Commentary

Are CMOs In The Dark About TLDs?

In this rapidly changing world of the digital marketing landscape, chief marketing officers need timely notification of relevant issues and balanced information to make informed decisions. They may not be getting it when it comes to generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

Recently, I was contacted by a private organization representing some of the top CMOs in the country. Its members wanted information about gTLDs, which would allow companies to have their own brand name or a generic word to the right of the dot in an Internet address. Among their specific questions:

  • Who are the ideal brand candidates for a new gTLD? 
  • What kinds of innovative marketing and advertising strategies are possible? and most interestingly,
  • What sort of time frame do you suggest for a brand to apply for a gTLD, so as not to raise flags to competitors?

It was a remarkable request, given that these CMOs employ the advertising agencies that are normally poised to advise them on the latest branding and advertising developments and technologies. Surely, they had already been briefed by their agencies.

But that was not the case. The CMO organization told us that their members were having trouble finding a balanced view about gTLDs.

It’s important to note that many brands will not need their own gTLD, and some may choose in the end to do nothing and watch. But what the call from the CMO organization tells me is that the traditional channels CMOs usually rely upon to guide them are either staying mute or practicing denial, taking the lead from organizations that are opposing the program with sketchy facts, old arguments and inaccurate information.

Does the very existence of a new gTLD program have the potential to significantly change the advertising industry? Yes, of course. You can view that either as an exciting challenge or something to fear. Unfortunately, it may be fear that is causing some in the advertising business to do a grave disservice to their clients, namely withholding an objective and balanced view of the risks and rewards for the CMO.

ICANN, which since 1998 has managed the Internet naming and addressing system, has worked publicly with global stakeholders such as IP and trademark attorneys, the DNS industry, more than 90 governments, and many groups, including advertising organizations, to enhance the gTLD program. ICANN formally approved the program and announced the new gTLD application period last June. Virtually every major media covered the launch, so there is little credence to arguments that anyone was blindsided. 

Many advertising agencies are being pro-active. We have joined with such agencies to conduct briefings for their CMO clients. Our objective is to help them understand the ICANN process and how, for some brands, a new gTLD can be deployed for competitive advantage, a new affiliate marketing opportunity, enhanced content and better SEO, among other benefits.

The advertising industry is a broad and diverse community that thrives on maverick behavior and values “away from the herd” mentality. It is clear to me, after many conversations, that members of the advertising community both agree and disagree with the value and impact of the new gTLD program. So I hope the advertising industry organizations would first survey their members and gain a clear understanding on whether there is a consensus position and then bring factual data and accurate information to the discussion.

The application period begins Jan. 12 and closes three months later. The time to make a clear and balanced decision for many CMOs and brands is now.

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3 comments about "Are CMOs In The Dark About TLDs?".
  1. Steve Schildwachter from rVue , November 22, 2011 at 9:19 a.m.
    The question seems to be, "Are agencies in the dark?" Is anyone recommending to their clients how to think about or what to do about TLDs? http://twitter.com/SteveS1
  2. Vance P. Hedderel from Afilias , November 28, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.
    My company, Afilias, recently sponsored a webinar by the Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership, “Who Should Invest in a dot Brand? Evaluating the Business Case for a Top-Level Domain Name.” It was designed to help CMOs of major brands better understand the pros and cons of the ICANN new gTLD program. Every CMO can watch a free replay of the whole event, or just selected highlights if time is at a premium, at http://afilias.info/gtld-webinar .
  3. Kate Hutchinson from EMC , November 29, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.
    Steve, I was particularly intrigued by this issue of educating marketing professionals about new TLDs. I recently wrote a quick guide for marketing a .brand TLD on our company blog, if you're interested in reading it: http://blog.ud.com/2011/11/a-guide-to-promoting-and-using-your-brand-tld/