Overstocking a Great Brand To O.co blivion
Two of the most memorable website launches of all time, both of which remain strong in my memory, were for Internet-only companies, both of which now reside in Chain Store Guide’s Database of Discount Stores &Specialty Retailers, in the General Merchandise section. I still recall the radio commercials which introduced Amazon.com as the new concept on the book retailing block, offering a then new type of alternative from which to conveniently purchase the books one desires at prices often more attractive than traditional retailers (brick and mortar was a term about to be coined).
When Overstock.com launched, the name pretty much told the story. Here was an Internet-only startup which sourced masses of generally closed-out goods for resale. The company name required little commercial time to elaborate on the concept. I wondered if industry veterans like Big Lots, which themselves have a pretty descriptive name, were envious. Ross added the descriptive ‘Dress for Less” for a reason.
Earlier this year I came upon a wave of commercials aimed at redirecting customers to a new name for the Overstock site. Suddenly the company was offering incentives to promote visits to its sleek new name, O.co. My first reaction was why smother a wonderfully descriptive name like Overstock. The wave of introductory commercials seemed to point to the new moniker as a replacement for the original name.
I immediately knew I had to add O.co to the company’s CSG listing. Our database’s Overstock.com link still functioned perfectly. Yet when I tried to add the new name I came upon a clearly different company. Out of an understandable habit, I had been seeking the new website with a .com. I tried .co and finally got to the essentially old site through the new configuration.
I felt a bit foolish to have missed the new nomenclature and thus entry to the website by the exclusion of a single but all important letter. However, while from my first hearing the name Overstock.com made perfect sense as a self-descriptive brand, the new O.co immediately seemed far from a phrase that easily tripped off the tongue and meant nothing on its own save as a cute, new age shortcut.
Apparently I was not nearly the only one to miss the boat on this point. Despite corporate management’s implementation of a heavy saturation of commercials, the introductory ad campaign’s attempt to inculcate the population with the hot new, can’t miss website address, indeed had missed.
At the time of the advertising barrage, it seemed the plan was to ultimately do away with the Overstock tie-in. I thought that if that was the ultimate plan, what a shame not to keep so descriptive a title as to naturally invite new customers as they come of age or reach our shores. And how helpful was the term overstock as international customers explore American webtailing?
Early on, a retail forum explored the question of just how good an idea it was to switch from Overstock to a seemingly new age Internet title. The participants were unusually united in their pessimism on the name change. Apparently their point of view was well taken as the company has completely reverted to its Overstock title and heritage.
It seems most people continue to think of the company and its site as Overstock.com. Others continued to type in O.com and until recently reached an unrelated website. Some industry experts equate this to the recent Netflix boondoggle. However where Netflix quickly exited the notion of the additional branded website with the odd spelling of Qwikster, the Overstock brain trust has indicated that it is merely retrenching, slowing the shift in branding so as not to lose a decade of brand equity.
While at year’s end 2011 many marketing experts were urgently warning the company away from another round of new name rebuffs by consumers, another player in the dotcom naming game may have recently provided a strong impetus to retry the O.co brand. Since the Super Bowl, Go Daddy has been heavily promoting sales of .co offerings through an eye catching series of commercials. If running repetition of these ads and Go Daddy’s tie-in incentives to viewers for a follow-up visit to its website are successful, the .co confusion may be broken and Overstock may retry O.co.
At the moment it seems the only unique branding of O.co remains on the edifice of what was once known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The long-time home of both the Oakland Athletics and the iconic Oakland Raiders among others, will maintain its most recent name change to the O.co Coliseum, at least for the moment. This, after many naming shifts through recent years, from the original Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (commonly called The Oakland Coliseum), to Network Associates Coliseum, McAfee Coliseum, and Overstock.com Coliseum. Perhaps these naming-rights shifts best sum up the changing and illusive landscape of branding strategy inAmerica.
If and when Overstock decides to again promote and feature O.co, I strongly suggest the company aggressively maintain the Overstock.com brand as well. Right now Googling O.co simply brings shoppers to the name Overstock.com, as if O.co is a brand of the past. Even to a neophyte, the term overstock is strongly suggestive of a retailer offering bargains in order to lose excess inventory. To most consumers it is a brand that naturally promotes itself, inviting visitors with little additional fanfare or cost to the company.