What’s A Brand, Anyway? The Story of Nuts.com

8/28/12Follow @anneswift

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passed on the change. For example, we considered whether applying for a generic top level domain (gTLD), such as .nuts, would make sense for us. We decided against it because the URL structure is not familiar to customers, and so could be confusing. We also thought that the cost to apply for the gTLD ($185,000 and $25,000 per year to maintain the URL), with no guarantee that we would be able to secure the domain, was better invested into improving our customer experience and, thus, increasing the customer lifetime value.

We did not handle the brand or our new domain name lightly. As a reward for our efforts, we received hundreds of positive comments from customers expressing their love for the company, our products, and our brand, regardless of our name. And, year-over-year, we’ve experienced significant growth in traffic (66 percent) and revenues (43 percent).

Many critics told us that spending for a generic domain name was a recipe for failure, citing examples such as books.com, shoes.com, and pets.com. However, the success of a company and a brand is not determined quite so unilaterally. Several generically-domained companies we’ve seen struggle have suffered at the hands of competitors that were not necessarily better named, but that had inherent strengths in customer service, operations, and, as a result, brand loyalty. What would Amazon be without its logistic and meticulous attention to on-site experience (1-click ordering, anyone)? Or what would Zappos be without its trademark commitment to customer service? And, while Pets.com didn’t sell actual pets and was perhaps a bit of a misnomer, that was the least of its many operational problems.

For us, purchasing the nuts.com domain name and re-branding to Nuts.com was definitely the right decision. The revenue increases we’ve seen since the transition have definitely already been worth the price of admission. Our brand is more than just our domain name; our company identity and our commitment to customer service have been carefully and thoughtfully cultivated for more than eight decades. And this has been our secret to a successful rebranding.

Anne Swift is the Head of Marketing (a.k.a. Chief Marketing Nut) at Nuts.com and a Director of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences. She is also the founder of Young Inventors International, which has helped thousands of university innovators around the world through online and offline events. Follow @anneswift

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