This past weekend I took my children to see DreamWorks' The Croods and among the endless previews I focused my domain name radar on an ad for the upcoming sequel to Despicable Me and its advertised URL, Despicable.me.
It got me to thinking that soon, businesses of all kinds will be able to experiment with domain names in over 500 open new gTLDs (think Hunger.Games, Mr.Mom, Iron.Man, you get the idea).
Some studios have used top level country codes to create promotional websites that reflect the movie title. For example, Universal Studios registered "despicable" in Montenegro’s .ME when promoting Despicable Me in 2010. Universal Pictures still using the domain Despicable.me, where you can find trailers for the sequel.
Of course, not every movie title is so well suited to available extensions. Two years ago, FairWinds Partners looked at how film studios and their distribution partners use domain names to promote movies. Our study found there was little consistency or convention. Among others, we examined the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as the highest grossing movie for each year from 2000 to 2010. In total, only ten of the 72 movies in the study, or about 14 percent, advertised a Title.com address in promotional materials. The most commonly used alternative was TitleMovie.com. Several studios used the domain name of the production company that made the movie, rather than a domain that included the movie title in some form.
With the launch of about 550 open, generic new .WORDS starting in 2013, studios are presented with enormous creative promotional possibilities. Pairing the list of applications with the list of upcoming movie launches, we could see domain names such as TheBig.Wedding, or Sin.City that could be a site for the original Sin City movie and promote the sequel: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. How cool would it be to see an action flick title ending in .NINJA, or a nature film with a domain ending in .ECO? If the .MOVIE and .FILM applications move forward, there is no limit to what the tech-savvy studios could do.
We talk a lot about domain name sales, but what about actual name sales? One Florida man decided to link the two by auctioning his last name off to the highest bidder for a full year. Jason Sadler, who owns and operates a successful marketing firm through which companies pay him to wear their names and logos on t-shirts, took personal branding one step further when he sold his last name to Headsets.com for $45,500 for the year.
On January 1, he will legally change his name to Jason Headsets.com, a move that he has documented in detail on his website (where he also explains that he will donate a portion of the proceeds to charity). He hosted the auction and chronicled the process, which resulted in bids from 25 different companies, on BuyMyLastName.com. Ultimately, Headsets.com and PawnUp.com duked it out until the final moments of the auction, until the former won the bid.
Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com (which sells, you guessed it, headsets for telephones and other devices), explained to CNN Money that the decision to participate in the auction was an easy one. Calling the purchase a "one-year inexpensive gamble," he said that $45,000 is "not expensive for the marketing value," considering that Faith's company generates $30 million in sales each year.
The sale and the press it has already generated will surely result in additional visitors to the company’s website. The sale involves very little work for either party and is another example of creative marketing of domain names that could inspire similar stunt marketing by other firms.
Remember a few months back when online retailer Overstock.com started promoting a new domain name O.co? It began by touting it as its "new shortcut," but recently launched an advertising push declaring "Overstock.com is now O.co." It even had the name of the Oakland NFL/MLB stadium, the Overstock.com Coliseum, changed to the O.Co Coliseum.
But now, according to a recent article in Advertising Age, Overstock is backing off the O.co push, and returning to Overstock.com in online ads and television ads for the holiday season.
Overstock's president Jonathan Johnson was quick to point out that the retailer is not abandoning the short domain altogether – rather, it is just "stepping back" from it temporarily. Apparently, even though consumers appeared to respond well to the O.co ads, many were confused when it came time to type the domain into their browsers. Instead of O.co, a "good portion" of consumers typed in O.com. Like all one-character .COM domains, O.com is not available for registration. So Overstock has decided it will continue its transition to O.co, just at a slower pace; for now it will use the domain for international and mobile efforts.
When .CO Internet S.A.S decided to open up .CO, the ccTLD for Colombia, to second-level registrations by any person or entity in the world in July 2010, some began claiming that it would be a good alternative to .COM. (Previously, entities had to register domains at the third level, using domains like Domain.com.co or Domain.org.co.) And yet, even with a retail giant actively promoting a .CO domain name, many U.S.-based Internet users still default to .COM.
According to Opportunity.co, more than one million .CO domain names have been registered, but that still pales in comparison to the nearly 100 million registered .COM domain names. In fact, many established companies registered their brand names in .CO as more of a defensive move to prevent cybersquatting. While some newer ventures opted to go with .CO (perhaps because the .COM version of their name was taken), it's clear from the O.co case that the ccTLD hasn't really caught on to the extent that some believed it would.
Today’s edition of iMedia Connection features an article by Taylor Frank, VP of Strategy and Development for DigitalDNA, a company founded by FairWinds that specializes in analyzing, developing strategies around and transacting on digital assets. Taylor discusses the great marketing potential of category-defining domain names for both new and established brands.
Because they often require less investment in optimization in order to rank highly in search engine results, category-defining domain names are highly valuable digital assets. And from a branding perspective, owning a category-defining domain allows a marketer to own that category, and position its brand as the definitive online destination for that category.
Taylor covers these and other benefits that category-defining domain names can provide to marketers, and illustrates each with apt, real-world examples. Check out his article over at iMedia.
Ken Hittel, VP Corporate Internet, at New York Life Insurance Company (NYL), a client of FairWinds, did a great interview for Forbes.com this week about social networking. Hittel expertly argues that allowing consumers to speak freely, even negatively, on social networks has actually helped NYL build a positive brand presence.
He explains that the few negative comments that have appeared have been drowned out by a chorus of positive comments from loyal customers. Essentially, negative comments are an opportunity for the community to unite around the brand, and as a result, build up the brand’s image. The leap of faith involved in exposing a brand to the uncensored openness of social media may seem risky, but working for an insurance company, Hittel is used to managing risks. His approach has paid off, with NYL’s Facebook fan base closing in on 100,000 members.
Hittel also points out that brands, even if they feel they are not “ready” for social media, need to be on Facebook and Twitter. The best approach, he says, is not to try to control social media, but rather to manage it by being present and participating in it. At FairWinds, we know that it all starts with getting there, and being where your customers are looking for you, by owning the best usernames and handles.
Congratulations to Ken on all his success!
As we talk with more businesses and brand owners, it is becoming very apparent that there is a significant amount of misinformation about new gTLDs being spread through the business community. Specifically, we have found that many brand owners are confused about what they can and cannot do in regards to new gTLDs. So we decided to set the record straight on some of the most common myths about new gTLDs that we’ve heard in a recent article for the CMO Council’s monthly newsletter, Marketing Magnified. Click through to read the full article, or check out the summary on FairWinds new blog, gTLD Strategy, which is dedicated to delivering accurate information and insights about the new gTLD program.
This week, I wrote an article for Forbes.com about what retail brands need to know about new gTLDs. All brands will have to adapt their digital strategies to the new gTLD space, but global retail brands will face particular challenges and opportunities.
For retail brands, perhaps more so than other industries, the branding implications of being “left behind” and seeming out of date if they do not adopt new gTLDs could be significant. If they stick to their .COM addresses, they could risk appearing “so 1999” as compared to their competitors who begin using branded gTLDs. Since ICANN will not publish the list of applications until after the application round closes, retail brands will have to take a gamble, and for many, the safe bet will be to assume that their competitors are, in fact, applying.
But on a brighter note, new gTLDs could offer interesting marketing opportunities for retail brands. Take back to school shopping as an example. Right now, most top-level domain equity lies in .COM, and there can only be one BackToSchool.com. In the new gTLD space, we could see addresses like BackToSchool.Target and BackToSchool.OldNavy, which could redirect to Target and Old Navy’s back to school sale pages.
On the subject of redirects, in most cases retail brands (and all brands) should not attempt to fully transition content to new gTLD domain names right away. They have made significant investments into optimizing their current sites to rank highly in search engine results, so until we know how search engine algorithms will account for new domains, brand owners should consider redirecting new domains to their existing .COM URLs.
New top-level domains will present online retailers with unique and unprecedented opportunities and challenges over the next few years. But the first and most crucial step that all brand owners must take between now and the opening of the application period is to gather facts and take the time to really explore whether or not applying for a new domain will be advantageous for their business.
According to a recent post on its PlayStation blog, Sony has released a new software application that allows users to create new applications using PlayStation Move’s technology. PlayStation Move is Sony’s foray into motion-controlled gaming; the new app allows academics, researchers, or even savvy gamers to integrate the Move technology with their PC for a variety of purposes. And the name of this groundbreaking application? Move.Me.
Those of you who remember the Anything.Goes blog post should be starting to notice a trend here – apparently, Sony has a penchant for the “dot,” as evidenced by its Make.Believe (“make-dot-believe”) project and now this new Move.Me (“move-dot-me”) app. In that post, we conjectured that Make.Believe sounds like it could be a domain name, especially if new gTLDs become a reality.
But the difference here is, Move.Me is a domain name. And Michael Berkens of The Domains blog points out that Sony doesn’t own it – he does. The site is underdeveloped, but according to DomainTools, it has been registered since 2008. And where Sony advertises the URL Sony.com/MakeDotBelieve for its Make.Believe project, both Sony.com/MoveDotMe and Sony.com/MoveMe point to error pages.
The Move.Me app sounds really cool and useful. Too bad Sony doesn’t own the domain to go along with it.
The McRib is back. For the first time in 16 years, McDonald’s is offering its boneless pork patty sandwich at restaurants nationwide for approximately six weeks. And people are thrilled.
The McRib was first introduced to the McDonald’s menu in 1981, but since 1994, it has not been offered at all restaurants at the same time. According to McDonald’s USA President, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the McRib simply does not sell well throughout the year because people get tired of it. But the scarcity created by having only certain restaurants serve the sandwich at certain times has created a base of die-hard fans who will travel substantial distances – sometimes even hundreds of miles – to munch on a McRib. A meteorologist in Minnesota even developed a McRib Locator website, where users can peruse a map to see where the McRib has been spotted recently. Here’s a screenshot of the site:
The mystery of when or even whether the McRib will appear is a huge part of its appeal, and the sandwich has become somewhat of a cultural icon. There are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to the McRib, including those demanding that it return permanently, and various McRib pages have thousands of “likes.” McDonald’s couldn’t buy this kind of fan loyalty and fervor even if it wanted to, but the company clearly understands the McRib’s appeal – billboards with a photo of the sandwich carry the simple but sassy tagline, “Sorry for being awesome.”
Yet, despite the McRib’s huge following, McDonald’s owns McRib.com but does not point it to any content. According to Alexa, traffic to McRib.com is up over 600 percent this month, so clearly people are going to the site looking for content. Just think of what kind of marketing it could do if the domain resolved to a specialized site with all of the things McRib lovers use the Internet for: locator maps, social networking opportunities, McRib meet-ups, etc. The only thing that would be better than that would be for McDonald’s to offer the McRib and the Shamrock Shake at the same time.
At FairWinds, we tend to talk about domain names a lot. This is no exception.
A recent TechCrunch article references a tweet in which Evan Williams, the CEO and co-founder of Twitter (not the bourbon) reveals that he paid just $7,500 for the domain name twitter.com back when the company was still nothing more than a side project. I thought that this was interesting, considering that the original project code name was “twttr”.
In my opinion, it was an incredibly smart move for Williams to buy twitter.com, even though the price must have seemed like a lot at the time. The word “twitter” is much easier for Internet users to remember than “twttr”, and much more intuitive for them to type in their browsers. It is a priceless domain name now, considering the popularity of the service.
I was curious, so I also tried typing twttr.com into my browser, to see where I would land. The domain redirects to the twitter.com site, and upon doing a quick WHOIS records search, I found that Williams has also owned twttr.com since 2007. I am not sure how much he paid for it at the time, but it seems to me like he was careful to cover his bases, and had a good understanding of which domain names would be the most useful later on.
It is this kind of forward-thinking that is so valuable when it comes to choosing brands, particularly for startups. It is better to get a head start and register the best and most valuable domain names, even if they come with a price tag, at the beginning, rather than to pay more or to try and reclaim them through enforcement later on. Others, not understanding the value of a strong domain name, might have settled for twttr.com, and declined to pay for twitter.com, thinking that it would not matter much down the road.
From my own experience at FairWinds, I see first hand on a daily basis how important it is to own the right domain names. Doing so provides valuable boosts in traffic to websites, and a better experience for Internet users.