"I'm launching a new product that's designed to help smartphone users decide when to upgrade their handsets and countdown to the release of anticipated devices like the iPhone 5. We're also in the process of re-branding the parent company. So we could name the product the same as the company name, or we could name the company, and give the product a more descriptive name. I suspect that in general for SEO you want to focus your efforts on building your pagerank for one domain, so I guess it might be better to focus on one domain name. But what makes a good name for a product isn't always a good name for a company. Thoughts?"
There are a couple of aspects of your question that I would like to tackle one by one:
It seems you are considering either giving your company and your product the same brand (like Evernote) or branding them seperately, but to use the companies' brand name before the product's (syntax: [company] [product]). What you describe are two of the three most common brand architectures:
Not to be confused with a creepy Corporation of the same name, an umbrella brand is a brand that arches over single brands for (ideally) similar products. A different term for umbrella branding is family branding. This type of branding gives you the advantage to create a spillover effect from one of the brands under the umbrella to another and a trickle-up effect to the umbrella brand itself (this can, of course, be a disadvantage, too). It also lowers your overall spendings for branding, because the similarity creates synergies.
In a single brand, each product is named differently. There is, by definition, no brand arching over it. The products can even be named very differently from the company name, leaving no bond between them. This makes a lot of sense, if you – for example – produce deodorant and want to open up a coffeeshop business: you wouldn't want anyone to confuse the two. To distinguish wether a company uses a single brand strategy or not, see if the product brand is usually shown together with the company brand (e.g. in advertising) or not. An example for a company which is (kind of; see below for explanation) using a single brand strategy would be Procter & Gamble. The strategy allows for P&G to offer food and cleaning products from the same company without unwanted branding diffusion.
In real life, most companies use mixed strategies for branding, which
is what I'd suggest, too. A good tech example that shows you how a company
utilizes mixed strategies is Microsoft. Here's a tiny excerpt which shows you what I mean:
> Microsoft Office
>> Office 365
> Microsoft Windows
>> Windows Server
>> Windows Live
>> Windows Phone
> XBox Kinect (is now transforming into just Kinect)
> XBox Live
The way Microsoft and most companies are using these mixed strategies is the following:
They start off with only a few (or one) single or umbrella brands. No multiple layers and the like. Then, as their product portfolios grow and mature, they start adding to that structure. Microsoft, by the way, is not the best example of doing it the right way. A better example for doing it right is Apple.
Remember: The most important questions that you will have to ask yourself are 'What does my product pipeline look like?' and 'How do I want to use my brands?'. A branding architecture can be easily modified over time, if you have made the right choices at the beginning, so don't worry too much about how your company will look in the too-distant future.
A second thing you mentioned is domains. Now, one thing I'd advise you to do is not to confuse your branding with your internet real estate. Yes, you want to focus your brands (especially in the beginning) so that your SEO and especially SEM costs are as low as possible and also to guide potential customers, because that's what brands are essentially for. But applying a diverse branding architecture doesn't have to mean that people get lost in (Google) translation. Look at what Apple does:
Apple mixes what I call a 'soft' umbrella company brand (Apple brands are seen with and without the 'Apple' in front of them) which today is exclusively used in a 'hard' way with the Apple TV, with single brands and some 'hard' umbrella brands like the 'i' brand (which btw. never stands alone and can be argued either as a brand of itself or as a branding element), which it uses mainly for its consumer-oriented line of products and the 'Mac' brand (same story).
Apple has only one website.
If you enter iPhone into Google, it shows you the URL apple.com/iphone. If you enter iphone.com into your browser, you get forwarded to apple.com/iphone. That way, the importance of the domain apple.com for Google's all-seeing machine is very high. Let me clarify: Apple does not lose money on their SEO and SEM efforts.
This (by the way also mixed) strategy is what I'd suggest for most companies, even though it should be thoroughly fitted to your own goals and adjusted for the single stages of your company/product portfolio to most effectively support your business goals.
See the answer on Quora: