What’s in a name?



Looking to buy a multi-million pound brand name? It’ll cost £5.50.
Quite a lot as it happens. As Office Depot continues to phase out its Viking name (a move which has raised more than a few eyebrows in itself), a UK office furniture start-up is cashing in on the brand equity that the name still carries. And with the reaction generated in the first few months of operations, the owner is already targeting the US market.
Entrepreneur Darren Jacob, a former sales director in Corporate Express’ office furniture division, has an eye for a bargain. So when he came across the internet domain name www.vikingofficefurniture.co.uk, up for sale at just £5.50 ($11) for two years, it looked like too good an opportunity to miss. "At that price, I didn’t need to think twice!" Jacob told OPI.
"The dotcom domain name was a bit more expensive – that set me back £15 plus VAT," he joked. "I knew that Office Depot was thinking of discontinuing its Viking brand, but I was still surprised to find that it hadn’t already snapped up all the related web domain names."
The word ‘viking’ is a generic name for internet purposes, so Jacob can’t be sued by Office Depot for trading underneath the Viking name. Now vikingofficefurniture.co.uk runs as a sister site to Jacob’s online Discount Desking business, and the name is already leading to a surge in business.
"We’re experiencing a steep growth curve," he confirms. "And having the Viking name is doing no harm at all."
Type ‘viking office furniture’ into Google and Jacob’s site comes very near the top of the list. "I don’t have to advertise the name – that takes care of itself," he says.
With zero advertising, there are almost 50,000 visits to the site from viking-related searches. Interestingly, more than half of these are from the US, and this had led Jacob to consider setting up a similar business in North America. He says he is currently considering all offers from potential US-based partners.
"I think there is still a huge potential in the US to deliver into the small business and home office channel," argues Jacob.


And he sees the recent downturn in the economy as an opportunity.
"We are focusing on the bottom end of the market and that’s where people tend to turn to in more difficult times."
It’s not all about the name, however: product range, price and reliable delivery play their part. too. Jacob, like many entrepreneurs, is tapping into the rise of the internet culture to drive sales. He has a low-cost business model – he employs just one person – carries no stock and gets reliable suppliers, including Dams International and DPA, to deliver direct to the customer.
"I’ve already reached the final stage of bidding for a £1.2 million three-year public sector contract," he confirms.
Many people have questioned the wisdom of Office Depot in dropping the Viking name. Jacob says he can’t lose.
"If the company drops the name, that leaves the way open for me. If it decides to keep it, then it’ll do the advertising for the name. For me it’s a win-win situation."