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November 1, 2007

Coined Brand Names: Findability vs. Brand Dilution

We've talked before about the trend toward funky names and alternative spellings among Web 2.0 companies. Many of them even have similar logos, making them even harder to tell apart.

Some domain name specialists argue that if you don't choose a generic name, one that describes the nature of your business, for an Internet-based company, you are leaving money on the table.

Amazon.gifThe basic reasoning behind this argument is that when people are looking for something online, they're likely to try typing a generic name into the address bar. So, if they wanted to find books, they might type "books.com." And if you call your online bookstore "Books.com," people will find you online even if you don't do a lot of advertising.

Barnes_Noble.gifJust about everyone now online knows that if you want to find books, what you actually type is "Amazon.com." But that's only because Amazon has done good job marketing itself, to the point where people associate Amazon with books in much the way they associate Kleenex with facial tissues and Xerox with photocopying.

Owning a generic domain name can certainly be useful. If you type "books.com," you get redirected to Barnes & Noble, which wasn't about to change its very recognizable name just to get a website, but had clever enough SEO advisors to take this step to associate its name with its product.

But the last thing a company trying to build a lasting brand wants is to commit genericide and have everyone else's knock-offs confused with their quality product - even if such genericization is a sign that your product is the one with the most market mind-share.

It's true that companies with physical presences and products have an easier time associating a coined or fanciful name with a particular thing - we see the Kleenex boxes on the shelves of the supermarket, after all. But even those companies have to spend time, energy, and money on advertising and marketing before they become household names.

Flickr1.gifA company with a descriptive or generic name still has to promote itself. Flicker.com only gets 150,000 visitors a month because Flickr is so popular. Even though the folks at Flickr would do well to buy flicker.com (if they can) and any other possible spellings, the "generic" name is only valuable because of what the specific name means to people.

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Posted by Diane Prange at November 1, 2007 11:24 AM
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1 Comment

Thank you! I've been trying to explain that to clients for years and you synthesized it perfectly. I'll be back to visit more -- great site!

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