Should your brand have a top-level domain?

The way we access websites is changing. No longer are businesses tied to a small number of traditional domain name endings.

While the best known ones, such as .uk, .com and .org still retain their valuable place in the marketer’s toolkit, there are now many new options available to help target different audiences or serve a specific purpose.

In 2012, ICANN – the global organisation responsible for the internet’s website address database – opened applications for generic top-level domains (gTLDs). This meant that registries and businesses could apply for new generic web endings.

So, for example, instead of JohnSmithPhotography.co.uk, a photographer could purchase JohnSmith.photography or JohnSmith.photos.

There are in fact hundreds of examples which suit every line of work, including .guru, .app, .audio and .cars.

This expansion opens up a whole new world of online marketing opportunities, allowing for an increasingly creative web presence that goes beyond being defined by a geographical location.

Businesses can even go one step further, deciding instead to apply for their own branded domain name.

This offers a number of benefits, such as personalisation (allowing webpages, and even email addresses, to be personalised), trust (customers can easily tell if they’re using an official brand website, and not a cleverly engineered and designed fake) and analytics (brands can gather their own web data directly and accurately, providing real-time analytics).

Ultimately, it provides 360-degree branding, giving businesses a memorable and easy-to-navigate web presence. Brand owners would also have total control over how their domain is used, so any breaches or errors can be taken offline quickly and conveniently.

ICANN is expected to start a new round of applications for gTLDs in the next few years. If your business is interested in having its own domain name ending, here are a few examples of the first branded domains to go live to provide some inspiration.

ITV (LeadingRisk.ITV)

ITV, one of the UK’s most popular TV channels, uses a branded TLD for an internal tool aimed at raising awareness and receiving employee feedback on risk management during its productions.

It ensures confidentiality of survey responses (the domain is instantly recognisable as internal) and it’s a great way for ITV to test the new domain name before rolling it out externally.

Bradesco (banco.bradesco)

Brazilian bank Bradesco uses a .bradesco TLD for its banking homepage which redirects users to its various products and news pages. Most importantly, it is easily recognisable as an official page of the bank’s, making it much harder for a criminal to set up a convincing fake.

Mini (location.mini)

Car brand Mini has opted to use its TLD to create microsites for its dealerships based on their locations. For example, its Vienna branches are accessible at wien.mini, while its Gady showrooms can be found at gady.mini.

Of course, you don’t need a branded TLD to have a geographic domain name. Alongside the country code domain names, you can also secure other localised domains such as .london, .berlin and .nyc, as well as local language domains, such as .cymru.

Philips (product.philips)

Philips has chosen to use its TLD for separate product pages. This makes it very easy for consumers to navigate the site, and go directly to the product page they’re looking for.

For example, sonicare.philips redirects to its range of electric toothbrushes, while airfryer.philips takes you to its kitchen appliances.

Brands that sell a number of consumer products may find this model helpful, as customers can easily find the information they need, simply by entering the product range, followed by the brand, into their address bar.

Australian Cancer Research (home.cancerresearch)

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation was the first charity to set up its own branded domain name. Launching alongside an updated brand identity, the charity uses the domain name to raise awareness of its fundraising campaigns, including ‘The One Who Will End Cancer’.

The updated domain name also offers reassurance to donors, who will be able to check that they’re donating to a legitimate charity.

These are just five examples of branded TLDs that are already live.

According to ICANN, there are over 500 branded TLDs which have either been granted, are still pending, or have been withdrawn, before a second round of applications (pencilled in for 2020).

As such, it’s clear that there are still some exciting developments to come for brands in the months and years ahead.

So, if you’re a trademark owner or brand manager, you might want to put having one of these on your list of things to do, if you haven’t already.

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