As of today, 619 applications have been submitted for brand top-level domains (TLDs).
And there are plenty of big name brands that are already using them.
In this post I’ll look at five examples, as well as giving a bit of background on TLDs and why brands might want their own.
Background to new gTLDs
The background to new TLDs makes fairly heavy reading. Most of the problems have surrounded new generic TLDs (gTLDs), for example Amazon’s application for ‘.book’.
These new gTLDs were introduced in 2012 and 2013, and you can read all the heavy detail about the bid process on ICANN’s Wiki (ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a private not-for-profit).
Incidentally, the most bids were put in by Google (101), Amazon (79) and Microsoft (11), but non-tech giants like L’Oreal were also in the mix.
Some of the controversy around new gTLDs has involved concern from brands that want to protect their name from appearing in the URL of new domains, particularly unflattering ones.
Would brands feel pressured to buy ‘brandname.word’, to stop others from taking them?
Believe it or not, one of these controversial new domains is .sucks, which is charging a premium for brands to snap up their own brand.sucks.
You can read the full background on that interesting gTLD in a detailed Search Marketing Land article.
Is the fuss dying down?
According to World Trademark Review it appears that, despite this controversy, brands have not changed their domain enforcement strategies.
Its study published in April 2016 showed that 60.5% of companies haven’t changed policy in light of new gTLDs.
The question is, does that mean brands are unprepared? That’s a debate for another post.
Let’s look at some brand TLDs, a slightly different kettle of fish.
Brand TLDs seem more straightforward and represent 34% of new TLDs applied for. Companies can’t snap up brand TLDs just to sell them on.
There was initial uncertainty about search performance but Google has since confirmed that there’s no reason to fear brand TLDs, though they don’t offer inherent SEO advantage.
BMW celebrated its centenary by looking forward to the next 100 years on this website at next100.bmw.
Here, the advantage is pretty much solely one of brand image, but brand TLDs do allow companies to create lots of second-level domains for campaigns and products.
To some extent, this makes marketing easier. Think finance.bmw, etc. – shorter and more memorable URLs.
Consumers can often be confused by TLDs (do I need .com or .co.uk?), so this brand TLD may also offer assurance to the customer.
In May 2015, Barclays announced TLDs of .barclays and .barclaycard.
Online banking isn’t carried on this new brand TLD, but it’s easy to see how security could be one advantage of using .barclays.
Sky is a good example of a business creating shorter, memorable URLs by using a brand TLD.
For example, q.sky currently redirects to http://www.sky.com/shop/tv/sky-q/overview/.
Whether this will just be for marketing purposes, like custom URLs, or will eventually be used as the main domain remains to be seen.
Other companies are using brand TLD redirects, too. Bing redirects search.bing to bing.com.
CERN is another example of a new TLD being used for branding purposes, but also presumably to offer simple flexibility when it comes to creating second-level domains in future.
Our final example is a bit of a meta one.
Google has registry.google, where it promotes access to new gTLDs that it has successfully applied for.
Other registars can partner with Google here, to sell these domains.
Look down the list and you can immediately see things of interest to many brands, whether or not they have their own brand TLD already.