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Today, more than ever, branding is a huge factor in marketing your business. Traditionally a brand is described as a method of differentiating between similar products or services. According to every search engine’s favourite resource, Wikipedia, the first graphic use of a brand was a watermark on papers in Italy back in the 1200s.
These days a brand can be an identity, a slogan (or catchphrase), a colour, a shape, a scent, a taste or even a movement. Whether these are trademarked or not, we are used to associating brands with everything we do. Even cleaning products have a highly competitive brand presence.
So branding has existed for hundreds of years and when the dot com bubble grew and grew in the 90’s, we saw a new wave of pixelated brands emerging: Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, etc.
These obscure words were part of the success of the brand recognition of these online services. People were intrigued by them and they were passed around via word of mouth, after all these were the days you couldn’t Google for Google and bookmarks were written down on paper when you needed to access your favourite websites on different machines.
Since then online brands have been as damaging to the English language as ‘Wassup’: “what no ‘e’ in Flickr?”. We’ve all checked out those web 2.0 name generators at some point and thought it was a good idea to buy something like zlio.com. In some ways, the limited availability of standard English domain names was to blame for these crazy word creations.
One way or the other, many of these new ‘web 2.0’ brands took off; however many more failed. Their purpose? To provoke questions and attract new brand mentions and recognition, even if they were hard to spell.
Only the very biggest, like Google and Amazon, made it to the top most recognised brands in the world today. With so many new brands appearing online each week, what option is there for those companies who have a generic name to gain a following without having to become a household name? One method I’ve been seeing more and more of lately is using ‘.com’ (or a localised extension) as part of the brand name. It’s not only new brands adopting this tactic but also some well established offline brands using it for its marketing material.
The words ‘dot com’ have become almost as famous as website brands themselves. It’s usual to see a brand and then the website address below. What happens when you join the dot com to your complete brand identity? You get a more powerful and catchy brand name that also serves a purpose.
According to the Daily Mail, out of the top 100 brands today, only one, amazon.com, has a dot com as part of their primary branding. Smaller brands are the main organisations utilising their domain name to help give a head start on attracting increased custom via their brand.
Lets take a look at the pros and cons of deciding to use dot com as part of your brand name:
I’ve picked out some brands using their domain extension in the branding to illustrate some way they are designed and how are they read.
Something to consider for the future is the way domain extensions are currently being created by ICANN. In recent months we’ve seen a range of new implementations and proposals by ICANN which could change the way everyone uses the web in future.
The biggest change is the availability of brand names as extensions, such as .amazon, .pepsi or .tesco. Many in the internet industry have not accepted the move as a positive one, because it adds more complication to the domain extensions available and is priced too highly for smaller brands. There are a variety of ways that brands could use their own brand domain extension to good effect, but are users really going to understand yet another domain extension? Only time will tell..
In my opinion dot com has become so famous in its own right that any other extension doesn’t and probably never will be as recognisable by web users. When the last time was someone mentioned a brand that had .net in its extension? If you’re in the UK, I believe dot co dot uk has a certain familiarity with many users, but nowhere near as many as dot com. If you are planning on using your domain as your main brand then stick with dot com where possible.
You could always have the best of both and target each market with either just the brand or the domain name branding. This works well for many existing large brands.
Leave your thoughts or examples of any other brands using domain name branding in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!