Let's have a little talk about brands.
A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that identifies one seller's product or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
Brands have existed long before domain names were born, and continue to be conceived and created independently of them. The oldest brand I remember as a child was Gerber food; my Dad would save the jars I consumed as a toddler, reusing them as storage for nails and screws. That's the fate of great brands and their packaging.
But let's face it, brand names and domain names go well together, just like peas and carrots.
Whether one is inspired by a domain to build a brand, or need a domain to supplement a brand, the relationship is clear. Domains supplement brands, make them directly accessible on the internet, and serve as traffic destinations for the brand owners and their points of sale.
The domain name itself is not a brand, although many domain investors get inspired by this exact power that domain names possess—to be memorable and unique.
Building a brand is the ultimate challenge, however, and not an easy task. One can start with a great domain name, and fail in creating a brand worthy of the domain's qualities. One thing to remember, when outlining the brand-building process, is that a great domain name can and will suffer if the associated brand flops.
Generic domains—dictionary keywords—can be used both literally and in an arbitrary manner. Consider Sumo.com, for example, it's not a Japanese wrestling destination, but a manager of email campaign solutions. As a brand sidekick, a domain like Sumo.com has a fallback use, that of its generic meaning, if the brand were to fall apart. This is not the case, however, with domains that support brands via the use of descriptive or fanciful keywords. Brands that are less generic carry the burden of needing a domain that becomes wholly attached to the brand; should the brand fail, the domain name is most likely toast as well.
This is why it's important to decide on the brand's focus and deliver the necessary domain name without neglecting the pair's joint future. A brand that describes a product or service must be in full harmony with the domain that enhances its unique features and builds up its popularity.
A brand cannot be an afterthought of a "cool" domain that we somehow utilize after having a vague idea about its best use. It's a common occurrence that many domain investors jump on the acquisition bandwagon without having a clear plan for their investment. Simply put, a domain might be unfit to become a brand, and that's the best way to throw away some serious money.
A domain with great brand potential should be:
- Short to relatively short
- Easy to spell
- Preferably, an actionable verb, or a noun
- Free from any confusion potential
- Memorable, even if it's a made-up word
A brand that's built on a domain with these qualities starts off on good standing, but it's our job to deliver the appropriate domain to the right brand. That's why brand specialists take time to eliminate bad candidates and only focus on these domains that would be beneficial to the brand.
By spending sufficient time to plan out the brand's birth and subsequent growth in detail, we'll be avoiding the pitfalls of domain rebranding—the painful process of abandoning a brand and its associated domain, and starting over once again.
In a nutshell: build the brand in harmony with the domain, and don't attempt to roll any domain into a brand. While a great brand needs a great domain, a great domain doesn't always become a great brand.
Think about it.