Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Marketing .ORG Domain Names...

The New York Times has a feature this morning on how TIAA-CREF, which manages the retirement accounts of most teachers and researchers, is rolling out a new advertising campaign designed to highlight the fact that it is a .ORG, rather than a .COM.

If you're the average internet user, at this point you're probably assuming that the main difference is that .ORGs are non-profit organizations whereas .COMs are commercial for-profit companies. TIAA-CREF is hoping to capitalize on that assumption, running ads such as "How much more objective can you get than .o-r-g?", ".Org represents three of the most trusted letters on the Internet", or my personal favorite, "Ever hear of a .org crash?"

However, this is misleading the consumer as it is based on a false assumption. ICANN, which runs the domain name system, has no real guidelines nor enforcement mechanism for who qualifies for a .ORG. You emphatically do not need to be a non-profit organization in order to register for one. In fact, TIAA-CREF owns the rights to as well as .ORG, just as most for-profit .COM companies own the rights to their equivalent .ORG.

So consumers of financial services ought to be aware of the fact that TIAA-CREF's status as a .ORG really has no meaning - it is simply a marketing pitch aimed at capitalizing on consumers' ignorance on the subject. All of which is so ironic considering TIAA-CREF actually IS a non-profit!


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