a little known industry that’s about to boom: The new gTLD Migration Consultant. It’s going to be a big deal to move Pepsi from a .COM to .PEPSI. If you’re someone with some knowledge on domains and the behind-the-scenes DNS magic, then moving these branded behemoths could be your new and lucrative gig. Call if you need a pool boy.

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