As CEO of the .ME Registry, operator of the .ME domain name extension, Predrag Lešić is well-versed in the importance of personal branding and branding, in general. The .ME Registry has been contributing to the development of brands (people and businesses) since its establishment in 2007; while individuals are receiving personalized domain names, businesses are creating stronger bonds with their consumers. Furthermore, the .ME name space takes great pride in being Montenegro’s official TLD (Top Level Domain) and a symbol of the country’s independence.
We asked Lešić the following questions in an attempt to unveil the benefits of .ME and better comprehend his vision for those brands that have adopted the name.
Brandingmag: In the broad spectrum of branding (including marketing and advertising), where do you place domain names in the architecture of brand image? At which point does a brand’s domain name play its most important role?
Predrag Lešić: A domain is a virtual storefront neon sign every business needs. And when you think about the colossal size of the market place your store is a part of (Internet), you have to be unique; not only by the product or service you offer, but also by how you name your store; you have to be memorable; the name has to speak for your business. If it’s good, the domain name can be a giant loud neon sign, which speaks about your service and invites people to come in.
BM: Which aspects of a brand should be reflected in the domain name? Is transferring the company/project/individual name from paper to domain name enough or should brands be innovating more within the domain name space?
PL: The most successful example is when a name of the company becomes more than just a name, when it becomes a verb, a new word in dictionary, like google, facebook, or skype. You can easily say I googled him and everybody will know what did I do. So transferring a company’s name from paper to a domain name isn’t always bad. But a savvy and cool name can be more than any slogan, any marketing message. If you are creative enough you can squeeze your whole campaign in a domain name.
BM: After living in various countries, what is your opinion on global branding? What does it entail as far as consideration and execution, and what do you consider to be the greatest challenge for brands’ development outside of home borders?
PL: The biggest challenge is certainly difference in cultures. We may all be online and everybody speaks about globalization but we all have something that is embedded deeply in our blood what makes us essentially different. Approaching different kinds of cultures, knowing who likes what, what drives people is difficult. Not to mention different languages. For us the biggest hurdle is meaning of our domain in different languages. .ME is ok for English, Spanish and Portuguese, but what about German and Chinese? Also, although we are an Internet business you always need a personal contact with your partners and we can’t be everywhere at the same time when you have a small team.
BM: After numerous years in the industry, what is the predominant trend that you have witnessed from brands utilizing and developing with the .ME registry?
PL: Some brands tend to protect their trademark with no serious usage of the domain. Some of the smart ones have developed communities of customers on .me page. That’s the best possible way to engage with your customers, through a separate but your own channel. Interaction on Facebook is cool, but what was the goal of that interaction – bring them to your own terrain.
PL: We live in the new technology era when things change fast, so brands must adopt very quickly. URL shortener become part of the personal branding, so Facebook and other big brands recognized that need. Facebook.com is a globally recognized web brand, but when it comes to Twitter, FB.ME is how Facebook is recognized & branded. We can not say any more, one domain name is all what we need and we use for branding.
The second part of the story is trust & personalization. Facebook and many other big brands wanted to show how their service is all personal, all built around individuals, for people who expose their own private lives more than ever, for new generations who see the world of internet in a completely different way than we do. Everybody speaks about digital natives and digital immigrants, but not many know what to do with these different groups. I think Facebook understood that, WordPress (wp.me) & Time Inc. (ti.me) too, so they choose .ME. The Internet is going to be more and more personal.
BM: The .ME domain system connotes an extremely personal branding experience. How do you see businesses and organizations fitting into this seemingly-singular and uniform image structure?
PL: Businesses are trying today to get closer to their customers, ask about their opinions, and create a individual relationship. The rise of social media is an obvious proof for that. But most of all everybody wants to drive attention to their web presence and everybody is working on his or her own social media. Here is where a personalized connection with the end customer comes to the stage. If you say to your client Join.Me, or Share.Me, or Memorize.Me – what can explain your intention better then a good domain name?
Recently, Predrag was a lecturer at the 2013 OMGcommerce.me Conference, Southeastern Europe’s regional ecommerce conference, where he spoke of domain names as the roots of branding.