Choosing A Domain Name: The Realvibes/Realvibez Case Study

I just came arcross Choose Your Domain Name Wisely here in FC and wanted to add my story to that as a mistake others should learn from.

I have a marketing background so I preferred to choose a name that had some meaning but would allow us to create more meaning while still representing what the brand stood for.

Interestingly enough, my dad, an Ob/Gyn, picked the name Realvibes in December 2001. It was perfect for our focus on Caribbean music, especially Reggae. The problem though was that the ".com" domain was not available.

We decided to go ahead and grab the ".net" domain and launched. The first time we realized the mistake was when we were being interviewed by a newspaper and even though we constantly repeated ".net" and emailed here the link to the site, it still ended up in the paper as ".com", meaning we missed all the associated traffic with such a great story.

People here "website" and think ".com" so don't fool yourself. It has changed quite a bit, but people still expect ".com" unless you have something that is becoming more recognized like ".org" and so forth.

We decided to solve the problem by switching to Realvibez.com - but we had a long debate. Would people spell it with an "s" still? We figured that the site wasn't big yet so the future publicity would make it clear that it was with a "z", not an "s". We also found out that our generation leaned toward spelling with a "z" while the older ones, the reporters, spelt with an "s".

Another mistake.

We had always owned multiple spellings and domain extensions but the vibes.com continued to elude us. When we relaunched the site ast year, it was Realvibez.com and we considered relaunching as Realvibez.tv but held off.

This year we were the official web partner for the largest multi-day Reggae festival in the Caribbean, Reggae Sumfest, and the radio ads they ran for us were amazing, except for one problem:

When people hear "Realvibez.com" they think "Realvibes.com"

That was the last straw, we immediately relaunched as Realvibez.tv - which makes complete sense since it is online video site - and began promoting that heavily.

We own both Realvibez.tv and Realvibes.tv (and some other spellings) so people can finally type whatever they think they here and we want lose out.

I now have 3 rules for picking a domain name are simple:

  1. Get the .com if possible, otherwise get something that is popular/recognized and/or relates to your venture - e.g.) .tv makes sense for online video sites
  2. Say the domain name to people and let them write it down for you. If you find that most people spell it differently from what you were going to buy, either change the name to that one or get a new name - e.g.) Realvibes vs. Realvibez
  3. Don't get caught up picking a name that explains everything you do, pick a name that you can create meaning around or put two words together - e.g.) Google, Apple, Dell, Virgin, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter - and on and on.
As a marketing person, I much prefer creating brands and subcribe to the Virgin philosophy of creating meaning for a word rather than letting the word define your brand. It's easier than you think.

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