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Online branding: why all the silly names?

Updated Thursday 11th September 2008

Many on-line services, such as Yahoo!, Egg and Amazon, have names that seem to be completely unrelated to the service on offer: so why do businesses use them?

The Yahoo HQ Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Short, snappy and unusual names have business advantages on the Net. They're easy for consumers to remember, easy to type in and easy to spell. Sometimes the names of online brands are very strange (take – online sportswear, for instance). The name might be strange but it is for that reason that it is memorable. It is also easy to spell.

The suffix on the end of the name can also say something about your business. Generally speaking, '.com' is short for '.company' and is used mainly in America. '' is the UK version, '.ie' is used in Ireland and '.de' in Germany. Because America is such a large section of the on-line market, '.com' is more intuitive for a larger proportion of consumers and tends to be used more often.

The Internet also tends to be dominated by new companies because older, more established, traditional companies have been unsure about how to use the Internet. Newer, more visionary companies have got in first and are stealing the market, nicely demonstrating the principle of 'first mover advantage'. This is the advantage a business can gain by being the first to enter the market place and doing a good job, therefore being seen as the leading brand and winning consumer trust.

John's tips for creating a successful on-line brand are:

  1. Choose a short, snappy, memorable name.
  2. Register the name with the online domain name registrar.
  3. Spend time and money delivering a service that meets your customers' needs.
  4. Move quickly to try and gain first mover advantage.

This article was originally published in 1999; failed in early 2000 - partly because its website was ahead of most web user's capabilities - but the value of the brand was demonstrated when a new company bought the name for its travel recommendation service.

Take it further


Discover more about brand vision

Business the Way: Secrets of the World's Most Astonishing Web BusinessRebecca Saunders, Capstone Publishing Limited

Creating Powerful Brands in Consumer, Service and Industrial MarketsL de Chernatony and M H McDonald, Butterworth-Heinemann


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