If you are looking for great entertainment in China, iQiyi is the place to go. Each month over 500 million users sign in to this online service and spend 6 billion hours on it. In fact, iQiyi has become one of the largest video platforms in the world. When it comes to domain strategy, iQiyi is very serious.
The startup was founded in 2010 as Qiyi but rebranded to iQiyi (爱奇艺) a year later. i rhymes with 爱 (love) and Qiyi is Pinyin for 奇艺 (wonderful art). It uses the brand-matching iQiyi.com as its corporate domain but also owns the country extension domain iQiyi.cn. In addition, the company has acquired many related domains such as iQiyi.net, iQiyi.com.cn, AiQiyi.com, AiQiyi.cn, AiQiyi.com.cn, Qiyi.com, Qiyi.cn, Qiyi.tel, and Qiyivideo.com. In 2014, iQiyi captured its crown jewel QY.com for 1 million yuan as well as QY.net for 6 figures.
The first thing we can learn from iQiyi is to value visitor traffic and not to waste it. For example, visitors landing at iQiyi.cn, Qiyi.com, and Qiyi.cn are all forwarded to iQiyi.com. If you see the life time value of a customer, then you want to courteously guide every misplaced visitor to your main store. This means to activate related domains and forward visitors to your corporate domain.
Owning iQiyi.cn may turn out to be a strategic move. Country extension domains will become critical as national governments impose censorship and data control. In the future, if the government requires both Chinese contents and domains to remain inside China, the company can simply place iQiyi.cn inside China to serve the Chinese customers while keeping iQiyi.com outside China to serve the rest of the world.
A puzzling issue is the company’s rebranding to a longer and less clear name. The original name Qiyi is short, brandable, and 2-pin (two Pinyin words) which is a very popular naming pattern in China. On the other hand, iQiyi mixes the rhyming letter “i” with the 2-pin name, which requires additional effort to memorize. Even though the difference is small, in today’s “instant” society every second counts.
Also, “iQiyi” is not easy to pronounce in English. However, they can simply rebrand to QY.com which they already own. Such branding strategy has been tried successfully by Jing Dong since they acquired JD.com in 2012. Today, JD.com is a household name for online shopping. Therefore, startups with global aspiration should consider English-based names like Tencent.com and SenseTime.com, or pronounceable Pinyin-based names like Baidu.com and JD.com. The ultimate choice may be one which is both English and Pinyin – the best example being Alibaba.com.
In short, iQiyi shows us a solid domain strategy of using brand-matching .com as corporate domain, securing country extension domain(s), and protecting related domains.
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