Who is Responsible for New gTLD Marketing?
It is my opinion that in order for the new gTLD domain names to have investment value for domain investors, there need to be companies who use these domain names for their websites. In order for this to happen, end users need to know what the new domain extensions are and why they should choose them over existing TLDs. These end users also need to be convinced that their domain names will be recognized and trusted by their clients and prospective customers. Educating these end user buyers will require significant marketing efforts.
This leads me to the question: who is responsible for new gTLD marketing?
On one hand, the domain registrars have direct contact with the prospective end user buyers, and they are responsible for suggesting specific new gTLD domain names to potential buyers. On the other hand, the domain registries operate individual gTLD extensions, and to a large extent, each TLD is its own brand that needs to be marketed to prospective buyers and end users.
I reached out to representatives from several domain registrars and new gTLD registries, and I asked them who they think is responsible for the marketing that needs to be done to make consumers aware of the new gTLD domain names. Below, you will find the responses from those who were kind enough to take the time to share their thoughts:
Frank Schilling, Uniregistry:
I think perhaps there is too much emphasis on who is “responsible”. In a way we’re all responsible.. ICANN, the registries, registrants.. registrars.
It is the job of ICANN to reach out to all the browser manufacturers and let them know these new namespaces exist and are authoritative for direct-navigation (Apple for Safari version 7.0.3, and it’s phone and iPad browsers still don’t support new extensions)
Given unfettered navigation, new extensions will grow over time and will reach a point of in flexion where uptake is more pronounced.
Tim Switzer, .BUILD Operations / Registrar Relations:
I think the answer to that question is definitely a combination and let me explain my specific thoughts.
I think it is incumbent that the collective “we” educate domain name buyers and the general public about the concept of new domain names in general. And I think the “we” here is primarily Registries, Registrars, the DNA and ICANN. This group needs to ensure the concept of choices, innovation and the ability to have new identities on the Internet is “out there”. Plus, we have to make sure they know these new names will work (i.e. the universal acceptance issue)! I have found that when I talk to companies or individuals about New gTLDs via the classic “elevator pitch”, they quickly “get it” – it’s just a matter of getting to as many of those people in as quick a fashion as possible – not a small task!
As a single string applicant, I think the task of marketing / promoting my specific TLD falls mainly in the lap of me, the Registry. For example, with .BUILD, our Founder George Minardos is a builder and has lived in this industry for a long time. .BUILD the registry is going to continue to live and be active in both the building and construction industry as well as the Internet community. We participate actively in shows / conferences and create key partnerships / new sales channels within our industry. It’s then our job to take the interest we are generating to the Channel and creatively put together a program that works for their specific customer base or a target market so that the registrar can acquire more customers and grow their business via .BUILD……which obviously results in more .BUILD domain names sold. And by doing it this way, with the Registry living within the building industry, it won’t just be “names sold”, but it will hopefully generate relevant and high-profile usage (and renewal) of the name which when it’s all said and done, is the key to developing and growing a TLD brand.
Mike McLaughlin, Senior Vice President, Domains, GoDaddy:
It’s been our experience the most successful launches of new TLDs are when the registries and the registrars work together for a coordinated launch.
Jeffrey Sass, CMO, .CLUB Domains:
Who is responsible for marketing? On one level, all of us in the industry who benefit from greater awareness of the new domain names should do their part to help grow awareness -, from registrars and registries, to domain investors, backend providers, aftermarket and auction providers, etc. The proverbial “a rising tide lifts all ships” is certainly applicable to our industry right now. It is why groups such as the DNA (Domain Name Association) have been formed, and need the industry’s support.
More specifically, from the Registry perspective, at .CLUB we believe we share the responsibility heavily with our Registrar partners. We have invested quite a bit already in digital, social, outdoor, print and even some TV advertising, both independently of, and in cooperation with individual registrars in many countries. As we are solely focused on .CLUB, we feel it is our job to build the .CLUB brand globally, but ultimately we need our registrars to market as well, on their own, and in some cases with our help. The challenge for a registry when it comes to marketing is that we don’t have a call to action that can be efficiently converted to a sale. Sending folks to nic.club or any registry destination is a step or two too far removed from the transaction. The user needs to go to a registrar. With that in mind, while we can do some general awareness and branding work on our own, the most effective marketing is in the channel, and external marketing that drives end-users to the channel.
Shayan Rostam, Production Manager, .xyz:
Marketing new domain names is primarily the responsibility of the registry, although support from the registrar can greatly impact the TLD’s success. With .xyz, we have spent over a year developing a brand that individuals and businesses can identify with through our stories in the media, innovative advanced auctions on NameJet, prominence at events, and global sponsorships – all supported by our extensive marketing campaigns on and offline. This brand recognition, combined with our independent outreach and the Generation XYZ community we are cultivating, ensures that people know that .xyz is for every website, everywhere, and that they can now get the domain name they’ve always wanted for less than a .com.
However, to complement the demand we’ve built around .xyz domain names, we are also partnering with registrars all over the world to not only educate their customers on .xyz’s position as the flexible and affordable alternative to .com for the next generation of internet users, but also help them get their ideal domain name from the registrar they already have a relationship with. We will do this by launching the traditional marketing campaigns that have made registrars successful in the past while also bringing new and innovative ideas to the table that will engage their audience and drive them to a point-of-sale.
Although this type of dual marketing by the registry and registrar is not required, we believe it is the best way for us to accomplish our mission of bringing choice, accessibility, and innovation to the internet.
Joe Alagna, VP of Channel Development, 101Domain.com:
In 2011, I did a study on the U.S. ad spend over a twelve year period for a white paper I authored*. I concluded that major brands had spent over $3 trillion dollars advertising their brands and that .com, as a brand, benefitted to the tune of about $3.1 billion over that same time period.
Now that new gTLDs are here, I’ve heard people suggest that ICANN, the registries, and the registrars should be responsible for marketing them. This is a correct suggestion. Each of these parties has the responsibility of marketing new gTLDs to a certain extent. However, combined, they do not have the spending power to make new gTLDs as popular as .com has become. In addition to that, their marketing spend, aggregately, will need to cover 550 new gTLDs (according to my last count). That is an ad-spend dilution that will be hard to overcome.
Alas, there is hope. Verisign (.com) didn’t have the robust social networks that we have today. News travels at a much accelerated pace through social networks. So the news of new gTLDs should move quickly. Once again, however, the burden of popularizing new gTLDs will fall (involuntarily – by default) upon large brands with ad-spending-power who choose to adopt new gTLD endings.
If we get down to brass tacks, registries (and registrars) are responsible for their own marketing. They are the ones who volunteered to get into their businesses and they are the ones who took the business risk. The onus is on them to recoup investments and to make new gTLDs succeed. There are models for success right in front of us. The model includes having a TLD that 1.) makes sense, 2.) is reasonably short, and 3.) has a market. It involves engaging a market. From 2010 to 2013, the .co registry executed in an excellent manner by choosing their market (the startup community) and making a heavy investment. This resulted in their recent merger with Neustar (valuing the company at over $100 million dollars). In addition to the start-up community, the .co registry actively engaged large brands and convinced many of them to use .co as part of their moniker.
Registry success also involves letting markets work. The more a registry tries to manipulate markets by controlling “premium” domain name prices or holding large groups of “reserved” domain names, the more they alienate their seed investors, the domainers. Domainers are a critical part of a registry market and should be seen as valuable stakeholders. The news of a big aftermarket sale in any gTLD is a boon for the registry, spurring incremental business and investment. Registries should want that. They do themselves harm by holding back or controlling too large a group of domains. In any new gTLD, a registry should never hold back more than a few thousand (if that) domain names.
I also believe that many registries are deluded about their own domain name values. Along with memorability, it is direct navigation (aka “type-in”) traffic that brings value to a domain name. New gTLD domains will get neither of those initially. In fact, type-in traffic will likely be rare amongst new gTLDs for a long time. So registries need to let markets work and build large groups of external stakeholders benefiting by their domains, including domainers and end-users who can easily buy very good, memorable new domain names to start.
If a registry has chosen a decent enough new gTLD string and executes well, the markets, social networks, domainers, and end users, will all help them to market their new gTLD.
Here is a perfect example of a registry executing well.
* If you would like to see the white paper and details of U.S. ad spending from 1997 through 2008, please visit my blog.
Mason Cole, VP Communications & Industry Relations, Donuts Inc.:
Domain registries and registrars both are responsible to marketing new gTLDs. Donuts’ model — as has been well documented — is to allow the registrar channel to do what it has done for the past more than a dozen years, which is to market TLDs in a competitive manner and use their innovations and market positions to attract customers.
This said, Donuts makes an effort to ensure that the broader marketplace is aware of the emergence of new gTLDs, including outreach to the media, awareness in specific vertical marketplaces, and notice to the intellectual property community and others interested in ensuring appropriate rights are protected.
ICANN has a role as well, as it has discussed, as do new organizations like the Domain Name Association. There’s a lot of education to go around.
Kelly Johnson, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Rightside:
Educating the market goes beyond just registries and registrars, it’s the responsibility of the entire ecosystem. Since the internet landscape basically hasn’t changed in 2 decades, buyers have a steep learning curve, a lot of questions and some healthy skepticism…
“Why do all these new TLDs exist, what’s the benefit to me?”
“If I choose one to build my business on, will it be as valuable or credible as a .com?”
“What if I already have a .com, should I also buy my name with a new TLD?”
“How will this impact search results?”
It’s important that registries and registrars own the new TLD marketing challenge collaboratively. Equally important are the aftermarket players, domain investors, search engines and even marketers themselves – who represent brands and campaigns that drive visibility, credibility and open minds to the possibilities.
Registries have to be aggressive in marketing their TLDs, in establishing what each TLD brand is going to mean in the mind of the customer, and then investing in reinforcing that message. The registrar, as the main point of contact for the customer both at point of purchase and through the domain renewal lifecycle, has the responsibility of creating relevance, usage and direction. Registrars know their customers. They know what they’ve purchased in the past and are likely to purchase in the future.
At the end of the day, the whole ecosystem will benefit from new TLDs and ultimately shares in the responsibility.
Jim Trevino, President and CEO of Dot Vegas, Inc.:
As a registry operator, Dot Vegas, Inc. will do everything we can to promote and market the .vegas top-level domain. We are very fortunate to have an established, branded world-wide destination as our gtld. Few other cities in the world are supported with level afforded to Las Vegas – hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and public relations campaigns that help to generate 40 million annual visitors. So, most understand the value of Las Vegas as a destination and as a city that is home to two million residents. The marketing challenge lies in communicating the value of DIGITAL Las Vegas. And that’s where we need everyone who understands the digital value of .vegas to chime in – the registrars, the industry experts, business leaders, and domain experts. Outreach by each benefits us all.
As the registry operator, we recognize that we are only made stronger by our registrar partners, and that together we have a collective interest in the successful marketing of .vegas. We feel very strongly that .vegas is one of the most desirable of the new gtlds. The marketing efforts of Las Vegas, the destination, are in full swing with no signs of slowing down. And with collaborative efforts to build awareness and market .vegas, the digital destination, we are confident that all of those with an interest in .vegas, from registrars to domain name investors, to .vegas end users, will benefit.
Of course we have to remember and remind others that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
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