A .brand gTLD, or generic top level domain, gives the company behind it a unique position to position themselves online. For one, the customer or client knows they’re dealing with the company or brand they’re intending to deal with, developing a level of trust that’s simply not possible among other top level domains.
Among the leading users of .brand gTLDs are some of Germany’s leading automotive and financial companies. Motor vehicle manufacturers like Audi and BMW and Deutsche Vermögensberatung in the financial sector are but 3 in Germany while globally Canon, the French bank BNP Paribas and British Bank Barclays, the latter using their gTLD for their non-UK operations.
Going by registration numbers, Deutsche Vermögensberatung is the brand that is utilising their gTLD the most. Currently it has 1,830 domain names registered under .dvag. The French MMA IARD Assurances Mutuelles, which offers property and casualty insurance services, has 1,736 registrations and .audi third with 1,012 according to nTLDstats.com. However utilisation is another story. Audi is one of the leaders with 533 “active websites” according to the Dot Brand Observatory, only bested by their sister company Seat which has 534 active websites, both part of the Volkswagen Group.
Currently there are 24 .brands with over 100 registrations indicating brands aren’t ignoring them, but they’re not being well utilised. And usage is a key to getting awareness of the new domain name endings.
One brand that has been prominent in its use of its own gTLD has been BNP Paribas. In a case study for ICANN, the bank cited additional security as one of the key benefits for launching their .bnpparibas.
“.BNPPARIBAS website and web pages give customers additional peace of mind while conducting business with an international bank even at a local level, helping BNP Paribas Group to deliver on their brand promise of transparency and trust.”
When typing in bnpparibas.com there’s a redirect to their gTLD with almost all the bank’s operations using .bnpparibas. There are 224 domain names registered under the gTLD, although only 33 are classified as active with almost 114,000 pages according to their Dot Brand Observatory profile.
Audi has made great use of their gTLD with most of the domain names registered for dealers in Germany, many of whom are using their domain names as their principal sites. Dot Brand Observatory lists 533 active domain names with over 61,000 web pages. However outside of Germany there appears to be little usage with those domain names tried not being active.
One brand that hasn’t got a large number of domain names registered under their .brand gTLD, but are using it prominently is the French railway operator SNCF. SNCF has moved all their operations for customers such as buying tickets to .sncf with their homepage being oui.sncf, “oui” being French for yes. Currently there are only 2 active .sncf domain names, but there are 256,000 web pages according to the Domain Name Observatory profile.
When launching their .sncf in December 2017, the railway operator promoted the change at the time as a major rebranding which included new social media pages including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as well as a massive transformation that SNCF hopes will see an additional 15 million customers per year by 2020, a five-fold growth in low fare passengers, a €1.5 billion investment in rolling stock and a €300 investment in on-board WiFi. The change is to counter the growth of low-cost airlines and bus services. One quarter of all French SNCF tickets are sold through the website.
Well used, a .brand gTLD can help unify branding and communications for a company and its affiliates. It also develops trust between the customer and the brand. Unfortunately it appears too many brands haven’t been successful in working out a strategy as to how they’ll utilise their .brand gTLD and it languishes, unused, unpromoted and unloved.