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O.co is Out in Overstock Name Change Part Two

November 16, 2011

When Overstock.com announced earlier this year that it was making a big push on its name change to O.co, many were less than enthusiastic. Okay, a lot of people thought it was a really bad idea.

As evidence, we point to a RetailWire poll in June in which 65 percent said the name change would be either somewhat negative (24 percent) or very negative (41 percent) for the e-tailer. No one polled voted it as a positive move.

Fast-forward to the present and it turns out that Overstock.com did, in fact, make a big mistake. The company has admitted as much. Many consumers continued to call it Overstock.com after the name change and others were going to O.com (a url not owned by Overstock) instead of O.co.

"What we learned was that we haven't yet adequately transferred the decade of brand equity we have in Overstock.com," Jonathan Johnson, president of Overstock, told Mashable. "We're down-shifting the rebranding effort in order to leverage and transfer that brand equity."

A translation of Mr. Johnson's remarks is that Overstock.com is back on just about everything with the exception of the coliseum where the Oakland Raiders and Athletics play.

Mr. Johnson, however, continues to insist that O.co is not dead.

He told Advertising Age, "We're still focused on getting to O.co, just at a slower pace. ... We're not flipping back, we're just refocusing."


Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: Should Overstock.com put O.co to rest permanently or should it seek to reintroduce the name change again? What went wrong with the attempt to rebrand the company with O.co and what would Overstock.com have to do to fix it?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Should Overstock.com put O.co to rest permanently or should it be reintroduced?


OMG! When two thirds of this BrainTrust group thought it was a bad idea, I can't imagine that executives at O (not Oprah but Overstock) were also pessimistic. Perhaps there was a bit of the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome going on. The fact that there is still a desire to move on to O (not Overland, but the former Overstock that wishes to be O but is still Overstock) suggests that too much time was spent trying to satisfy an unjustified quest and not enough time leveraging existing brand equities to grow the business. While others in the retail world would be ecstatic to own that path of least resistance, Overstock wanted new windmills to fight.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

Can someone tell me what CMOs are drinking or smoking this year? The spectacular misses of the Gap logo, Netflix and this are evidence of marketing with no forethought and with a heck of a lot of hubris. Was Rick Perry's Oops endemic of brands today?

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

Are you kidding me? O.com wasn't available and they couldn't purchase it, so they re-launched the brand with a "not logical" registration! This is actually worse than the brick-head moves that Netflix made recently. When Overstock.com was launched, the tone/manner of their television advertising was picture perfect. The female lead was friendly, engaging, honest in her delivery and wanted you to learn more/ultimately visit the site. I wonder to what extent marketing research was leveraged prior to this recent re-branding decision? Good luck getting the mojo back, it's going to cost 3x more than the failed launch is my guess.

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

Give it up. Be happy that shoppers never really left the brand. There is a lot good here, better to capitalize on the positives and move forward.

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Liz Crawford, SVP, Strategy & Insights, Head of ShopLab, Match Drive

This should go down in history alongside "the musician formerly known as... " (Who was that guy again? All I can recall is his symbol.)

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Warren Thayer, Editorial Director & Co-Founder, Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer

Consumers had recognition of and loyalty for the Overstock name and brand. Plus, they don't understand .co as opposed to .com as a web address. That to me was the biggest mistake that Overstock made. It's one thing to institute a name change, it's another to try to introduce a completely unfamiliar URL that is only one letter away from the URL that people have been using every day since the 1990s. What was Overstock thinking?

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

I think this was a bad mistake. Overstock had come to mean value on the net. The letter O can mean many things, like outrageous and overpriced. Stick with what works, Overstock!


It is never about what the experts and corporate executives think, but rather what the crowd is willing to endure. When you couple this with a clumsy effort you have a good formula for failure. Now is a good time to start over from the beginning even using original advertising tools. Some management housekeeping might be in order as well.


Following on Bob's lead, maybe Oops.com would have been a better domain name!

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

If they can not own O.com, put it to rest. The internet world is not built on .co.

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

Overstock really is not what this e-company is all about now, but to pick something as crazy as O.co makes no one think of a site that they want to shop on -- this must have been a Patrick idea or one that his "yes" people came up with during a brain freeze.

Once again Overstock.com has shot themselves in the foot and spent dollars with stupid ideas and no real understanding of the customers that shop them. I would think several focus groups would be a start to learn more about the real customer. Another fix might be to stop paying attention to Patrick or Jonathan.


That's Prince the artist, in his former name morphed to a symbol. 1993 marked the year in which Prince changed his stage name to the Love Symbol, which is a combination of the symbols for male and female. In order to use the symbol in print media, Warner Bros. had to organize a mass mailing of floppy disks with a custom font. Because the symbol is unpronounceable, he was often referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." He also recorded a song called "Let's Go Crazy"; I think that sums up the O.co idea.

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

This was a real "New Coke" moment...baffling.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Since so far, 100% agree, I guess there's nothing left to talk about. Wait, why would Overstock.com come to top of mind as a compelling first choice to shop? Oh, it's not; that would be Amazon.com.

Maybe before you re-brand, you should have a brand?


I would rephrase an old question. If you changed the name of your brand, and nobody knew what your attributes were before, did you really re-brand or simply launch a new brand?

The name Overstock is clear enough, it's "overstock" but is the consumer aware of exactly who you are? It was a mistake to change the name because few knew what it stood for, and to change it to ".co" simply compounded the mistake.

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Carlos Arámbula, Strategist, One Ninth & Co-founder of MarcasUSA, One Ninth, MarcasUSA LLC

Answer me this -- What was wrong to begin with? Overstock is successful and had operated as Overstock.com for a number of years. To work and build equity in a name is difficult. Unless the name becomes tainted (like ValueJet), then why change it?

What amazes me is that the executives, ownership and the board of directors allowed this to happen to begin with. Oh, let's change the name of Coca-Cola to KO. It will save us money on ink! I guess Overstock is closer to being ValueJet than Coca-Cola. The fact that ideas like this are allowed to gain any footing to begin with indicates to me that this is a broken company. I think it said to the investing community that this is not a good place to park money -- you won't get a return! Overstock had better get someone in place with some common sense and business sense or it will fade faster than Yahoo.

Ed Dennis, president, Dennis Enterprises

Never understood this change at all -- it seemed to me they were fixing a problem they didn't have. Dump it now and be done with it.

Andy Casey, Senior Partner, Loyalty Resources

"We're still focused on getting to O.co, just at a slower pace. ... We're not flipping back, we're just refocusing."

O.no. The only thing worse than doing something stupid is not being candid that you did something stupid. (Perhaps it's just the air in the Coliseum: it took years for the respective owners to admit Jamarcus Russell and Bob Geren were mistakes.)


Ah, "The Story of O," directed by Just Jaeckin in 1975 in the original French. Also known as "Histoire d'O." Spoiler alert: At the end of the movie the character O is not dead, just as "Mr. Johnson continues to insist that O.co is not dead." Perhaps it could return as O.org. That'll get some attention.

This more recent story of O suggests that O.co was the brainchild of tippity-top management and that it won't go away until they go away. Sometimes tenacity works to your advantage. And sometimes, not so much. Strong leadership occasionally missteps like this, and I'm sure that every successful corporate Chairman, President, and CEO has a couple of these in their closet. The character to admit that they were wrong, however, is another issue altogether.

M. Jericho Banks PhD, President, CEO, Forensic Marketing LLC

Okay, on the Prince analogy, a little history. He was in a fight with his label and couldn't release an album as Prince, hence the temporary name change. Dispute settled, back to Prince. Overstock appears to be in a dispute with themselves. A different battle altogether.


I don't think it's much of a discussion here, I think it's pretty unanimous that this was a bad idea. I think shortening .com to just .co was their biggest mistake, like Mr. Goldberg said. When people hear .com they know you're referring to a website. But what does .co? Who knows. And o.co? If Overstock.com feels they need to rebrand themselves (I don't think they do), then that's fine. But to pick a name like o.co, which doesn't even describe what the site is or even really indicate it is a website, is a real bonehead move. I hope they can bounce back from this. I think they should go back and look at the things that made them unique in the first place and leverage those things and strengthen their brand that way and just leave the name alone.


What a massive blunder! What really hurts is that it changed the name from something easily recognizable as to what they do and sell, to a complete unknown entity. Compound that with not owning 'O.com,' HA!

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Jerry Gelsomino, Principal, FutureBest

Interesting that history is littered with examples of poor choices to rebrand, relogo, reformulate, rename entities that have built substantial brand equity. Based on a few examples, those who take a long-term and market-driven approach succeed, i.e. International Business Machines to IBM, where those who take an internal-driven and push-the-market approach often fail, i.e. Netflix to Qwikster. Despite plenty of articles in journals, classes in business schools, expert panel discussions, etc., it seems that the old adage continues to hold true -- those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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Verlin Youd, Managing Principal, Verizon

Wow -- a spectacularly dumb move even without the benefit of hindsight. Had they just bothered to read a few books on branding they would have realised this.

Quite scary that they got it so wrong.

They should revert back to Overstock.com ASAP to avoid any more brand damage and marketing waste.

Mark Goldsmith, European Category Marketing Manager, Spectrum Brands

Overstock.com describes its reason for existence. The only reasonable explanation is that the company perceives a need to move in a different direction.

I like the idea of O.co because it further illustrates why companies should employ consultants (like most of us on this panel) to ensure clarity of thought.

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Christopher P. Ramey, President, Affluent Insights

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