If you look at the largest brands online, you’ll notice some trends among their names. Short brandable names are the most commonly used. You might also find some trends like the rising use of particular extensions, popular terms like cloud or certain types of brandable misspellings like in Flickr and Tumblr.
You’ll also see something else – they don’t go with domains too similar to other trendy brands of the time. That is often one of the reasons they’ve been able to reach the peak of the internet.
Why Ride Another Brand’s Coattails?
What might compel you to consider embedding some or all of another brand into your own branding? Perhaps your early operations heavily involve that brand.
For instance, many popular social sites today spawn their own community of development, with many different sites and apps that center around them. It’s tempting when starting such a site or app to look to the social site they’re dependent on for part of their branding.
What Can Happen?
Sometimes, the part of the brand you are using happens to be what makes that brand unique. They may consider if trademark infringement and demand that you stop using it. Even if they merely have common law trademark rights, they could even go so far as to file a domain dispute (UDRP) to take your domain from you.
Twitter years ago had many apps and sites built around them using “Twitter” and “Tweet” in their names. For many of them, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time to be instantly recognizable. Twitter however eventually forced many of these brands to stop using Twitter and Tweet in their names, making only a few exceptions. Having to deal with suddenly rebranding, many of them lost their popularity quickly.
The Bigger Picture
Besides trademark implications, consider that going this route, you’d be building a brand entirely dependent on another brand. If that brand ends up falling down, then yours falls along with it regardless of whether you intended to expand later. It also creates a definite ceiling for your brand, limiting how successful it can get.
Most brands that have managed to be successful riding a trending brand eventually rebrand whether they’re requested to or not. Even if their services have branched out to working with other brands, they ultimately reach the name’s limit of potential.
Is There Safe Ground?
Sometimes a term that originates as part of a brand becomes genericized over time – whether they like it or not. Such has happened to YouTube, who has fought and lost many battles for domains with “tube” in them with a site similar to theirs. Part of the reason is because their own name originates from the term “boob tube” referring to television.
This is however a rare occurrence and it’s generally better to be safe than sorry. Even considering the genericizing of tube over time, that didn’t come without YouTube going after many sites using tube in their name and with the tube site concept that they popularized.
What to Consider Instead
There are ways to both capitalize on trends and not tie yourself down to a brand. You can still ride naming trends or industry trends and not brand names themselves. Doing that, you can use a style that works without making a visitor feel you are affiliated with another certain brand.
If you want an example of a company that did it right, despite it being originally entirely based on Facebook, Zynga avoided use of either Face or Book for their name. They instead went with the naming trend for social media – short, cute and catchy. Their company even went public before Facebook and grew to a multi-billion dollar company with a presence not entirely dependent on Facebook.
That’s the key – look at naming trends and terms that are gaining power vs. actual brand names with looking for that new potential brand for your company. That way, you can appeal to the masses without looking like a mere follower of the brand (or of course causing legal troubles).
If you need assistance with figuring out which brand/domain will work best for you, contact us. We can help you make the right choice for your new venture to thrive online!