Metaphors are Money . . . Domainer Blind Spots #1
Domainers are obsessed with web traffic, which is great if you own Pizza.com and want to sell it. How many people do you think type "pizza" into Google looking for Mozarella, sauce and bread? A LOT apparently! And domainers can take such traffic to the bank.
But is that the best way to value a brand name and its domain space? Yes, it may be for commodity domains like Pizza.com or Ballbearings.com, but for the rest of the domain and naming space, it's no way to build your brand. And it leaves a fair amount of money on the table that domainers often don't see if they're not valuing those names (see the sales figures below).
Many company names that are brilliant matches for that company and many brands that are successful rely on metaphors or other references to highlight some key aspect of the company. Amazon refers not to Wonder Woman-esque Amazonians but to the largest river in the world as a metaphor (originally) for them having the widest selection of books on the planet. Oracle is in the future and technology business. Facebook is a virtual yearbook. Corona names itself the Crown Royal of beer (or something like that). Intel, even, calls themselves smart with their clipped name referencing intelligence.
While not all businesses are named this way, there are thousands upon thousands of descriptive business names or businesses using personal names (Wendy's) or ones that use abbreviations or coined names (Accenture any one? Yeah, me neither). At the same time, the more metaphorical or referential names are often the more evocative and memorable, even if you ultimatly numb to the metaphor at some point. It is still working on you subcounsiously.
While domainers highly value web traffic, it's not as if they don't value metaphors within their names. Typically though, they only value them to the extent that the market values them. That means no automated valuation reports will factor in that element of the name, nor typicallyi pronunciation, memorability, visual references, a clean slate on the web—not any of that.
But they should pay more attention to those factors. Metaphorical names are extremely valuable to established, entrepreneurial or start-up companies. Metaphors provides immediate benefits to their end users as they shortcut the amount of marketing a company must spend to communicate their values. With a powerful metaphorical name and a clarifying tagline in the vein of the metaphor, companies can jump start their presence, reputation, brand promise and introduction to customers (note the original Amazon.com logo above doing just that).
Or take Turn Sign for example, a Names with Power name and domain that is currently under consideration for sale. There is no other English way to say "turn sign," referring to a sign that signals a turn or exit ahead. Turn Sign as a brand name for company would suggest guidance, being in good hands, being in control, being taken care of, receiveing good advice or counsel, a change, a new direction or a transformation (arriving somewhere new or taking a new trail). This name references all of those things and any of them could be highlighted as a theme in a tagline, copy or advertising to communicate the value proposition of its company (also like the original Amazon example above).
Now, it's not as if Turn Sign doesn't have a literal meaning. Perhaps some domainer may want the name just for that purpose. Google searches for keywords like mapping, directions and signage are in the ten millions searches per months on down. Turn Sign could be used as a site to sell signs or some such, but its true value is in the way the name could be used as a metphor for what a company does, guiding their clients safely to profit or through some process or advising people how to avoid pitfalls along the road (any literal or metaphorical road). The name is also a promise of change, of a new arrival or new destination. It is a promise of results or new roads or new paths forged. Any one of those things could be very appealing outcomes to the target audience of a business, small or large. Their customers could be so excited by the promise of the brand it triggers a greater sense of brand evangalism. Of course, brand evangelism depends on the metaphor-bearing company actually delivering on the promise of their metaphor, but all things being equal, people are more drawn to the suggestion of a benefit or a clear brand promise overall over the First Nationals or the YASIs (Yet Another Set of Initials) of the world.
As with bad pop songs, companies too can gravitate toward terrible metaphors. I think one of the domains I saw up for sale recently was Spewed.com. I imagine that could work for some brands, but for most others, probably not. Not all metaphors, like all names, are created equal. That said, here is proof that the market, if not domainers themselves, do place value on metaphor, reference or non-literal based names. Below are the top (publically listed) metaphor-based domain name sales from 2015:
Timeless.com does legacy planning: SOLD $150,000
Response.com "success in real estate": SOLD $150,000
Due.com does invoicing, time tracking: SOLD $130,000
Ignite.com is "igniting your youth": SOLD $112,500
Filament.com does wireless infrastructure: SOLD $89,000
Numero.com is a fashion publication: SOLD $75,000
Senator.com is a promotional items co.: SOLD $70,000
Goliath.com is an online media magazine: SOLD $60,000
Others are yet to come this year. Perhaps even Turn Sign. Maybe Oracle could help us know now.