Source: Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Your .brand gTLD: hopeful registry partners go into marketing overdrive

Hundreds of companies are planning to secure their '.brand' top-level domain (TLD). That is one thing becoming clear since the ICANN board approved the expansion of the domain name space last month. After three years of contentious policy development, if that fact is a surprise to trademark counsel, they may be shocked to learn that their peers are already heavily involved in the application process. And we're not talking only about consumer brands: sources report that companies from the oil and gas, manufacturing, and construction sectors will apply too. As a result, competition for the attention of brands that are planning to apply for a new gTLD is hotting up.

Many domain name industry insiders have been saying that the key to making a TLD successful is marketing. That certainly served the '.co' relaunch well last year (remember the handy phone chargers at INTA 2010? All part of the '.co' marketing strategy). If the task is to marry marketing and the Internet, Ben Crawford may be the man for the job. Crawford has previously worked in marketing for gloabal media companies and even helped to attract 11.3 billion hits in two weeks to the Sydney Olympic Games website in 2000. Since becoming chief executive at registry provider CentralNic, Crawford has hired people from outside the domain name industry to, as he says, "mediate between the needs of brands and what we can do as a domain name registry". He adds: "I look at things from a brand perspective, as a marketer and someone who speaks the language of brands. I have a very strong sense of brand reputation and brand values."

CentralNic launched dotBrand Solutions early this year to serve '.brand' applicants and is already working with many clients planning to apply for their own TLD. "I have clients that have revenues in the tens of millions of dollars," he says. "You don't have to be a multibillion-dollar company. You just have to be someone whose name in the online space is mission critical." He may be working with many new clients, but does he have a marketing message as succinct as that for Neustar's $10,000 vanilla package? "We've already signed up people who won't be sad that they signed up with us," he told WTR. "I won't say it's cheaper; I'd say it's a better offer."

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