Before you rebrand, try this simple test first

Branding and Domain Names

A few years after we started Bold Metrics I was at an event with a bunch of other startup founders. Word got out that I knew something about domain names and a founder said to me, “hey – we’re rebranding, let me know what you think of our new name!”

The brand name he followed with is one that I cannot remember to this day, and I couldn’t remember five minutes later…and I knew this the moment I heard it.

Rebranding can be a very powerful move for a startup, and yes, you can makeup a word that becomes a household name – just think of Twitter, Sonos, Scion etc. these all became powerful brands. Also fun fact, the person who named Sonos was the same person who named Scion for Toyota and Pentium for Intel 🕺

Okay, now let’s get back to my simple branding test and the example I was giving. So I’m at a startup event, the CEO of a startup just approached me, pitched his new name, and I thought – yikes, that’s going to be a hard one for anyone to remember. Thinking back I believe it was something like “nakaiyko” or something along those lines. Either way, it was a word that was hard to pronounce and equally challenging to know how it might be spelled.

I told the CEO, go around the room and tell your new brand name to 20 people, then an hour later, go back around and see how many people remember it. He did, and an hour later zero out of twenty had remembered the name. Not a good sign.

While you shouldn’t expect twenty out of twenty people to remember your brand name, if less than half do, that’s a problem. Of course you probably won’t be going to any cocktail parties anytime soon so the best way to run this test would be to just hop on a simple phone call or Zoom with people you know, tell them the name and then ask them if you can check back with them in an hour or two to see if they remember it. Heck – give it a day. There’s no hard and fast rule here but there is a general concept – if you’re building a solid memorable product, why not have the company name be memorable as well?

There are of course plenty of other tests to make sure you’ve picked a good name, the radio test and the billboard test which I’ve talked about quite a bit before. So no, you don’t have to pick a big juicy six or seven figure one-word .COM to have a memorable brand, but when you’re going down the made up word path, there are ways you can de-risk the brand you pick a name you’ll regret, because rebranding twice sure isn’t twice as fun.

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Morgan Linton was born in Berkeley, California but spent nine years traveling the world as an early employee for digital music startup Sonos. In 2007 Morgan founded Linton Investments, a domain name and branding company that has helped some of the most recognized startups in the world acquire their top choice domain name. In 2012 Morgan left his full-time job to co-found Bold Metrics, a startup building technologies that make it easy for online shoppers to buy clothes that fit and arming retailers with more data than ever before.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • BullS June 22, 2020, 11:14 pm

    You know that beard of yours have to go….shave it off.
    Time to put on a mask!!
    I wear my n96 mask while reading and writing the blog.
    I even wear my mask while sleeping.
    I even wear my mask while taking a shower…

  • David J Castello June 23, 2020, 7:18 am

    Loved this:
    “I told the CEO, go around the room and tell your new brand name to 20 people, then an hour later, go back around and see how many people remember it. He did, and an hour later zero out of twenty had remembered the name. Not a good sign.”

    When people ask why they should spend so much on an instantly memorable domain, I tell them, “You can pay me or Madison Avenue to get the public to remember your brand, but with the domain name you also get to keep an appreciating asset.”

  • Fred Mercaldo June 23, 2020, 9:27 am

    David Castello has the ability to sum things up bluntly, dramatically and correctly. My favorite David story, and this was years ago so I don’t remember 100% of the details….he was invited to pitch a potential client, possibly a major hotel, when he was in the beginning stages of He thought it was going to be a simple meeting, but he found himself in a conference room along with the TV station, a major magazine, a radio station, and other “competitors”, all of whom had video, print, PowerPoint and other formal presentations….David brought nothing with him. Thankfully, he went last. When it was David’s time, he got up and stated “It’s very simple….we OWN the brand. We are….we are Palm Springs. None of these other proposals will do what we can do for you…period.” And he got the deal! And he was RIGHT! Incredible, and to this day….powerful and accurate.

    • David J Castello June 23, 2020, 9:40 am

      Yes! That happened with “Lady Golf” which was a well known golf equipment emporium in the Coachella Valley that was owned/operated by an LPGA pro. It worked out great, but I’ll admit that I only thought of my presentation at the last moment. Regardless, the other tv, radio, and print media presenters at the table were shocked because I caught them off-guard and they had nothing to counter with.

  • Anonymous June 24, 2020, 5:02 am

    This is why i always stick to exact match .com domain names. It passes all tests…for the most part.

  • Romare Herring July 2, 2020, 10:04 pm

    what other posts do you have regarding rebranding


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