In the wake of Weinergate, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of personal branding. That said, I'm sure you're about as tired of Weiner's, well… weiner, as I am, so I won't really go there too much in this post except as a point of reference as there's a lot that brands can learn from the falling (or perhaps by the time this is posted, fallen) congressman.
This is especially true when considering the June 20, 2011 move by ICANN that will allow certain brands to acquire customized TLDs or top-level domain extensions. Various keywords, places and even brand names will be made available in lieu of the typical .com, .net, .insert-your-country-code-here, etc.
Having these options will certainly open the doors of Internet addresses to a whole group of people who missed out on acquiring the .com version of their desire. But will they want to? This will certainly be a test to the almighty.com and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Brandchannel has an interesting article about all of this here. As they explain:
…ICANN will open the application process for between 400 and 2,000 new top-level domain (TLD) extensions in keywords (like .sport and .law), cities (like .NYC) and brands (like .MTV), in a move that has been in the works since 2004…
"If I were CMO of, say, MTV, with thousands of websites, I can unify them under .MTV, under one family. It helps me build my umbrella brand off of the back of consumer brands people are familiar with, like JerseyShore.MTV," commented Crawford to MediaPost. "If you are Barclays, it's as easy as telling consumers that 'it's only Barclays if it says .barclays.'"
There are many great points with this move and personally, I'm sold on the idea. At my agency, Definition 6, we're all about unified marketing. So in that respect, this is great.
But, before marketers get too excited, it's time to look back and think for a moment about our good friend, Anthony and remind ourselves this:
Your brand isn't your name (well, in his case now it kind of is).
Your brand isn't your website.
Your brand isn't even your product or service.
Your brand is simply where you live in the hearts and minds of people. These TLDs are a fascinating concept and a good idea for numerous reasons. But, they won't necessarily strengthen your brand (especially at the beginning when everyone is still expecting to hear/read ".com").
Even still, in some cases the new TLDs may even weaken your brand. Again, I'm a huge proponent of unified marketing and I'm lucky to live and breathe it as a planner at a marketing agency. But like anything, how and when you unify your brand is key. Blanket strategies never work. The lack of any real meaning behind .com is actually nice in that it does provide a level of separation… and for some brands this is important. A few years ago, after discussing the fact that both Axe (a brand famously good at reminding straight men why they love to look at women) and Dove (a brand famously good at reminding women that they are much more than the objects of straight men's desires) are owned by Unilever with fellow planner, Rye Clifton, the idea of demonstrating this hypocrisy in a video was born. A few days later, Rye had put together:
I would argue that axe.unilever and dove.unilever would in fact be bad for both brands and not necessarily healthy for Unilever, either. In cases like this, the unified domain extension is a bad idea.
Two points in summary:
1) Never forget, your name (or domain name) is only a reflection of your brand, your brand is where you live in the hearts and minds of people – actions speak louder than everything.
2) If you're going to unify all of your brands under a single umbrella (congratulations, that's a bold and modern move)… just be sure they're all in context when rubbing shoulders.
As Director of Brand and Experience Planning at Definition 6, Chris Wojda oversees the agency’s brand, consumer and cultural insights practice. Through a mixture of primary qualitative (including ethnography), quantitative, secondary and syndicated methodologies and sources, the insights that come from Wojda and his group fuel the design and experiences created by Definition 6. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.
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