When launching a new company or rebranding an existing one, businesses seek to find a name that distinguishes them from competitors and increases their recognition. In a crowded marketplace, it's critical that consumers be able to find and remember a business easily.
The dilemma: if your company name is a generic description of what you do, like Orange Juice Inc. for someone selling orange juice, how do you stand out as unique and memorable? Alternately, if your name has no association with what you do, how will consumers intuitively find you?
When we launched the consumer daily-deal website 1SaleADay.com in 2007, we had no idea that the name was too descriptive to even acquire initial trademark rights. We were unaware that many experts recommend 'fanciful' marks such as "Exxon" or "Kodak," which aren't generic but invented for the sole purpose setting a business apart.
With time—and the word-of-mouth of many loyal customers—our website received enough notoriety to begin building brand equity. We were also fortunate enough to be featured on national shows like The View, ExtraTV and Fox Business, and in publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes. Eventually we were able to acquire secondary meaning and get federal trademark protection on our name because it became uniquely associated with our brand.
Like many businesses, however, 1SaleADay.com has gone through its growing pains. Our website recently went through a redesign and it became evident that an update to our most precious asset—our name—was needed.
Some suggested it was time to change the name to something more fanciful and less descriptive. Buy.com, for example, recently changed its name to Rakuten, reflecting the name of its new Japanese owners. Of course 1SaleADay is independent, so we had no such imperative staring us in the face. Nevertheless, we chose not to invent an abstract name. Over time, 1SaleADay has generated the benefits of both a descriptive/generic mark and a unique brand that identifies us as a company. We have the best of both worlds—a descriptive name that has become uniquely identified with our company.
The best solution for our needs was simply to shorten our old name to 1Sale.com. Short, simple and easy to remember, 1Sale.com is faster to type into a web browser. It also helps communicate our brand promise: a site where every deal is the one-and-only lowest price available. A site where our loyal customers always come first.
For businesses just starting or looking to rebrand, there is no single right or wrong answer on name choice. But if you have the vision and determination to discover something that is both generic and descriptive, then take deliberate steps to identify it with your brand, you'll have a powerful strategy for long-term success.
Eliyahu Federman is SVP/CCO of Miami-based deal-a-day website 1Sale.com. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, ABC News, CNN Money, Yahoo News, USA Today and elsewhere. Reach him on Twitter.