On the Record: Phrase.com

In August 2019, localization platform PhraseApp made the monumental decision to rebrand to Phrase and acquire the single-word Phrase.com.

Despite being founded in 2012, 2020 has been one of Phrase's most successful years to date, with the company now touted as the highest-rated TMS (translation management system) in the world. How much of this is down to Phrase's recent rebrand and domain name acquisition?

To find out, I talk with Kathryn Ross, the brand manager of Phrase. Kathryn was an instrumental part in the rebranding and domain acquisition process for Phrase.

Can you tell us a little about what Phrase does?

Certainly! Phrase is a fast-growing SaaS company that believes everyone should be able to use software in their native language. We are the leading Translation Management System and the most reliable way to localize a website or mobile application.

Our product helps teams of all sizes to accelerate and scale their translation process through smart automation, managing and collaborating localization efforts all on a single platform. With a strong and secure API, Phrase is designed to fit all software localization processes.

Phrase is also integrable with a lot of different processes. With integrations ranging from Gitlab to Slack to Sketch and everything in between, we focus on fitting into as many workflows as possible, as seamlessly as possible.

Phrase started life as PhraseApp. Why did you choose PhraseApp as the brand name?

PhraseApp was chosen before my time with the company, but according to folklore, Phrase was actually always the desired name. PhraseApp, at the time, was both easier to obtain and would also make clear sense to a developer audience, a big portion of our initial customer base.

The "Phrase" component let our customers and future customers know our commitment to language and communication, and the "App" was short actually for "Application", a nod to our technical component.

When did you opt to rebrand to Phrase, and why? What considerations went into rebranding?

We have thought about this for a while, but we pulled the trigger on Phrase in the summer of 2019. In that time, we learned a lot about our passion for keeping things as straightforward and simple as possible, and "PhraseApp" was no longer representing this message. The name was inherently confusing (some people thought we were an App you could find on your phone!), and for some, it was both difficult to say and spell.

With Phrase, which was always our dream identifier (it cuts straight to the point, just like us), we jumped at the opportunity to acquire this clear and concise domain name and brand name.

Of course, there was a lot to consider. We had to consider the amount of time, effort, and energy required to dedicate to switching the domain and brand name over, both from a technical perspective and also a creative perspective.

By choosing to go after this opportunity, there is time and talent taken away from other top priorities. But, by this point, our team had grown, and we felt that we were primed to be able to take on such a company-wide task. Phrase HQ has really grown a lot in the past couple of years, and we felt confident that we could perform this rebrand while simultaneously growing our product and our features. We knew this was the perfect name for us and, with such a big time of growth, we knew it was the right time to make the change.

The whole team really came together, the switch was as seamless as could be imagined, and we had things off the ground right away with our new moniker. Looking back, I am still really proud of that, and the team as a whole.

Was the availability of Phrase.com a consideration when ultimately deciding to rebrand?

Surprisingly, no. Although we had been monitoring Phrase.com for a while, we were exploring new branding and other domain opportunities at the time that the availability of phrase.com became known to us. The timing couldn't have been better, and it ensured we ended up with our first choice.

How did you come across the Phrase.com domain? Did you actively seek it out, or was it presented to you?

Since we have had our eye on this domain for quite some time, I guess you could say we actively reached out to begin the negotiations about one and a half years ago at the beginning of Spring 2019. This is when we started to really seriously enter the conversation about phrase.com, and of course, there was quite a bit of back and forth prior to the purchasing, but the stars aligned where the offer and the timing came together and was the right situation for us.

The purchase of Phrase.com came 7 years after PhraseApp was founded. Why did you choose 2019 as the year to acquire phrase.com?

Great question. I guess you could say that prior to 2019, branding and brand strategy was more of a side project at Phrase and was not the focus of the company. As a startup, the focus was much more on everything that makes a startup go fast. Product feature improvements and customer acquisition were much more of the immediate needs and priorities.

However, the vision was getting bigger and bigger, and the company was at the perfect place in 2019 to think about the future and what kind of company we wanted to be.

How did you stage your rebrand? Was it a case of suddenly switching to Phrase and Phrase.com, or was it a gradual process?

Like many things at Phrase, it was VERY fast! Once the domain was purchased, we set about immediately implementing. The whole company was very committed to making this switch as fast and seamlessly as possible and within 1 quarter, we rebranded the domain, name, and logo on all our public touchpoints.

What has been the reaction/feedback from clients and employees alike on your overall rebranding, and your acquisition and usage of phrase.com?

I can very happily say that the reaction from clients and employees alike has been very positive, both initially and as time goes on. The company employees were excited about the simplification and the possibilities for forward momentum and new branding.

Our clients were happy with the simplification. Many of our customers had actually been calling us just "Phrase" for a long time! So when we made it official, there was a lot of really great feedback.

Your domain purchase took place almost exactly a year ago. What impact has rebranding to Phrase.com had in that time?

The impact has been enormous.

For our current customers and our leads, they can now find us more easily. From an international perspective, our global traffic has grown substantially since the rebrand.

On a day-to-day basis, we notice the simplicity and the quick, snappy, to the point benefits of communication. The spelling is simple, our verbal communication is easier and we are almost never mispronounced anymore!

The connotation is more tangible, more streamlined, and there is a strength that we have found in this new name that has laid the groundwork for the internal rebranding efforts we have made in strategy and messaging.

Were there any unexpected benefits to acquiring phrase.com?

Not really actually, a lot of the benefits were mostly ones we were hoping for! But I think the unexpected elements came from the degree of everything - that the feedback would be so positive, that international search would be so positively affected, etc. We feel wholeheartedly confident with this that we made the right decision.

What were those benefits that you were hoping for?

We were hoping that the benefits were all interrelated with what can be accomplished with a simple, straightforward, and stronger dictionary-based .com brand name.

Firstly, there is inherently more value in phrase.com as a domain alone, and we were so thrilled to increase this value without decreasing meaning or losing brand recognizability.

Secondly, we were hoping to widen our appeal with a larger group audience with the name Phrase, as we hoped Phrase.com would more easily convey what it is we are facilitating.

Phrase itself, being a real thing that you can also translate into so many languages, appeals to more companies and professions and more countries around the world. We have seen those direct benefit results in an increase in international traffic, the varied job profiles who discover Phrase, increased conversion, and the less explanatory work needed upon early-stage conversations with prospects.

Finally, we were hoping for the benefit of a new name that provided us with internal direction and focus on our brand strategy. The simplicity also has had that desired effect in forming a value-foundation for our new, straightforward brand.

How does Phrase.com fit into Phrase's plans for the next 5 years?

Getting the phrase.com domain name was integral to launching our next 5 year plan. As a company, we are building from a new brand up.

"Phrase" gave us a jumping-off point to discuss important, top-level communication around our category, our benefit messaging, our mission, and our core values. We saw ourselves suddenly with fresh eyes and found growth opportunities for moves we can make within our niche space.

This change and this concentration on a rebrand allowed us to start thinking differently about what design we want, both the logged-out experience and a product standpoint. We re-evaluated all of this and built a more aligned and mission-driven brand as a result. Having a solid direction has provided numerous benefits and clarity to every aspect of our business.

Phrase.com acted as a huge catalyst for us when looking at our next 5 years, and has laid the groundwork for monumental shifts and clear, unified, directive growth.