Rebranding is hard. It’s a task that most companies hope to never have to endure and will avoid at all costs. It’s costly, not only in terms of money but also in terms of time, energy, and loss of brand recognition. It’s hard and something we did in two weeks.
OK, well, when I say we did it in two weeks it is a bit of a stretch but from identifying our new name and domain to launch of our new site it was a matter of two weeks. In the next series of posts I will walk you through the steps we took and some lessons learned as we took on this challenge.
A Need For Change:
In November of ’09 we created a social website designed around Social Questions and Answers. Very early on the site had a large number of users and continued to grow rather quickly. As it grew, it became apparent that people were confusing the new social site with our original online form building application. As the form builder continued to get more support requests in the form of emails and phone calls we knew something had to be done to disassociate the two sites. We spun them into two companies with completely different staffs, offices, and management teams, yet the support requests and strains on our systems continued.
After talking it through with both of our management teams we realized someone needed to change names… and it became apparent that the form builder was the one that needed to change. While we had built the application into a very good brand, we were still a young enough company that we could transition to a new name pretty well. We had a loyal user base but also knew that a lot of our brand equity was in the application itself. We knew that if we kept the application, at its core, a solid solution that helped businesses create online forms and collect data online, that we could still continue to build on that user base regardless of the name.
Choosing a Name:
We work with a really great Indianapolis branding and design agency called Kristian Andersen + Associates. We quickly called the principal, Kristian, and voiced our concerns and his team went to work on developing a list of possible new names. Our team started making a list as well, even culling from a list of names the founder had when he first started building the app. We had two criteria when choosing a name.
1) The name had to be the domain and we wanted the .com. Meaning we did not want to have a www.getnewname.com or www.webapp.biz. We wanted www.newname.com Whether that meant we had to purchase the domain through auction or it be a clear domain we thought it was important for creating a new brand and new identity to have the actual name and .com available to us.
2) We wanted “Form” in the name. This may have been a bit limiting and looking back on it now it may have prevented us from expanding on other good possibilities, but we wanted something closely associated with the old name and something that would not be too foreign to current and past fans and users.
We started with a list of nearly 40-50 different names and after two phone calls with KA+A had it narrowed down to a top 10 or so. We finally came down to two names we really wanted and a few other backups.
Acquiring the Domain:
Both of the domains we wanted were not readily available. After doing a little bit of digging we found that one could be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars. The second was an expiring domain that lucky for us, was expiring at the end of that month. We quickly started researching how to grab expiring domain names and discovered this blog post from Mike Davidson of Mike Industries. We registered with SnapNames and put in the domain we wanted to acquire. Then we waited.
We were sweating waiting for the name to release, wondering if we would get in a high priced bidding war. Of course by this time we had started to really like the name and even started using it around the office. Finally the domain was released and in a very anti climactic resolution paid a whole $60 to acquire it.
The $60 we paid was SnapNames cost of reserving the domain. We probably could have just let it expire and bought it through GoDaddy or some other service on the open market, but for peace of mind the $60 was well spent. From my research, acquiring highly sought after domains using a service like SnapNames is probably a good idea. For our case, we were lucky to find an expiring domain without a lot of organic built-in traffic and not highly sought after… unless of course you were an online form builder like us!
Stay tuned for Part II as our branding partners KA+A guest post on the steps they took on creating the new branding marks for Formstack.com.