The smartphone champion’s wise domain strategy

Xiaomi started with a smart brand and bought Mi.com to make it better.

Mi.com in white letters on a green/blue background

In June, Jun Lei’s company Xiaomi sold more smartphones globally than Samsung and Apple.

Lei is no ordinary entrepreneur. He’s outstanding when it comes to product and domain strategies.

When Lei founded Xiaomi in 2010, he researched and acquired a great digital address and then built a great store at it. He also used it to create a forum of die-hard fans for a constant flow of ideas on new product features. Lei then sold smartphones direct to consumers from the site, outsmarting competitors with low prices but high performance.

In terms of brand/domain strategy, Lei made two important decisions: picking the consumer-friendly name Xiao Mi (小米=little rice) and acquiring the brand-matching XiaoMi.com. Xiao Mi is 2-pin, which is the most popular Pinyin type in China. He also picked a .com domain, which is the norm for top companies in China. Therefore, Lei positioned himself as a global player from day one.

Soon, Lei realized the name “Xiao Mi” would be difficult to pronounce outside China. In 2011, he introduced the “Mi” global brand and logo. In 2014, he invested $3.6 million to acquire the brand-matching Mi.com. Then, he changed the corporate domain to Mi.com. Currently, Xiaomi.com forwards to Mi.com.

Although the name “Xiao Mi” is still in use, Mi is already the brand for many products such as Mi 11 Smartphone, Mi Electric Scooter, and Mi Smart Air Fryer. Mi sounds like “Me”, which suits the “me” generation of consumers who demands the best features for their individual tastes. Over the long term, I think the name “Xiao Mi” may be dropped in favor of just “Mi”.

Unlike many top companies in China, Xiaomi also owns the relevant .cn domains. Mi.cn forwards to Mi.com, and XiaoMi.cn is used as a community site to provide news, app downloads, and other activities.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Short is good
  • Corporate China prefers .com
  • If you invest in Pinyin domains, pay attention to 2-pin.
  • Pronounceable Pinyin is best for going global
  • .cn is not important but necessary for brand protection at least

While Lei still needs to prove that his number one position in global sales is sustainable, his domain strategy is undoubtedly outstanding.

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