There’s little question that the Internet has profoundly changed the way that brands do business and the way that associations relate to their members. But while the impact of the Internet on the businesses has been largely positive – giving companies the ability to drive growth and brand awareness through ecommerce, social media, and paid search advertising – the impact on associations has been, until more recently, less overwhelmingly beneficial. As a contributor to Associations Now explained in 2010:
The rise of the World Wide Web has wreaked havoc with the traditional association business model. Membership, education, and access to information—three of the most common value propositions and most important revenue streams found in association business models—have been disrupted by what often feels like an infinite variety of acceptable (and occasionally superior) online alternatives that can be delivered at lower cost and often free of charge to end users. Meanwhile, associations have struggled to imagine new value propositions they can offer to slow down this process of commoditization.
Fortunately, associations are now using the Internet to provide new value propositions to members, such as those offered through the use of new generic Top Level Domains (or gTLDs). Let’s look at how the following three associations—the National Association of Realtors, AARP, and the Financial Services Roundtable – are using new gTLDs to get the most out of the Internet expansion.
1) .REALTOR and the National Association of Realtors
The National Association of Realtors is one of the largest and most powerful lobbies in the U.S. The NAR represents its 1.1 million member base on matters related to commercial and residential real estate.
With its new gTLD, the NAR offers domain names in .REALTOR to NAR members. According to the NAR’s application for .REALTOR, the new gTLD “will support branding and marketing efforts” of realty industry members. In effect, .REALTOR domain names serve as a membership benefit. By enabling Internet users to quickly confirm – by looking at a website address – that a particular real estate agent is an official REALTOR®, NAR provides a unique benefit that helps its members distinguish their services online. The provision of this exclusive benefit aligns with the NAR’s mission to help members “become more profitable and successful,” demonstrating NAR’s savvy, strategic use of the Internet to strengthen its relationship with members and its industry.
2) .AARP and AARP, Inc. (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)
AARP is 37 million-strong membership and interest group based in the U.S. that serves individuals aged 50 and over.
AARP’s gTLD, .AARP, was added to the Domain Name System in November of 2015. While .AARP is currently in development, the non-profit provides information about its planned use for .AARP at nic.AARP, explaining:
What we do might surprise you, like launching a global top level domain. It will help you find valuable AARP tools, resources and services on the web. And, when you see an internet address ending with .aarp, you can be certain that it’s authorized by AARP and overseen by us. At AARP, we believe no one’s possibilities should be limited by their age. Discover your Real Possibilities at .aarp.
Only AARP and its qualified Affiliates and Trademark Licensees can own domain names in .AARP. As a result, AARP members can be assured that websites with .AARP at the end of the address are legitimately associated with or run by the Association. The trustworthiness established by .AARP’s registration and use policies is especially important to AARP’s target audience, as Internet users age 50 and up are often the victims of online phishing and scams. By offering its target audience a way to easily identify its websites as legitimate, AARP is helping its members and prospective members to feel more secure navigating to AARP websites.
3) .BANK and the Financial Services Roundtable
Since the mid-1990s, online banking services have revolutionized the financial services industry. Customers can conveniently access their accounts from almost any location, and companies have reduced the operational costs associated with physical branches. Unfortunately, phishing and other cybersecurity issues threaten consumer trust in online banking sites and portals, costing the financial sector upwards of $28 million in 2015.
To help address this problem, fTLD Registry Services – a coalition of banks, insurance companies and their respective trade associations – applied for and now run .BANK.
As outlined in the fTLD Registry Services application, .BANK is a “trusted, verified, more secure and easily identifiable location on the Internet” thanks to stringent registration requirements that limit .BANK users to regulated entities. The gTLD is also subject to technical security protocol that go beyond those found on most domain names. Through these features, the associations involved in fTLD Registry Services are ensuring that members have access to valuable, trusted online “real estate” that can be used for online banking and marketing.
How Associations Can Use gTLDs – Now and in The Future
Associations are emerging as early adopters of new gTLDs. Of the 23 associations that applied for their own gTLDs, 14 have launched, including .WTC, managed by the World Trade Centers Association, Inc.; .ARTE, managed by Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne G.E.I.E.; and .CFA, managed by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute.
As Nao Matsukata, CEO of FairWinds Partners notes, “As much as the Internet has been disruptive for associations, associations are now using the disruption as an opportunity to recast themselves as innovators by using new gTLDs to develop new channels of communication and value to their members.”
The first application round for new gTLDs is closed. However, a second round may open in several years, allowing companies and associations to apply for gTLDs once again. In the meantime, associations can register domain names in open or certain relevant, restricted gTLDs, which allow registrations by parties other than the organization that owns or runs the gTLD. For example, the Consumer Technology Association took advantage of the open gTLD .TECH and now houses online content on CTA.TECH.
If your association or business is interested in learning more about using gTLDs, please contact us about which ones might be the best fit given your goals and budget.