Brand TLD secret

Why some brands have withdrawn their brandTLD

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03/03/2022

It is always surprising to learn that certain international brands have parted ways with the TLD they had decided to launch.

An initial explanation for their decision can be found in their letter to ICANN, given that all or almost all these brands used the same standard letter citing a clear reason:

“The only domain name registered in the .brand, nic.brand, is registered to and maintained by XXX, theRegistryOperator, for its exclusive use.”

Motivated and hastened to defend against the potential danger of the opening of brandTLDs, many brands registered their own TLD with the sole goal in mind of protecting themselves. This positioning was entirely understandable in the context of the 2012 applications. The decision deadlines were tight and no-one wanted to see a competitor or third party seize a digital territory in the name of their brand. The Internet world was shifting from the traditional .com/.fr/.net to custom domains. Brands could not have predicted how the market would react.

Protecting a name: a good investment and a good decision

Once the application phase for these new gTLDs was over, all those who applied were able to appraise the number of applicants and above all note that, ultimately, there was very little or no poaching of brand names. Over time, economic reasoning and budget restraints have brought into question the annual costs of maintaining non-profitable assets due to their non-use. All the brands that have withdrawn their TLD have justified this by the fact that the only domain name registered was the one used to operate the TLD: nic.TLD. This shows that they did not even try to use or create a domain name… and that is a real shame!

The brandTLD: a non-valuated asset in all cases of withdrawal!

It is clear that a protectionist rationale outweighed all other rationales in these withdrawals. Some representatives of brands with a brandTLD that we encounter as part of our activities are not even aware that a dot-brand exists for their company or do not know who manages it in-house. Legal and IS departments are often the ones to put forward the, entirely compelling, arguments of security and protection. To make the launch of a brandTLD a success, other in-house allies are needed.

The brandTLD: a business-wide project

To conquer a digital territory successfully like Leclerc or BNP Paribas, for example, the use of a dot-brand needs to be questioned before applying. The previous ICANN round demonstrated that the defensive aspect was not the main success factor in this type of project. If McDonald’s and Intel’s decision-makers have chosen to pull their TLD, it’s because they firmly believe that no-one will try to recover it.

The legal and IS departments need to join forces with the communication and marketing teams to launch a brandTLD. The legal department will ensure supervision and protection, the IS department will incorporate this into its scope and the existing environment, the marketing department, alongside IS sometimes, will work on how to extract maximum value from this TLD, and the communication department will use and harmonise internal and external uses of the domain. This multi-department strategy can only be a success if the departments all agree on the added value, innovative and protective nature of the project. In companies that best make use of their TLD, a top management impetus is often the deciding factor.

These projects are both innovative and exciting. We are lucky, at Afnic, to be in contact with a number of project leaders from the last round’s applications. We believe that the role of back-end operator is not limited to the purely technical side. Because it is our job and we ourselves have experience as a TLD manager, we know that it is the close Registry – Back-end – Registrar relationship that places the registry in the best position to succeed, by providing explanations to the stakeholders, by running training courses or simply by helping remove internal restraints. It is this experience that we want to share with you as part of ‘Le Cercle des .marque’ [‘The BrandTLD Club’]. The dot-brands with the best performance are French, and we want to do everything possible to ensure it stays that way!