The new GTLDs: A Slow Motion Marketing Car Crash Waiting to Happen

by Edwin on September 11, 2011

The new GTLDs are going to turn into a dismal failure.

You only have to look at how little traction .biz and .info have gained in the mind of the average consumer, in spite of their decade in the marketplace and their real-life use by hundreds of thousands of companies, to see how this farce is going to play itself . Those extensions faced an insurmountable hurdle in the form of the onslaught of billions of pounds’ worth of marketing budgets being spent on effectively “branding” the .co.uk or .com extension in the minds of consumers. Every time a URL gets mentioned on TV, on the radio, or shown on a poster, in a newspaper or magazine, on the side of a vehicle, or in innumerable other venues, that’s one more iteration of the “.co.uk” or “.com” mantra.

Now imagine a new GTLD contender, by definition registered to a single company or narrow-purpose entity. How much will even the largest corporations on Earth be able to make headway against the millions and millions of SMEs and larger firms who have been promoting and continue to promote .co.uk and .com? You’d have a better chance of hearing the sound of a single hand clapping in the middle of a thunderstorm!

Take the example of .nike, as representative of a “large brand”. It would be self-destructive in the extreme for Nike to switch to promoting .nike extensions exclusively, since they would be throwing away every penny they’d spent on branding Nike.com over the years. At the same time, the average consumer reaction is likely to be a shrug and a “Silly Nike, they’ve misprinted their URL” if they even pick up on the fact that it’s supposed to be a URL in the first place. After all, we’re conditioned to intuitively understand that something that begins “www” and ends “.co.uk” is a URL. But something that begins in “www” and ends “.nike”? That’s just a recipe for blank stares all round…

It is immensely telling that most of the largest ad industry associations in the UK, including the ASA, have come out publicly alongside their counterparts overseas to oppose the need for these new GTLDs.

The biggest winner is ICANN, which stands to rake in cash to the tune of tens of thousands of times the US$180,000 application fee. And not forgetting, of course, some of the “open” new GTLD registries, which will no doubt be laughing all the way to the bank as they lure unwary businesses into registering domains that will turn out to be a marketing albatross around their collective necks.

Though there’s going to be a period of uncertainty until the dust settles and a “crystal clear” verdict is delivered by the marketplace as to the worthlessness of the new GTLDs, failure is inevitable, as anyone able to read the e-tealeaves has no doubt already deduced.

Meanwhile those of us sitting pretty on portfolios of generic .com and .co.uk domains have nothing to do but bide our time, waiting on the sidelines until the last big uncertainty of the domain industry gets flushed out of the system and the supremacy of the “original and best” domain extensions is no longer in doubt.

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