Saw.com’s own Brooke Hernandez recently chatted with Yac.com CEO Justin Mitchell about the origins of his company, the Yac.com brand’s journey, and the experience he had working with Saw.com to acquire the perfect domain for his business.
In this three-part series, Justin explains the goals that he set for his brand from the beginning; to be approachable, easy to pronounce and remember, and to become ubiquitous with chatting in the workplace. He goes on to discuss how this strategy went hand in hand with the acquisition of Yac.com.
At Saw.com, we feel that Justin’s Yac.com is a perfect example of an effective branding and domain acquisition strategy. We are excited to share his experience and story with you.
Brooke: Hi I’m Brooke Hernandez with saw.com. I have Justin Mitchell, CEO and acquirer of yak.com. How you doing, Justin?
Justin: I’m doing good. Excited to talk with you today.
Brooke: Well thank you, thank you so much. I know you are busy, especially during this time with your company, so let’s get to it. What is the name of your company, and what do you guys do?
Justin: Yeah, so we are yac. We started out as yac chat and actually, the original name was Yelling Across Cubicles. That’s where we get y a c from. So it’s a kind of nice little origin story. We wanted to drop that chat moniker and we had yac.chat and a lot of people don’t know that dot chat is even a tld that they can go visit. Getting yac.com was super important to us. Yac is an asynchronous meeting tool for teams so we’re an audio first messaging platform. Think of sending voice messages in whatsapp or imessage but for b2b, so you’re sending 30 seconds of your voice, maybe a couple minutes of your voice, plus what’s on your screen. You’re sending that off to your team and they’re able to reply on their own time, very similar to the zoom call that we’re on right now, but everybody gets to do it whenever and however they want to instead of having to show up at a predetermined time for a meeting.
Brooke: That’s great, especially right now with everything going on and everyone having to get used to working remotely. Being able to allow people to have that kind of option on time frame that works for them is a great great idea for a product. So when did your company first conceptualize your brand and what were the major factors that you were trying to portray to your customers?
Justin: Yeah, in November 2019 we were Yelling Across Cubicles. I think when we initially launched we put some periods in between y.a.c. and it was an acronym at the time. Then we just got used to calling it yac and so it kind of naturally became yac about a month later. And we’ve been that way ever since. A big part of the brand was that it was supposed to be very approachable, easy to pronounce, and we really wanted to “verb it,” so just like you Google something or hop on a Zoom. There’s a way that these words just become natural extensions of your vocabulary. “Let me Slack you something, “Let me WhatsApp you this.” We wanted yac to become the same type of verb so it was very important to us to be easy to say that it fits with a lot of other kinds of verbs that you’re already using. We already had a brand called brb, you know literally be right back. Brb was kind of yac for the younger generation and at one point in time, we actually thought about completely rebranding yac to brb because the domain was going to be easier to acquire. But as we started testing this with everybody that we were talking to it was very clear that it was difficult to say, “Let me brb you. That didn’t flow quite as well as, “Hey, did you get my yac? “Hey, let me yac you.” “Well I’ve been yacing all day long.” So the words were much easier to say and that was a huge part of what we wanted in our brand; a way for us to kind of normalize the use of the word, colloquially in normal language. So that was a big thing that we had going into the brand discussion as well.
Also, we had the idea of being top of mind. We wanted it to be a word that people got used to. The domain yac.com was a huge part of this idea of, if I just tell you “yac” and you need to go find that somewhere, we need you to be able to Google it. We need you to be able to type it into a browser and it shows up. Nobody’s gonna know to type in chat and so that’s why the dot com was super important to us as well because it is a non-English word, y a c. It’s not something that’s definable in the Merriam-Webster so we needed them to be able to easily find it on the web.
Brooke: I think you guys really thought that through and like you said, it really is that kind of verb that you use where you’re just like, “Well I want to go we need to just yac.” Or like you said with Slack. I think you guys really hit the nail on the head with that idea of the verb being used when they’re discussing your guys’ product and service.
When you guys were making this big decision which we kind of compare almost to like naming your firstborn child, I know you kind of went through a little bit of what your company what the process was. But take us through the steps that your company took when making that final decision to pick the name and going through that.
Justin: You know, we did a similar exercise with the logo as well. We put a bunch of names out there on the table. We typically will do like a twitter poll sometimes to test the waters and see what other people are thinking. But for yac it was kind of the first attempt. I said I just want a brand that says Yelling Across Cubicles. That’s what I said is I wanted to have a brand that exuded that action. And one of our designers was like yac y.a.c. and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” That was right there in front of me the whole time, and I had no idea. So i will say that that, in particular, was a very simple, almost instant branding.
But we brand stuff all the time. We just built a project over the weekend. We called it Orca. We went back and forth on all kinds of names; we really liked this idea of pods and whales have pods and you could join a pod or you could share a pod. So there’s all this nomenclature that came out of the word Orca. Then we thought about rebranding that for the younger generation because Orca is the business unit and now we have a brand called Koi which is just the fish and basically the same logo but orange. So we do go through a whole process of thinking about the image that we want to put out. We think about what we want your first few thoughts to be. Do we want it to be playful do we want it to be serious? Do we want to be enterprised do we want it to be indie-like?
There are even projects when we started with yac. It was called Yelling Across Cubicles, and then we did the abbreviation yac. Even the UI, we specifically built it to look bad. It’s kind of a weird thing but we only spent four days on the initial project. It was just a hackathon project so the UI and the brand was supposed to look kind of grungy in a way, like we wanted it to look like we threw it together. And just like, “This was the cool thing that we came up with that was not serious.” It was not meant to be like long-term play at all and that’s why we had a graduation point where we removed the periods, made it all lowercase instead of all uppercase. We started to slowly pair away that kind of image of an independent DIY hackathon and make it into a real startup brand. So yac.com is this massive moment of going from a hackathon project to fully funded vc startup and a lot of that had to do with the name.
And we do that with a lot of our products. We think through the first thing we want someone to think when they land on this web page. And what we wanted with y.a.c. or Yelling Across Cubicles is we wanted them to think, “They threw this together for fun in four days” because that’s literally what happened. Now, we want them to think this is an enterprise startup used by major companies all over the world. Those two brand images are very different and your name has a lot to do with that, the logo has a lot to do with that, the domain has a lot to do with that.
So we’re thinking through that every time we name a product and that’s part of the branding exercise is that kind of like a gut reaction. What’s that initial, “I know what I hear and see when I look at that brand.” We do that a lot with a lot of the brands that we’re building even when our design agency side is so friendly. We have a branding questionnaire that we will send off to our clients and that branding questionnaire is, “Look at these two images. Which image do you like better? Which font do you like better? Which color do you like better?” And that doesn’t actually mean that we’ll make your logo that color or that font. It just gives us an idea of where your mental state is with your brand and what you’re looking for. And that’s so important going into a branding opportunity is to answer where you are and what your alignment is, what your customer type is, who’s your ideal user, all that stuff is being asked and all of that goes into a brand. I could go on and on about this forever because I truly believe that branding is one of the most paramount things in the entire world when it comes to product design. If you can sell somebody at that first click just like that first moment they land on that webpage, then you’ve got that hook in and you can start to reel them in with copy design, features, whatever. If they don’t like the brand though, they’re not going to get any further on the website to see anything else.
Brooke: Oh completely agree. That’s one of the things that we always talk about is how having that brand, even on a domain. What is it you’re trying to portray? Because that is one of the most important things when they first see it. What’s their gut reaction? The gut reaction is going to almost make them, whether they want to go. And like you said, get more information about what the service is, what the company is, or if they’re just going to say, “Nope, let’s move on to the next and see if they work better.”