Messy Middle

Getting a grip on the messy middle with a .brand strategy

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05/18/2021

ZMOT, FOMO, SoLoMo, etc. In marketing, we have an acronym, a portmanteau word or an expression for each digital stage and its cognitive consequences. The latest one is the “messy middle” with its infinite number of doubts keeping clients and prospects from the final purchasing decision. Through infinite loops they can judge and discuss the quality, the reputation, the price, the value, the ease of buying, the conditions of use and so on. Each of these is a risk to the brands as far as customer acquisition or loyalty is concerned – risks to which the .brand can respond.

Imagine a runtastic.adidas that managed to keep the brand constantly in the user’s mind without depriving the app of its self-generated community attraction. Under a single name, application and website, the experience and valorisation of members could be interfaced and prolonged without interruption and extended to other internet spaces such as the social media. From this online experience a new seamless brand experience is born.

Before discovering all the cognitive possibilities opened up by a personalised TLD (.brand), let us take another look at this famous concept of the messy middle.

For some ten years or so, the ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth) had dominated understanding of the purchasing tunnel. This moment was when the user took control of the paths to which he or she had previously been passively exposed. From then on his or her ability to live the purchasing experience before actually deciding to buy was established.

Ten years on, and with the huge proliferation of choice, the messy middle is an even more accurate reflection of the reality of this new time-relations space in which clients’ and prospects’ thinking evolves. With their smartphone clenched in one hand and access to a profusion of distributors, online opinions, product comparison websites, the media, etc., potential buyers can endlessly compare, learn, seek advice and in short call into question the purchase decision, the choice of brand or even the product category.

A .brand TLD can allow you to respond to consumers’ need for reassurance and thus accelerate their exit from this messy middle. Three levers have proven to be essential in creating a lasting brand preference:

  • the proven credibility of the brand in its digital authority and as far as information is concerned,
  • the coherence and authenticity of the path proposed,
  • and the experience gained in an exclusive brand territory.

So first of all a .brand is synonymous with authority. It increases the value of the brand as an intangible asset. It bolsters the brand’s ability to orchestrate projects that require substantial resources: human, relational, financial, digital, technical, etc. Its rarity also makes the .brand an expression of the brand’s innovative capacity and pioneering approach on the internet. In short a demonstration of strength that presages both the brand’s reliability and its ability to deploy the necessary resources to favour proximity with its customers.

For example, in choosing to put “mabanque” (my bank) in front of its TLD, https://mabanque.bnpparibas/ pre-empts not so much the market codes as the market itself. A brand TLD with an endless number of variants – https://mabanquepro.bnpparibas/, https://mabanqueprivee.bnpparibas/, https://group.bnpparibas/– to address each market sector and offer a coherent whole that consolidates the immutability of the brand and enhances its credibility. A lever of reassurance, indeed of trust building, essential for dispelling the doubts that are incessantly raised all along the customer journey.

This .brand TLD also expresses a sure value, almost a safe haven from the storm of broadcasters: opinion platforms open to all-comers and the most eloquent, poorly controlled social media and their paid influencers, branded content from competing brands, comparison websites or apps with guided proposals (environmentally responsible but not ethical, bio but not local, etc.)

In this environment the .brand TLD becomes a landmark, a label with which to counter “read elsewhere”. Subject to the integrity and authenticity of the proposal, this proprietary digital territory morphs into a promise of verified information (and ultimately controlled by the legislator), of direct contact, generally facilitated, with the brand: simplicity of purchase, short circuit, demand for services, privileged customer relationship, etc.

Key figure

55%

of online sales have always been made directly on brands’ e-commerce websites.

Source: Online figures and trends 2020, Alioze

As regards authenticity, this privileged digital space is the ideal place to welcome customer testimonies and/or stories of experiences, if possible immersive and therefore sincere. See for example the US insurer that puts the human aspect at the centre of its centennial page https://www.100.aig/ or the digital giant that does the same thing on its platform https://nextbillionusers.google/. How to judiciously strengthen the social proof and affirm the brand’s raison d’être when faced with the new “town criers”?

The .brand TLD is the ideal online space for a direct experience (1-to-1). Not concerned by type or location, the website, by its TLD, reveals only the brand. So it is no longer just a matter of feeding a brand territory, it is the brand itself that becomes a digital territory.

Besides, if cross-checked against an advanced analysis of your data, the .brand TLD can enable you to refine your content and services. The brand is then able to reassure each of its audiences at the stages of information, exploration and evaluation, regardless of the channel.

Key figure

73%

of major corporates have a big data platform, but only 12% consider that they have mastery of it.

Source: NewVantage Partners – Big Data and AI Executive Survey, 2019

To accelerate the exit from the messy middle, shouldn’t the old adage about the right message to the right person at the right time be completed by the notion of the “right sender”?