Feed on

Ordinarily I try to make my posts relevant to some recent development in the media landscape, usually focused on technology or digital media. Today, I’m going to change tack a bit because something has been bothering me. A lot!

Overstock.com rebranded themselves O.co

What were they thinking?! The rebranding effort launched in Q1 of this year and continues today. They’re still running commercials to tell people about their new name/brand. According to AdAge, there are two reasons for the rebranding: 1) the word “overstock” is hard to translate for a global market, and (2) they’re not just dealing in “overstock” items any more.

I can’t comment on the translate-ability of the word “overstock” but their second reason is ludicrous. I, personally, stopped thinking of Overstock.com as a re-seller of excess merchandise a long time ago. They’re an e-retailer, and Overstock is their brand; it’s who they are, not what they do. Brands don’t have to be literal, for crying out loud.

You know, when I first saw the commercials for O.co, I couldn’t help but wonder how much they paid their branding consultants for the advice? You just know there are some consultants out there, laughing all the way to the bank. Instead of coming up with a branding campaign that would highlight some unique value proposition, or teach the consumer what Overstock is all about, they recommended an exceedingly costly rebranding effort. They, I’m sure, charged an exorbitant amount to come up with the new brand, and a half-baked implementation plan. I bet they sold Overstock management on the change by talking about how–in the post-twitter world–shortlinks were gold! This is the kind of bull that gives consulting a bad name.

So now, Overstock.com have spent millions upon millions on advertising their rebranding, but as far as I can tell haven’t committed to it. First, their commercials don’t seem to tell the consumer what O.co is about. Brands are essentially promises to the consumer; when you think of a brand, you should have mental associations with the brand, and the brand should deliver on those association. That’s how you build brand equity. O.co doesn’t seem to be promising anything except a quicker (but less memorable) link. If Overstock really want to make O.co work, they need to start building brand associations with the new name. It won’t be easy, given how generic the name sounds, but if they don’t, O.co will have no relevancy. Without relevancy, Overstock will lose any opportunity for advantage from brand equity.

Second, if you type o.co into your browser, it redirects you to overstock.com. Overstock launched their rebranding campaign back in February, but they still haven’t gotten around to moving the site to their new domain?! That sends a mixed message, and branding is all about consistency. If they really want this rebranding to work, they need to commit.

Finally, not all their marketing is consistently using O.co. For instance, if you use the tweet widget on Overstock.com, the generic tweet will use the full Overstock.com link rather than an O.co link. Again, Overstock.com don’t seem to be truly commited to the rebranding. Consistency is essential to building brand equity.

It seems to me that Overstock.com rushed into this rebranding based on bad advice and without a good plan to pull it off. Their money would have been better spent dealing with fundamental issues in their website: long page load times, website design that’s cluttered and unappealing, etc. Hell. They probably would have been better off giving their money to charity. At least that would have built up some good will (if properly publicized).

Am I seriously the only person bothered by this?! I guess you could say that dimwitted marketing schemes are a pet-peve of mine. This O.co rebranding gets under my skin because it feels wasteful. Yes, it’s way easier to change your name and hope for the best, than to deal with fundamental issues of business strategy and operations, but it’s a much riskier investment. I’m not saying marketing isn’t important. Marketing is essential, but poorly concieved and expensive marketing campaigns are no replacement for genuine strategic advantages, or for branding based on real value propositions.

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave a Reply