The involvement of UK brands and industry in the programme is best revealed by looking at the number of UK businesses that have made applications and the industry segments that have the highest levels of participation.
This shows specific brands that are active in the programme and those that have elected to watch the enhanced internet domain system unfold.
Banking and Finance
Internationally, banking and finance is clearly one of the biggest industries to build their brands through new gTLDS, with a number of applications coming from the UK. Halifax, Prudential and HSBC for example, represent the broad range of financial services that new gTLDs may promote, from mortgages and investment portfolios, to savings accounts and credit cards.
The ability for banks and other financial institutions to offer their entire digital presence using a single unique suffix could provide important benefits, quickly enhancing security and consumer trust. It could also help combat cybercrime and fraudulent websites.
It is in this sector where a number of companies have made multiple applications specific to each of their services, for example Barclays and Barclaycard. Banks may also be planning to use gTLDS to re-enforce the power of their marketing campaigns by applying for their strap lines such as .onyourside for Nationwide.
Broadcasting and Media
In both the UK and the US a number of television networks have applied for gTLDS, including Fox, Sky, and Virgin, as well as British networks such as ITV and the BBC, which have more recently become transatlantic, with several productions such as period drama Downton Abbey now popularised in America.
The internet has changed the way that audiences enjoy and consume content which means many media organisations are quickly developing multi-platform experiences offering digital content to compliment their broadcast or written content. The opportunity to have all of this material on a single unique domain name suffix has huge potential.
There are applications from high street favourites Next and Boots, who both have substantial online retail offerings. However, these are the exceptions as generally there have only been a modest number of applications from this sector. This could be a reflection of the uncertainty in the British high street given the current economic climate. In contrast, there have been a number of applications from consumer goods brands usually found on retailer’s shelves, many of which have already developed a strong presence on social media to expand their digital footprint.
There are a number of applicants in the automotive sector on a global level and many of these brands are present in the UK market. A number of British prestige car brands have made applications, specifically Bentley, Land Rover and Jaguar. Maintaining strong relationships with their customers using personal, one to one communication is crucial for prestige brands such as these.
There are high expectations that these brands may use their new gTLD’s in innovative ways to enhance their customer experience, as well as consolidating their online brand activity under a single authentic, trusted domain.
Food & Grocery
Whilst Asda and its American parent company Walmart have applied for gTLDs, there are no applications from the company’s main competitors, Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. This is perhaps surprising, particularly given their levels of investment in online business such as home ordering and delivery, customer profiling and loyalty schemes, along with increasing levels of diversification into finance and other business areas.
Outside of the UK we can see that American retailers applied for domains such as .safeway but interestingly it is the household brands themselves that have seized most on the gTLD opportunity. Food stuffs and cleaning products such as .heinz, .ketchup, .mrmuscle and .vanish are just a few of the gTLDS that have been applied for.
Beauty and Fashion
Though UK applications have been limited in the beauty and fashion industry, globally, a broad cross section of hair and cosmetic products have been applied for, from brands readily available on the UK high street such as L’Oreal and Maybelline, to luxury skincare ranges from companies such as Clinique and Lancome. Specialist salon products in particular, such as colouring ranges and newly patented hair technology, including Kerastase and Redken have also taken the steps to secure their own gTLDs, perhaps suggesting that the value of the branded gTLD is not just its consumer appeal, but as an essential marketing tool in promoting its products on a business to business basis to potential stockists.
Europe accounts for the majority of fashion applications, from French and Italian design houses such as Chanel and Gucci, as well as high end American department stores Macys and Bloomingdales which stock such labels. Fine jewellery and illustrious accessory brands such as Cartier and Tiffany have also submitted applications.
The technology industry accounts for the largest proportion of the global gTLDs, with applications split across 3 key areas – telecommunications, social media and web services, and IT software. As one might expect, the internet sector has seen applications for .gmail, .yahoo and .hotmail, as well as social and business networking tools .skype and .flickr.
Computer company Microsoft and online retailer Amazon have applied for the majority of gTLDs for technological products ranging from .windows to .kindle, whilst applications from companies such as Panasonic, Sony and Orange indicate a pattern for photographic, gaming and telephonic strings.
Business as usual?
From these brands to generic and community applications, whatever business model and strategy each early adopting gTLD deploys, the most primary need for internet users and business is that the system works and remains safe and secure, internet outages for business mean money outages. The ongoing stability and security of the domain name system is critical and as such new top level domain operators will need to focus on this element of service provision in equal proportion to the new business opportunities on offer. The challenge to established TLD’s will be to find new ways to innovate as well as to deliver more value via existing products.
For businesses preparing their brand for the new gTLD landscape we have the following advice:
- Get ready for the new domains by reviewing your current domain name policy
- Review the list of domains for any community or industry suffixes you might be interested in. For example, if you’re based in Wales and that’s an important part of your brand identity, consider whether a .wales domain might be valuable to you
- Check the list for any applications that are similar to your own brand name and might cause confusion among your customers. If you think there’s a risk, then explore your rights to appeal
- Review who’s applied – have your competitors applied for something that will give them an unfair advantage? Again, you have the right to appeal if you think that’s the case
- Don’t panic! New gTLDs have the potential to significantly change the internet landscape, but it’s by no means certain that every domain will be approved, and if so, will be a success – be aware of what’s happening and watch developments, but don’t expect your existing .com, .co.uk or equivalent to suddenly become obsolete
Will all of the new gTLDs be successful? Of the applications on the table, not all will meet the necessary requirements. And of those that pass the financial and technical tests, it’s inevitable that there will be winners and losers. Will we see real innovation in the way domain names are leveraged by business and experienced by internet users? It is hard to imagine we won’t.