As Director of the DotGreen Community, David Maddocks sees domains as channels or “doorways” into a company or brand.
After leading marketing efforts for Converse, and then serving as an adviser for brands like IBM, Jockey International and Keds, David Maddocks was appointed CMO and general manager of business development at Cole Haan in 2013.
While Maddocks oversees all facets of Cole Haan’s marketing and brand strategy, as well as store-design, creative collaborations and licensing, it’s his work with DotGreen that has ignited his passion around domains.
“I got involved in the domain industry because I believe in DotGreen and what Annalisa Roger, their founder, CEO and visionary, is seeking to accomplish in terms of making a global digital place for all stakeholders in the future of the planet to convene,” says Maddocks.
As a founding member of Product (RED), Maddocks knows what takes to lead environmentally-conscious organizations.
“It really opened my eyes to the idea that businesses can do well, and what’s right,” says Maddocks of his involvement with (RED).
A carve-out from a much larger operating company, Cole Haan just recently acquired its domain.
“Our entire e-commerce and social platform is less than a year old,” says Maddocks. Fortunately for Cole Haan, its CMO is on the forefront of the domain industry and has a substantial amount of insight into the new world of gTLDS.
Today, he shares his thoughts on domain strategy and where the industry is heading.
Cole Haan’s David Maddocks on the Future of Domains
What is the purpose of your brand? What is its mission and what are its values? Who is your audience or, better, what stakeholders and constituencies are you engaging with?
Let the answers to these questions guide every decision you make.
Consider a domain strategy that makes engagement more expedient, more honest and more rewarding for everyone.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you think brands should think about their domains?
David Maddocks: We are still in early days on the Internet. We really are. It may feel like dog years, but we don’t know the long-term effect our networked world is going to have on our daily lives and the construction and organizations of our communities.
I see domains as channels or “doorways” into a company or brand that allow people discreet entry points.
Dot.com was the catchall, much like NBC offering entertainment, news and sports on one channel. Then someone figured out you could have multiple channels and a much broader experience and longer engagement period, so more channels.
The same will be true for brands online: dot.biz for investors, dot.com for commerce, dot.green for sustainability, etc. Of course many people will build out entire businesses upon the dot.green domain — especially those who are passionately embracing what it means to be green.
Amy Gesenhues: How important is a domain when it comes to a brand’s online reputation? Marketing? Branding?
David Maddocks: I believe domains are going to become shorthand, with each representing a specific consumer interest.
Consumers will develop a second nature to typing in a brand name and dot.blank for what they are after, whether green products, luxury products and so on.
Savvy brands will know this in the coming years and adopt different domain names to support and identify their brand and offerings.
Amy Gesenhues: Any thoughts on the “.sucks” domain?
David Maddocks: The same as my thoughts on reality television – it’s existence doesn’t keep great creative people from simultaneously pushing the cultural conversation forward.
In the same era as reality television, we get Downton Abbey, Mad Men and House of Cards. The Internet is the greatest democracy that ever existed. People get to choose.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see brands using the new gTLDs as channels versus simply having access to more domain name options?
David Maddocks: I basically see these new Internet channels as a way for brands to connect more efficiently and directly with their target consumers and to build credibility and loyalty.
Not only has mobile commerce become the mainstream, but consumers do their research online and are much savvier today. Brands have to cater to these more aware, mobile-shopping customers and, with the new gTLDs can provide them shorthand direction to where they can find information quickly that is targeted to what they’re looking for.
Using the Target example again, special interest consumers will know exactly where to go when they see Target.green, Target.baby, Target.pharmacy and Target.wedding.
Amy Gesenhues: What are the challenges around building a comprehensive list of brand domains?
David Maddocks: It’s a matter of customer engagement and choice.
The world of big data gives us intimate knowledge of our customers and allows for endless segmentation. The retail world used to think of “doors” meaning the number of stores in which we sell products. Now “doors” means households.
Where the customer journey ends up is going to be just as important as where it begins; “.green” becomes an opportunity for a landing pad for an increasing number of consumers. That’s the opportunity.
Amy Gesenhues: Where do brands fall short when it comes to their domain names?
David Maddocks: I don’t know that brands fall short. It’s that the industry is young and, in many respects, still oriented around the logic created by programmers years ago when they created the Internet. It wasn’t meant to be consumer facing.
So, we all have a certain amount of restriction. That’s why ICANN’s move is so bold and so enlightened. It is going to unleash a lot of creative options for audience engagement; “.green” is one massive creative option — largely because consumers are already there. We’ve merely opened the street.
Amy Gesenhues: What is your advice for CMOs when it comes to managing their brand at a domain level?
David Maddocks: CMOs are, appropriately, thinking about the engagement funnel and landing folks to a single spot – what domains do is open up several engagement funnels, each with their own opportunities and challenges.
It brings both complexity and simplification at the same time. I like the elegant collision of those two ideas.
Correction: A previous version of this interview incorrectly stated David Maddocks as the director of DotGreen.org; Maddocks is not the director of DotGreen.org, but the director of the for-profit DotGreen Community.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)