The Netflix-Qwikster Disaster Proves Brand Name (and Domain) Quality Still Matters

Every time an online company succeeds on a poor quality brand, there always comes a proclamation that the name does not matter. Especially recently when social media sites started to succeed on such domains, lots of people wondered if that might be true.

Had consumers possibly reached a point where they could see past a business name? Clearly not.

Instant video streaming and DVD-by-mail company Netflix announced today that they’re nixing plans to spin off their DVD services to a new brand, Qwikster. This comes only 3 weeks after they first announced Qwikster and their plans to split their brand in two.

At the time it was originally announced, Qwikster was immediately mocked by just about everyone. People constantly would intentionally misspell it as Quickster, Quikster, Qwickster and other variations and make comments about the poorness of the domain. Netflix already was on the ropes after a recent controversial price increase on their bundled services. Qwikster was seen by many as a nail in the coffin of their DVD services if the plans continued.

It’s never too late to make the right brand decision – or reverse a wrong one. Netflix did the right thing in ceasing their Qwikster plans. It will still be an embarrassment that will stay on their record forever, but that’s considerably better than the colossal failure of a DVD business they’ve spent over a decade to build.

If there’s one thing you can learn as an observer of this situation, it’s that the name still matters. Sometimes a good name makes the difference in a company being noticed, getting the exposure it needs and reaching the pinnacle of their industry. In this case, it was the opposite – a bad name that was threatening to destroy a huge established DVD-by-mail business built up over 14 years.

Why was the Qwikster brand such a bad idea?

  • Even next to the brand “Netflix” which was originally ridiculed for having memorability issues due to the spelling, Qwikster looked incredibly low-quality and cheap. It felt like someone came up with it off the top of their head the day before.
  • It had no relevance to DVDs by mail…not that every name has to be relevant, but even Netflix has “flix” in it to indicate they’re involved in movies.
  • It was difficult to remember how to spell. Undoubtedly, Quikster and Qwickster would have been very common misspellings, and Netflix hadn’t even secured all the domains for these misspellings!
  • Not a huge knock, but it used the suffix “ster” which has seen brighter days in the past. In combination with other factors, it certainly didn’t help.
  • Netflix is a multi-billion dollar company. The name choice would have been poor even for a new startup, but it really reflected poorly on an existing huge company to select a weak brand for their DVD service (its ONLY service just a few years earlier).
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If Netflix had proceeded with their plan, it not only would have lost existing customers by the mere fact of splitting their brand and services up completely, but it would have had a rough time getting any new customers. Indeed their focus is more on their on-demand video streaming service now as they are struggling to keep the DVD business profitable, but all the more reason why putting it on a bad brand was an awful idea.

They did however decide to reverse their wrong decision and avoid catastrophe, but some businesses are not always wise enough to do the same. The search engine Cuil.com, initially dubbed as a “Google Killer”, was weak from the start due to their bizarre low-quality brand and folded a few years later.

At Domainate, we can help you make the right decision the first time OR help you revitalize a poor quality brand with a powerful rebranding. We have helped brand and rebrand multi-billion dollar companies. Contact us if you want to get the right domain and avoid a poisonous one.

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6 Comments on “The Netflix-Qwikster Disaster Proves Brand Name (and Domain) Quality Still Matters”

  1. Thanks for the heads up. I have been in love with Netflix almost since the beginning. I was a little thrown off by the new name, but more by the inconvenience of a seperate site. I care more about quality and service than name. The slight price increase was even understandable for the “qwickness” (pun intended), service and problem resolution when things go wrong, most of which have been my fault. There are many company’s online and off with names I don’t get. Brand does not equal name, there’s way more to consider as a smart consumer and business owner.

    • Steve Jones says:

      I agree that the name isn’t ultimately what a customer cares about once they’re a customer. Experience, service, value for the price, etc. are what customers care for and there’s no business around that isn’t concerned with those things as well.

      That said, the poor name choice is what turned Netflix into a laughing stock for these past few weeks, and anyone not too familiar with Netflix (new customers enter markets every day) would not take well to the name either. It doesn’t give a good first or ongoing impression.

      Netflix’s main disaster was their price increase on the bundles…they should have opted to merely increase all the plans by a low percentage so that it couldn’t be seen as unreasonable – a 60+% increase on the lowest plan was a terrible idea and has sent them on such a tailspin that they’ve lost about 2/3 of their peak market cap. That said, they averted another one by nixing the Qwikster idea, both for the reason you mentioned (splitting the DVD ops onto another site) and the poor brand choice that made it far too easy to ridicule.

  2. [...] did the right thing in ceasing their Qwikster plans,” wrote Steve Jones on Dominate, “It will still be an embarrassment that will stay on their record forever, but that’s [...]

  3. [...] Sometimes to get an affordable short domain, you end up with poorer keywords or lettering like Qwikster or something odd like Cuil. There’s always a give and take on different domain qualities and [...]

  4. [...] LOST from the rebranding to O.co. This whole situation bears some similarity to the recent Netflix/Qwikster debacle though. Why go against 10+ years of branding you’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on if [...]

  5. Sharon Hayes says:

    Reblogged this on Sharon Hayes Dot Com.


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