GoDaddy wants to be known as the “GO.” In its first significant rebranding in 23 years, the world’s largest internet domain name registrar has introduced a new corporate persona.
It wants to lean into the “Go” in its name to underscore allegiance to the go-getter spirit of GoDaddy customers, who now number more than 18 million. Cameron Scott, GoDaddy’s chief brand officer, refers to the company’s acquisition of several enterprise service companies, and explains: “Our products have completely expanded to fulfill the entire entrepreneur’s journey.” He adds, “Our customers are looking for somebody to always have their back and it’s important for us to have a mark that represents that for them.”
GoDaddy’s new logo, which has a heart-shaped monogram vaguely reminiscent of AirBnb’s, is a distinct departure from the cartoony emblem that served as the graphic punchline for its legacy of sexist commercials. Who can forget the 2009 SuperBowl ad featuring racing car driver Danica Patrick showering with a woman? Or the 2010 spot starring GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons in the role of a dirty Genie.
Scott clarifies that the rebranding isn’t meant to banish any lingering bad feelings from those years of “bikini marketing,” which in any case, he says is “ancient history.” He adds, “We’re not hearing those conversations from our customers or prospects these days.”
In internet terms, “ancient history” is roughly seven years. In 2013, the Arizona-based company embarked on an existential makeover under former CEO Blake Irving. GoDaddy nixed the sexy ad campaigns and made significant efforts to champion female employees through diversity, mentorship programs, and salary parity initiatives. It also embraced female empowerment marketing gimmicks—on Mother’s Day, GoDaddy temporarily changed its name to “GoMommy. ” It paid off. According to Wired, in 2015, the Anita Borg Institute For Women and Technology rated GoDaddy among the top workplaces for women technologists along with Apple and Google.
As happens with logo redesigns, Twitter has featured lively comment about GoDaddy’s makeover. Some called for the return of the green-spectacled guy, others lamented how flat and generic the scheme looked.
Boring as it is, deflating its outsize brand personality is arguably good for GoDaddy. It is a clear break from its raunchy past and may appeal to female entrepreneurs who were turned off by its history of crass messaging.
How did GoDaddy get its name? It was originally called Jomax Technologies, a name that came from the dirt road in Maryland that founder Parsons used to pass on his way to work. In 1999, Parsons began searching for a catchier name. The story goes that an employee suggested “Big Daddy,” after the Adam Sandler movie released that year, but the domain name had already been taken. An employee later came up with “Go Daddy” and it stuck.
Parsons writes in his blog:
We noticed two things that most always happen when someone hears the name “Go Daddy” for the first time. 1: They smile. We like that. 2: They remember it. We love that. So we changed the name of the company to Go Daddy Software, Inc.…Our name “Go Daddy” has no meaning other than we thought it was kind of fun.
But the word “daddy” strikes the wrong chord with some customers—especially when set alongside ads that hinge on the objectification of women. Why keep it? It appears that the succession of controversial ads, coupled with a solid reputation for good customer service, has effectively established the name in the minds of customers, to the point of making it unwise to change it.
“Our brand awareness is over 80%,” says Scott. “People know who we are…We’ve invested a tremendous amount of equity in the previous mark. And you don’t make changes casually.”