Brand naming has never been more challenging, because names are becoming a diminishing resource.
With the growth of apps, small businesses, and global competition the demand to find and secure relevant brand names is exploding, but so too is the difficulty in creating unique, defendable names.
The proliferation of names is astounding. For example, every four-character .com domain name has been registered, and it won’t be long until all the five-character .com’s have been registered too.
According to VeriSign, there were over 332.4 million domain names registered across all top-level domains (TLDs) by the end of 2017. The .com / .net category accounted for 44% of all domains with 146.4 million registrations.
Put this in context. The Oxford English Dictionary has 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. That means less than 0.15% of the .com and .net names are even English words. People and companies are scooping up names faster than we can invent words.
You’re going to have to open your wallet if you want to get a brand name with a relevant .com. For example, you can lease grant.com for the paltry sum of $10,000 USD / month.
Did you catch that? The owner of grant.com isn’t even selling the domain. They’re leasing it!
I recently looked at acquiring brandbuilder.com. The broker replied, “The ask for brandbuilder.com is $200K. Can I perhaps interest you in one of our other high quality ‘brand’ related domain names from our portfolio like amazingbrand.com, nationalbrands.com or premiumbranding.com?”
Domain names are only part of the problem. The same issue is happening with trademarks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registered over 309,000 trademarks in 2016.
Companies are essentially trademarking language. Common words like twitter, square, and apple have been co-opted for commercial use.
On the other hand, many of the common words we use today originated as invented words or phrases by brands: Sheetrock, Bubble Wrap, Dumpster, Fiberglass, Memory Stick, Popsicle, Dry Ice, Escalator, Videotape, App.
Naming has never been more challenging, but it’s still one of the most important aspects of branding. Your brand name is the longest living artifact of your company. It will outlive marketing, people, and products. It’s the one consistent thing that connects a company to its past.
Getting your brand name right is one of the most important business decisions you’ll make, but be prepared for the challenge. Naming is a process. It takes skill and effort to generate lots of ideas, and due diligence to vet and choose a name that your brand can defend and own.
But if you get it right, you may be able to add another word to the English language like Google or Band-Aid.