Three-letter .COM’s can make incredible brands thanks to their memorability, exclusivity and their ability to instill trust in consumers.
In this edition of “On the Record”, we are taking a look at the fascinating story of Paw.com, a designer pet product company founded by David Gimes. The company started life as TreatADog, but managed to acquire the Paw.com domain name in 2019 and swiftly rebranded. In his own words, David tells us about his switch to Paw.com, how it came about and what impact it has had on his business.
Can you tell us a little about Paw.com and your own business background?
Paw.com is the first designer pet products company to help improve the quality of life for pets and their pet parents.
After graduating from college, I had various jobs but nothing that I felt passionate about. Looking for a business to start, I watched some friends start e-commerce businesses and realized this was a path for me to explore. As a lifelong dog owner (and lover) I thought the dog/pet market would be a great segment to dive into.
My original idea was a monthly box of dog treats, but as time passed it became obvious there was a lack of quality dog products, that were good for your pet, and also actually looked good in your home. We started selling thousands of high-quality car-seat covers and travel products – and received positive feedback. This expanded to orthopedic memory foam beds, like our popular PupLounge. Things really took off when we introduced our innovative and patent-pending PupRug™ Faux Fur Memory Foam dog beds, that are great for the dog, and look like a beautiful area rug to complement any home décor.
To date, we have sold over 500,000 pet products to happy pet parents and their dogs with many more products coming to market.
Your company started life as Treat a Dog using TreatADog.com. Why did you go with this brand name? Was it your first choice as a name?
Since my original idea was to do a monthly dog “treat” box, the name TreatADog.com seemed like a good idea at the time. When we expanded our focus to other dog products the name stuck and seemed fine as our focus was still on dog products, and helping our customers treat their dogs well, with quality products.
When did you first explore rebranding, and what were your main aims when choosing a new brand name?
In truth, I was more focused on introducing new and innovative products than I was on the name or building a brand. My office was in the Startups.club co-working space and incubator in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which is run by the team behind the .CLUB domain name.
Working in the same office as the .CLUB team, I’d constantly hear about the importance of a great domain name and the value of building a valuable brand around your products. TreatADog.com was a fine name, but it was long, and not always easy to remember. In fact, some Google analysis we did showed that many people were coming to us after searching for things like “Treat the dog.”
End-user recall of the name was an issue. So, I became intrigued by the idea of finding a shorter and more memorable name. Also, as we continued to gain traction in the pet space, I realized that having “dog” in our name was potentially limiting us to dog products, but the pet space (and my aspirations) were much bigger than just dogs.
How did you come across the Paw.com domain name? Was it a name that was brought to you, or did you seek it out?
Colin Campbell, who owns the incubator and had invested in my company, proposed the idea of purchasing and rebranding the name to Paw.com. As a leader in the domain industry (Colin founded .CLUB), an opportunity presented itself to purchase the domain.
We were very fortunate as the name has never been used. The owner had been holding it for almost twenty years, so they were open to selling the name. We’re the first to have a business operating at the Paw.com address, which is great.
Did you have any other serious considerations for domain and brand names?
At first, I was very concerned that we might lose the goodwill we had with our customers under the brand TreatADog. We had run the name for 5 years and spent millions promoting that brand on social media. That said, we really did understand the value of a great domain, and what that does to bring credibility to your brand.
We also bought Paw.club for a subscription concept in the future and Paw.ca to point to our Canadian storefront, as we are expanding to other countries. In addition, we own PawBrands.com which is our wholesale distribution division. We think they are all Paw-some domains!
The sales price is under NDA but did you use any comparable sales data, appraisals or expert help to determine how much you should pay for Paw.com?
Yes, we did consult with several domain brokers and industry experts, again thanks to the contacts and knowledge of the .CLUB team. I won’t mention the companies, but the fact is the valuations came in far less than we actually paid. I think a lot of the valuation sites don’t understand the impact a really good domain can have on an existing business and simply look at the wholesale rate of the domain.
Based on all the research we did, while certainly a big expense, we feel we paid a reasonable and fair price for the name. But I must admit, I was a little nervous making that payment. It was a big investment for a young, bootstrapped company.
Why did you decide to brand as Paw.com, rather than simply “Paw”? Was it a conscious decision to include the domain name in the brand name?
Yes, it was a conscious decision to make the brand name Paw.com. Our business is more than 95% direct to consumer. Everything we can do to increase traffic and make it easier for customers to find us online increases our conversion rates and reduces our cost of customer acquisition. When your brand name is your domain name, you are constantly reinforcing your web address – especially when the brand is short, meaningful and memorable like Paw.com is. Anytime someone hears of us, they already know how to find us – at Paw.com.
What was your initial feedback like after announcing your acquisition of Paw.com to your customers?
The reaction was very positive. We were careful and deliberate to involve our more than 200,000 customers and introduced the re-brand in two stages. First, we notified all our customers by email of the coming change and introduced an interim “Paw.com, formerly Treat A Dog” logo at our existing TreatADog.com website. Paw.com as a URL went live but it re-directed to TreatADog.com. Then, about six weeks later, we formally switched over to a brand new Paw.com website and Paw.com became the primary brand and web address. TreatADog.com now redirects to Paw.com.
How has owning Paw.com affected your business? Do you think that operating on a premium .COM domain name allows you to stand out from competitors?
Switching to Paw.com has had a tremendously positive impact on our company. First of all, as mentioned before, we no longer are limited to dog products. As “Paw.com” we have the opportunity to build a major pet industry brand, across a wide range of pets and products. There are no limits to what we can do in the pet space, and there really are few, if any, well-known pet brands on the product side. Most people can name pet marketplaces and stores like Chewy and Pet Supermarket, but few can name a quality pet product brand especially a designer product brand.
Since re-branding and launching our new website our sales and conversion rates have increased dramatically, and our customer acquisition costs have decreased. We also get far more retail inquiries about our products than we ever did before, a portion of which we attribute to the brand. There’s a sense of trust and authority that comes with a great name like Paw.com, and that seems to give a positive boost to just about everything.
As Paw.com, we were selected in October 2019 to present at Venture Atlanta, one of the largest VC conferences on the East Coast. We were one of 36 presenting companies out of 400 applicants, and we were the only consumer products company selected. I don’t think that would have happened as TreatADog.com. The Paw.com brand is now an extremely valuable asset and differentiator for us.
What would be your advice for a startup, or established company that may be interested in purchasing a premium domain name?
Products are the first thing. You need to have the absolute best products in the marketplace to win your space. Second is the domain name as it is an essential part of your brand, especially if you are an e-commerce or online business. The right domain that matches your brand is well worth investing in, as it has the potential to pay for itself many times over.
Thanks to David for taking part in this interview.
This interview has been edited for clarity.