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Don’t forget the “sucks” name Featured

9:41am EDT July 22, 2002

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Amazon?”

If you’re like most people, you probably mumbled the phrase “dot-com” without even considering the huge river flowing through South America. That, says Dave Cochran, an associate in the Intellectual Property Practice at the law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, is what makes Jeff Bezos’ Web site such a strong brand.

Ten years ago, the word Amazon meant only one thing. Today, it’s got a double meaning.

Everything about a Web site should be designed to draw people in and have them come back. A good domain name can help distinguish your operation from your competitors’, a distinct advantage in any marketplace.

One key to turning your Web address into a strong brand is to register something that has nothing to do with your product or service.

Think weird. Pick a brand that’s odd and does not relate to what you’re doing,” says Cochran, who gave his advice to a gathering of business owners and attorneys at the Jones Day e-commerce conference sponsored by Conley, Canitano and Associates Inc. in March.

Amazon has nothing to do with books, but Bezos was able to change the vernacular. The ordinary, the descriptive, simply won’t do that.

There are a number of electronic postage sites, but none that stands out the way Amazon.com does from its competitors. The sites where you can download stamps have weak brand identity, Cochran says. Someone searching for your product or service is just as likely to connect to a competitor.

Thinking weird, as Cochran puts it, shouldn’t be the only consideration when you register your domain name. You must also think creatively. While many consider one or two variations of their domain names, Cochran suggests there is much more to consider. For example, if you ever try to visit the White House’s Web site, be careful to type Whitehouse.org and not Whitehouse.com. The latter is an adult site containing pornography.

The same thing happened when search engine AltaVista failed to register Alta-Vista.com. The company paid the former owner of that URL a considerable sum for rights to the name. Finally, you may also want to consider common misspellings of your company’s Web address.

Cochran offers one more caveat: You may want to register the “sucks” version of your domain name.

That’s because it’s not unusual for disgruntled customers to launch their own spiteful Web site trying to denigrate your product or service and calling the site “yourcompanynamesucks.com.”

If that happens, when customers around the world type in keywords that would lead them to your site, right below it is the “sucks” site. If you register it first, at least you can control where that site leads and what it says.

How to reach: David Cochran Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue (216) 586-7029 or dcochran@jonesday.com

Daniel G. Jacobs (djacobs@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN.