Though U.S. applicants made up the largest percentage of the new gTLD applicant pool, European brand owners have shown a more robust interest in adding their new gTLD to their digital brand strategy.
When it comes to this brand enthusiasm though, the proverbial writing has perhaps been on the wall since the application period in 2012: Despite the vast majority of new gTLD applications coming from North America, European companies proportionally made up a larger number of .BRAND applications. There were 284 North American .BRAND applicants, out of 912 total North American applications, compared with 218 European .BRANDs out of 676 total European applications.
Furthermore, European applicants showed a thorough level of interest across all industries. Ferrero applied for .FERRERO, .ROCHER, and .KINDER. Energy, industrial, and transportation companies also applied, including European brands like .ALSTOM, .AIRBUS, .SNCF, and .CERN. Luxury retail organizations were widely represented, like .CHANEL, .CARTIER, and .SWATCH.
European Brands Launch New gTLDs
In April 2014, France-based Axa Financial Services was the first .BRAND to launch its new gTLD brand strategy– which even came ahead of the finalization of the Specification 13 language that provided .BRANDs with closed-registry protections – and to post unique content on .AXA. Nearly a year later, BNP Paribas followed suit, launching multiple pages of unique content on the gTLD .BNPPARIBAS, including language that implied that the company’s brand strategy will see an eventual full migration away from traditional TLDs.
Most recently, shortly after adding content to their gTLDs .BARCLAYS and .BARCLAYSCARD, UK bank Barclays announced it would be migrating its entire portfolio away from .com and .co.uk to its branded space. Regarding the move, Chief Information Security Officer Troels Oerting was quoted in a press release saying, “The launch of the .BARCLAYS and .BARCLAYSCARD domain names creates a simplified online user experience, making it crystal clear to our customers that they are engaging with a genuine Barclays site.” Oerting’s comments underscored what many have been predicting about new gTLDs: That, in the wake of security issues like Target’s data breach, consumers are particularly attuned to brands that express interest and commitment in providing trusted, secure spaces to their customers.
Similarly, luxury fashion and jewelry brands have been quick to explore the authenticity new gTLDs could provide to their customer base. In an industry plagued by counterfeit products, .BRANDs offer an unprecedented ability to provide customers with a space that ensures legitimate goods. As e-commerce continues to grow with luxury retailers, new gTLDs could sway traditional shoppers into online buying methods. Given all of these business factors, it’s not a surprise that the majority of the European luxury brands, like .DIOR and .HERMES, have already delegated their TLDs, indicating their interest in exploring opportunities offered by new extensions.
Why are European brands blazing a trail into the new gTLD landscape?
One explanation for European adoption could revolve around organizational infrastructure. Many .BRAND initiatives were initially led by in-house attorneys seeking to protect their core trademark or brand. Yet, many of the European companies mentioned above have publicly demonstrated almost company-wide buy-in of their new gTLD. For example, at Barclays, the application was likely handled by the Legal Department (judging by the Primary Contact listed on the ICANN micro-site), while stakeholders from Digital and Marketing have been publicly involved in the project in recent weeks.
A World-Wide Shift in Digital Strategy?
Well-known brands will take their new gTLDs and embark upon their new digital marketing path based on their unique business goals, decision processes, and measured campaigns. All told, the European new gTLD market has already set an impressive precedent.
The Chinese new gTLD market is another place that brands are keeping an eye on – as we’ve blogged before, there’s a lot of opportunity, with the Chinese government stating its intention to double the value of national e-commerce sales to nearly $3 trillion by the close of 2015 and to achieve full nationwide broadband coverage by 2020. However, China has been a notoriously difficult market for businesses and still may be some efforts, made by the government, to regulate the domain name space.
Global companies taking stock of their brand strategy will need to take note and adapt as the global community tries out new gTLDs.
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