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book cover: choosing the right domain name

Choosing the Right Domain Name:
a Marketing Perspective

all you need to know about domain names (and some you don't need to know, but is interesting anyway)


Such has been the acceptance of the Internet as a medium for marketing that it is unusual for a contemporary offline ad not to feature the domain name or URL of an associated website. Whilst many ads simply include the domain name of the product, brand or organization (eg others feature the web address of a site that developed as part of a specific promotion or campaign. As in a number of sections of this chapter, the decision on a promotional domain name concerns far more than the domain. In this case the domain name is just part of a promotional - normally advertising - campaign, something that would be strategic in nature and include other media (and associated costs) in their execution. This is, therefore, another section where the domain name decision is (almost) made for you in that the domain name is simply the name of the campaign - and campaigns are normally given a specific, and unique, title. This means that it would be unusual to find the right domain name to be unavailable. These titles are most often a short phrase or term, so whilst their domain names would never work as a company or brand name, simply registering the domain name of the campaign title is perfect. It is worth noting that one objective of the ad campaign will be to make the (potential) customer remember the tagline (catch phrase) of the ad (eg Nike's 'just do it'). It is not, therefore, a great leap of faith to expect that phrase to produce a website when typed into a browser.

If matching the domain name to the tagline is easy, then the choice of the tagline should consider the domain name it will become - again, there is a bit of chicken and egg here. There are two essential considerations:

1 Choose a phrase that has not been registered as a domain name. Be extra careful to check multiple suffixes. You don't want to run a campaign tagline for a kiddies toy on the suffix, only to later discover a foreign company has used the same (or similar) term for a not-so-kiddy-like product and have registered the .com version of the phrase.
2 Make sure the phrase can become a domain. The following list of examples includes Pedigree's 'what's your dog's thing?' They just about get away with, but two apostrophes and a question mark have had to go absent without leave. Promotional domains tend to ignore the hyphen, presenting the phrase as all-one-word. As with domains for other purposes, the use of numbers is also problematic, though registering the full spelling and numeral versions can overcome uncertainty.

Rather than attempting to list every nuance and detail that may crop up in promotional domain name decisions, perhaps the best route is for me put forward my opinion on a number that I have seen over the years. Because I live in the UK, they all come from Europe-centric campaigns. However, if you are elsewhere in the world do not be put off by this - it is the concept I am reviewing, not the geographic implications. So here you go, in no particular order:

* Let's start with a good example of an imaginative domain name as part of an integrated communications mix - that of MG Cars a few years ago (when MG still existed!). They ran a campaign based on the results of a having a group of enthusiasts test their MG ZT+190 against a comparable BMW. The results were very favourable for MG and they built a promotional campaign around those statistics. The domain name of the website for the campaign? Nice one.

The biter bitten?
In April 2004 the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) arranged to 'borrow' the use of a domain name from its owners who were selling the name, but not using it on a website. A good idea from PETA. Even better when you consider the domain -

* In September 2005, Procter and Gamble's Old Spice made an aggressive integrated push to attract 18 to 26-year-old males by launching an ad campaign supported by four interactive and heavily branded websites. One TV ad showed a sexy girl dancing in a nightclub, with the tagline 'When she's hot, it's sexy. When you're hot, you stink.' The second ad actually parodied the first. The tagline being the same, but the video was of a rather overweight Lothario in leather trousers doing what he thinks is a sexy dance. The two associated websites sat on and Full marks on domain name choice for these. The same goes for the third site - 'Music in the Zone', which could be found on However, another Old Spice site - Old Spice Racing - was found on the brand's primary domain - was registered, but by someone else who has seized the opportunity to put a pay per click ad site on it. I would have thought the might of the P&G lawyers could have recovered the name and so keep a consistency across the four campaigns.

* Other sites use phrases that describe the product rather than represent a tag-line - for example, is the website of the Nouvelle Marketing Department of Georgia-Pacific GB Ltd. A public-relations-type site for Nouvelle toilet rolls, much of the content is aimed at children and their education on environmental issues. With the exception of a page detailing current promotions the site is non-commercial, so why the commercial - and global - .com for a UK campaign? Given the nature of this site, I would suggest that it is an ideal candidate for the .info. Like the product itself, is more gentle on the user. Footnote to this: Typing into your browser returns 'page cannot be displayed', yet the domain name has been registered by of Georgia-Pacific GB Ltd. Why not have it made live and redirected to the website? It would cost very little - quite possibly nothing, but anyone typing in to a browser in error would still have found the Nouvelle website.

* Perhaps we should not be surprised that is the Horlicks website. That we are not surprised is testament to the Horlicks brand - though returns a 'cannot find server or DNS Error' message. Caught dreaming on that domain perhaps?

* The idea of using phrases as domain names to describe the website is not restricted to commercial entities. For example, is part of the UK National Health Service's effort to encourage people to stop smoking and aims to catch cheats. But why does one use the suffix and one the Perhaps another opportunity for .info? At least the .gov suffix links the campaign to the government and so makes it non-commercial, whereas the in the smoking ad could be perceived as being a commercial company selling stop-smoking aids. As a footnote, maybe someone had a word in their ear on this one as the domain name subsequently redirected traffic to

* The questionable use of suffixes is continued in a UK initiative to encourage people to find out about all aspects of drugs - 'Talk to Frank'. The domain name used in TV adverts is Yet the site's content is repeated on (not something that search engines take too kindly to, they consider it to be search engine spam). The issue is this; as the site is a UK site, why not use the address in offline promotions? The TV advert on which I saw the domain promoted came across as a quasi-governmental initiative, but given the subject it is perhaps sensible for the organizers to stay away from the suffix (the campaign tries to avoid being 'official'), but .com is for US (global) commercial entities. Perhaps would have been a better choice.

* Amongst those who don't really get the nature of promotional domain names is Pedigree, who advertised their dog food with the tagline 'what's your dog's thing'. However, typing into your browser took you to
- a members-only section of the parent website devoted to the 'what's your dog's thing' promotion.

* Huggie's promotional domain name redirected users to Again, why no website - or even web page - on That aside, this name is problematic with both the use of a number (as discussed previously) and the use of 'x' to replace 'times'. However, brickbats turn to plaudits because, and all redirect to Top marks for that at least.

* In the UK a common term for starting out in home ownership is to 'get your foot on the property ladder', so the domain name was a good choice for Mortgage Point Ltd's radio ads promoting 100% mortgages to first time home buyers. Though again, why the global .com?

* Used as part of 'Making Britain Healthier' - a campaign led by a group of private hospital and medical insurance companies - was the domain Although the domain name might suggest an altruistic website about food and exercise, the website is - effectively - an ad for the services offered by the sponsors. However, we should give them their (marketing) due. If I were searching for health advice and this domain name appeared near the top of a search engine results page I would be tempted to click on it. Need I also add that .com for a domain name with 'Britain' in it is dubious - perhaps the .com was perceived as being less commercial than

* The website on is that of the Food Standards Agency (the content is more like what you might have expected to find on As names are only available to government departments, generic words [on the suffix] are widely available for government-sponsored promotions. This is a good use of that availability.

* This Lynx deodorant ad campaign suggested that using said antiperspirant made a man more appealing to women than - amongst other things - Ben Affleck. Hence the tagline 'spray more, get more', and the domain name The site featured video clips of the ads, including those too raunchy to appear on prime-time TV - an excellent example of how websites can be used as an integral element of any brand building strategy.

* The domain name hosted a zany site that reflected the similarly off-beat nature of the TV ads for Peperami Noodles. In this case the actual domain name is zany simply because it is carries the nonsensical name of the campaign.

* A campaign from furniture retailer IKEA was aimed at 'encouraging a better balance between life at work and life at home'. As with other campaigns from this retailer, the whole thing was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek with its website sitting on

* To re-launch Head & Shoulders shampoo into a new market, P&G's campaign included NFL player Troy Polamalu, complete with a related website at - but for reasons known only to themselves, the domain redirected to

* No great problems with the concept of developing a website to enhance a promotion with the tagline 'food deserves better', this time from Knorr (part of Unilever Bestfoods UK Ltd), but the domain name looks odd with double 'o' followed by double 'd' - I had to double-check after I had typed it in this page! At first glance, it even reads 'food served better'. This is one example where - as the domain name person - I might have questioned the tagline right from its first conception, a time when an alternative phrase might have been devised. Note that I address the issue of domain names seeming to read differently to what they actual are in chapter 4.02).

* Another example of a tagline that does not get a tick in the domain name box is from Barclaycard. This domain name was used as part of a 'zero percent interest for 10 months' credit card offer. Remember what I have already covered with regard to numbers? Well zero adds another dimension in that it has other terms to describe the number. The domain worked, but none of the following did:,,,, A saving of around 60, Barclays shareholders must have been delighted.

* This one is a little different in that the organization's main website sits on a promotional domain name. Featured on TV ads for their products, is the domain name of the UK web presence of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. The site offers advice to gardeners, and appears to be a portal-type site that is sponsored by company rather than the company's home page (there are logos and links to information about the company's main products on each page). The give-a-way comes in the contact email address - Scotts being the parent company, with being the North American website. Interestingly, it is also presented in portal style, this time for grass and lawn care.

* I include energy drink Lucazade's and breath mint Tic Tac's because they were amongst the first ads to use the tagline of the promotion as a domain name. Both worked well as the ads were humorous - as are the taglines and domain names. Sadly, both URLs now return a 'Server not found' message - what a wasted opportunity to have the promotion live on. If nothing else, they should have kept the domain live and have it redirect to the main brand site.

* Here's one I had to give up on. This domain was on a TV ad, but I wasn't' really watching and I just caught the ad's drift - and didn't really hear the URL clearly. I wrote down what I thought was the domain name, based mainly on the term as it was spoken in the ad - which I thought was ''. However, I tried all kinds of spelling for the phrase, it being the combination of meat and delicious. Now perhaps I am being stupid, maybe I miss-heard or just lost the plot. But, and it is a big but, I never found the website. So who is the loser - me or the advertiser? The moral is - if the domain name isn't obvious, folks won't find the website.

You will note that I have compiled this list over a number of years. As the majority are linked to a promotional campaign that has a limited time frame, there is the question of what to do with the domain when the campaign is over (who knows where the domain might be noted, site bookmarked or listed on a search engine?). I'll not go into too much detail as the problem is more marketing than it is domain name - but as an online marketer I would say you have three options:

1 Post a landing page that explains the site's originally purpose and add links to other organizational web pages
2 Redirect the domain to your primary site - or other similar promotions, perhaps via a landing page
3 If the site is informational in nature, re-write the content so that it is 'timeless', as opposed to being directly related to the promotional campaign.

However, if you value your brand, the following are NOT options:

* Just leave the site as is - with an out-of-date marketing message
* Delete the site, so leaving a 404 'gone away' message
* Let the domain name lapse, allowing a domainer to put up a site and so benefit from your campaign

Also worth adding as a postscript to this section is that the concept of promotional domain names is not universally accepted in the marketing community. Their opponents put forward the argument I suggested in the earlier section on company domains, that is; having different organizational and promotional domains divides the marketing effort. This can mean divided brand loyalty and increased costs. However, I would argue that in the case of promotional domains, the savvy marketer can actually double the advertised product's exposure in that the viewer might go online looking for the product by name or by the tagline of the ad. This should - if the campaign's marketing is fully integrated - result in the promotional message reaching the potential customer which ever route they follow.

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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4452-0538-0
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Every effort has been made to make this book as complete and as accurate as possible, but no warranty or fitness is implied. The information provided is on an 'as is' basis. No responsibility is assumed by the author for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions or ideas contained in the material herein.
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