June 10, 2017 (Sat). Recently, the CEO of a Chinese startup asked me to comment on their domain names. I was a bit surprised because he is internet savvy yet does not own a branded domain name. So, today I'd like to talk about this so-called "branded domain name".
What is a branded domain name (品牌域名)? I tried Baidu but found that this term not commonly used yet. So let me share what I think is a branded domain name, which requires two conditions:
1. The name part must be exactly the same as the brand or its acronym. For example, Jingdong.com and JD.com are both branded domain names for Jing Dong. However, VivoGlobal.com for the Vivo handset was not a branded name, but its current one Vivo.com is.
2. The extension must be either .com or .cn. Therefore, OFO.so used by bicycle sharing startup OFO in the past was not a branded domain name, but its current one OFO.com is.
If the company plans to expand beyond China, then .com is a must, and the name should be easy to pronounce in English. Good examples are Alibaba.com, Baidu.com, JD.com, and Le.com. However, Xiaojukeji.com (滴滴出行) is difficult to pronounce. Sometimes, even short name are not necessarily good. For example, Xiaomi.com (小米) and Huawei (华为) pose challenge for consumers outside China. Therefore, when selecting a domain name, you need to make sure the name is easy to pronounce in English.
If your Chinese brand and English brand are not the same, what can you do? Xiecheng (携程) is a good example. Its English brand is Ctrip. The company handles this issue elegantly, by owning both Xiecheng.com and Ctrip.com to match the respective brand. This method can also apply to foreign brands entering China. The best example is Amazon. It has a Chinese brand called Yamaxun (亚马逊) . The company uses Yamaxun.com and Yamaxun.cn to forward visitors to Amazon.cn.
Some Chinese companies use only an English brand both inside and outside China. They have no Chinese brand. In this case, it's very simple., For example, Vivo and OFO only need Vivo.com and OFO.com respectively.
You may ask why we must use branded domain name? The reason is simple. Major brands follow this approach, because using matching brand and branded domain name help consumers easily remember your brand as well as its address on the internet. However, many startup founders say .com domain names are expensive and so resort to other domain extensions. It doesn't have to be that way! I think you can still find a decent .com name to register if you will spend some time in thinking. For details of the technique, refer to my post "How to create a global brand .com with only $10" (c170506.html).
Paul Graham, founder of the famous Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Y Combinator once said, "If you have a US company called X, but it does not have X.com, you should change your company name." Here, X is a brand. This thinking applies not only to USA but the whole world.
The arrival of the internet gives startups a great opportunity to become an international player. So, my CEO friends, why not position yourself as a global player right from the beginning, by creating a brand and its branded domain name that consumers outside China can easily remember.