Thursday, April 2, 2009

Branding domains

Over the years, I have created dozens of new brands, for my clients and for myself — all of which, needed a domain name. Let's see, there was,,,,,, even

So what's in a name? Most everything.

Since you're starting out with a clean slate, you want to try for the optimum in branding, which is a consistent execution of your brand throughout everything you're doing. The first step is finding a memorable and meaningful name, and whenever possible, securing a domain name that is identical to that brand name. Look up, or and you're sure to find the brand you expect. But when we're closing in on 3 billion domains worldwide, it can be daunting to find what you're after.

So how do come up with a great name that isn't taken?

There are two routes: first, if you think you know the brand name you want, check with your domain registrar (i.e.,, etc.) and see if you can get it. Most likely, you won't. Of course, then you'll check to see if the .net, .biz or .org suffixes are available - which in many cases, they still are. Although more and more of us understand that these other domains exist, if you're interested in being found in organic searches, don't do it. Stick with .com. It's the paradigm that everyone knows. You can add "online" to your name, or "site" or even "my" to the prefix to secure it, but the more letters you use, the more unwieldy your name becomes and it starts to look like it's tacked on... well, maybe because it is.

The second option, is to create a "sticky" unique name.

Do this, by getting as good an understanding of your new business and your competition — especially your competition. Is there a common pattern to their names? Is your business plan to be just like them or to be a very different option from them? Both are valid. In the case of JacksonSpencer, it was to compete with much larger entities - all of whom typically use the last names of the founders of the business. (True in ad agencies, law practices and accounting firms). However, the twist for me is that these are the first names of my two oldest sons. For those in the know, it's a cute and personalized touch on my business. For those that don't know me, JacksonSpencer is perceived as an established firm in a downtown office every bit as capable as anyone else with stuffy names on their door.

However, in the case of AtomicPark, (a now defunct software reseller), the name was derived to place a different perception in customers heads. The look and feel and naming was all about a positive 1950's golden age of politeness and "swell service". In a sea of impersonal software sales, the idea of buying Norton Anti-Virus from a group of people who were courteous, timely and a little quirky was a great point of departure. The company soared from literally $0 sales to $25,000,000 in just 5 years. Thanks, in part, to a "sticky" domain name.

Sites with made up, contracted or squished-together names like, and are now part of our lexicon. These unusual, but memorable names are the ones that can help gain you a unique spot in the marketplace. My advice is to make sure that your new brand name has a back story. That's it's not unusual to simply be unusual. It should have a certain flow that's easy to say and to write - and ideally, has something in the name that pertains to it's purpose. is short and sweet, but it uses a "Q" in place of the "K". That's a danger, but the logo utilizes a cap "Q" to help emphasize this difference, and the tagline uses an initial "Q word" to help reinforce the change: "Quick effective marketing solutions for small business." The strength of this brand will rely on establishing this "Q" differentiation by leveraging the recognizability that it is a "marketing" site.

Need help coming up with a name? Well, that's one of the things that JacksonSpencer does exceedingly well. Contact