A brandable domain, by most opinions is a short, none-descriptive domain, that is easy to remember, easy to spell, and passes the radio test (you get correct spelling just from hearing the domain name spoken). The whole concept of branding is to differentiate yourself from the masses, so people remember your brand and associate some value that you create to that brand. Branding evokes in customers a perception of added value for which they will pay a premium price or develop loyalty to.
Traditional branding most often incorporates a proper name as part of the brand. Brand name are ingrained in our mind, and there is a good chance we show loyalty to these brands when we shop. Think “Betty Crocker”, “Ford”, “Coca Cola”, “Walt Disney” and I am confident that you know the brand, know the brand’s products, and reputation for quality. These well-known brands took many years to establish, and this was accomplished at a considerable cost. With the advent of the Internet, these established businesses moved their brand name online by simply removing the spaces from their brand name and added a .COM top level domain (TLD). Voila – instant brand recognition in the digital world.
Many newer businesses which started online on day number one, took a different approach to branding their business, by naming their business with brandable domain. Some easily recognizable examples of these businesses include Google.com, Twitter.com, Yahoo.com, Amazon.com, and Trivago.com. These brand names do not indicate the nature of the business behind the brand name. These names have either no meaning on its own, or its meaning is so abstract that the average person would not understand the association. This means the business owner was able to define the nature of their business which that brand is now known for. They created a wall between the business and competitors allowing them to build reputation with you, without confusion from competitors.
Does this naming strategy payoff?
Yes, it can, but it required an enormous amount of work, time, marketing dollars and some luck. Most of the top new brands used this naming strategy. The Alexa analytics services globally tracks how a website is doing relative to all other sites on the web over the most recent 3-month period. They publish a list of the 500 most popular websites online. Interestingly, 492 of the top 500 websites use a domain that is either a traditional brand name (proper name) or uses a brandable domain name. The remaining eight websites use another type of domain, called a generic domain.
Is any name brandable, if you throw enough work and money at it?
Yes and no. You can brand any name by pumping mass amounts of dollars into marketing it, but this can be an inefficient process if the domain chosen is not a good “brandable” domain. Don’t try to be cute with the name by using creative spelling or hyphens in the name or names that include numbers. This is a sure recipe for wasting marketing dollars.
Generic domains, which are those domains using common nouns, are difficult to market effectively using traditional advertisement media. TV ad campaigns are very expensive. Before you spend a fortune, you would want to protect your brand with a trademark. It is almost impossible to get a powerful trademark on a brand using generic words. For example, you cannot trademark “chairs” or “tables” or “furniture”, without some distinctive identifier attached to the name, but a name “IKEA” can be trademarked. Had IKEA branded using the name NetherlandsFurniture.com, they might reconsider their marketing strategy in favor of something less expensive. Else what would stop a competitor from confusing the market with a similar name such as FurnitureFromNetherlands.com, or DutchFurniture.com (or .NL), or Netherlands-Furniture.com?
Brandable domains may not be the right choice for every startup!
Generic domains are less expensive to market than brandable domains, and thus will appeal to a greater number of startup businesses. Business using generic domains have some significant advantages marketing online, because of current search engines algorithms. Search engines determine search relevancy of websites in part because of keyword matching of the search term to word/words within the domain name. The weight for this matching is significant. If you search any generic word for a product or service, you will find the search engine results full of website URLs using generic domain names. This means that the businesses utilizing generic domains names, get traffic from the search engines without having to pay for that traffic. Search traffic accounts for most of the traffic to any website, and for some industries it represents almost all the traffic the website will receive. This is a significant advantage for startup businesses, as most lack the funding needed to launch an expensive marketing campaign.
Besides the clear search engine advantage to businesses using generic keywords, having a product or service defining keyword within your domain, reduces the overall marketing expense required to tell people what business you are in. If your brand name is Candy.com, or Apartment.com, or Hotels.com or PictureFrames.com, potential customers intuitively knowns what business you are in. Your name says it all.
In summary, if you have the investment capital for a meaningful marketing budget, then name your business with a great brandable domain. However, if you have some financial constraints limiting your marketing budget, then consider finding a generic domain that will give you favorable search engine positioning and immediate business type recognition to prospective customers. In either case, NameYourStartup.com can assist you with locating a brand name suitable to your needs and budget.