Overstock.com Markets Name Change

Discussion
Jun 07, 2011
George Anderson

Way back in the dark ages (somewhere in the 1970’s/80’s time frame), it became fashionable to shorten names as a branding exercise. It was first evident in entertainment circles, per our cloudy recollection. Led Zeppelin became Zeppelin or just Zep. Bachman Turner Overdrive was reduced to BTO, etc. The practice eventually made its way into business where Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.

Today, the desire to be more memorable in shorter bursts for an attention divided consumer audience remains. The latest example of a company trying to address the need (real or imagined) is Overstock.com. The online merchant announced a name change on Overstock.com Coliseum (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, for us old-timers) to O.co Coliseum.

The name change is part of a transition the company began making last year. The website includes the new logo and ads will begin running after Father’s Day to further promote the name change.

"Our customers associate ‘O’ with Overstock.com, which made the transition to O.co seamless. As a savings engine, this is the next step in adding more visibility to our shortcut," said Patrick Byrne, chairman and CEO of Overstock.com, in a press releas. "Naming the facility O.co Coliseum demonstrates our commitment to seeing through the execution of the new domain."

Jonathan Johnson, president of Overstock.com, told Advertising Age, "Our business has changed. We used to be a pure liquidator and our product was all overstock. Now 70 percent of our product is first-run replenishable goods. We’ve been known for a long time as the O. TV commercials back in 2004 used ‘It’s all about the O.’"

The company also maintains that O.co works better in some international markets because of translation issues with the word overstock. Mr. Johnson told Ad Age that plans call for international expansion of the O.co brand.

Discussion Questions: What is your reaction to Overstock.com becoming O.co? Do you think there are a set of best practices for companies considering or making a name change?

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15 Comments on "Overstock.com Markets Name Change"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Overstock.com is shortening their online name to O.co and this is a brilliant marketing idea on a number of levels if–and only if–the advertising and marketing energy is strong enough to brand the “O” and to get the message out on a loud and consistent basis.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I know that Overstock.com has been busy for several years advertising its new brand name, and I assume the company has done its due diligence about the change. But there are risks here, because of the very generic nature of the name and the use of “.co” instead of “.com” as a potential source of confusion. When you search “O” you find associations ranging from the Oprah magazine to “The Story Of…” (you get the idea). I hope for the company’s sake that the new name helps communicate its mission and strategy as clearly as Overstock.com did in the past.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Oprah’s not going to sue? If I were her I might consider it.

It makes sense with the international market. For the US, I think it’s silly.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Sorry, it makes me think that Oprah is up to something new. I’ve known of Overstock.com for years, and have even bought from them, but never knew of it as O. One more thing I have to remember now. Darn.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I can understand the need to move away from the word Overstock; the company long ago shifted to first-run goods. With enough marketing, they could capture the letter O and have it become associated with their company. But it’s going to take a lot of money and effort. A one letter URL is easy to remember, but will consumers associate the letter O with a company that sells a wide variety of goods online at discount prices? That may be a stretch.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The best brand names are either “naturally occurring” or “made.” Naturally occurring names are rare but invaluable–they communicate exactly what the product or service is in the simplest possible way (Burger King). Conversely, brand names can be made to stand for something in consumer’s minds via effective (and usually expensive) promotional effort (McDonald’s).

Overstock.com was one of those rare naturally occurring brand names. Changing it seems risky, but Mssrs Byrne and Johnson seem confident in their move based on core consumer’s having already shortened the brand in their lexicon. That plays fine for current users–but I wonder if it invites new users the way “Overstock.com” did.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Short and sweet is good, and Overstock.com already does well, so I’m good with it.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I must be one of the few not familiar with Overstock.com having a national presence. That said, I can see a vigorous national ad campaign introducing them to the rest of my Rip Van Winkle friends. As for renaming the Colosseum, I see that as a positive. Surely the Bay Area folks know who they are.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 10 months ago

O.co might be a little too cutesy and short for North American consumers and could cause confusion. For example, Oprah Winfrey has “O” magazine. RadioShack shortened its name to “The Shack” a while ago and I don’t think it has boosted business or stopped most people from calling it “RadioShack” (if it comes up at all).

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

There are two reasons why retailers and wholesalers have taken to name changes lately: 1. To abbreviate and obfuscate a la KFC (no more “fried” call-outs and syllables cut in half); 2. To broaden the business model to accommodate category and channel extensions and/or brand acquisition and brand marketing, as was the case with Collective Brands (formerly Payless), Jones Apparel (now Jones Group), Iconix (formerly Candie’s), Ann Inc. (formerly Ann Taylor) and more.

Overstock would appear to fall into the first category as it seeks to disassociate from closeouts with a new mini-moniker.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Not sure I see the benefit in this move. I can’t fathom this as a positive in the U.S. for the reasons stated above.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
9 years 10 months ago

This switch makes no good sense to me. Overstock.com provides a potential customer with immediate recognition of their competency and imparts one with a feeling that they are going to get a good deal when they shop there.

Why change? What is the benefit?

Evan Schuman
Guest
Evan Schuman
9 years 10 months ago

I’m with the crowd on this one. It doesn’t seem like O is more memorable; not a better association. The first run point is valid, but I think there are better options that would communicate its present positioning better. Don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to hear any Overstock.com customer refer to the site as “O.”

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I think it’s a dumb move. Case and point, the official name is — or always was — Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. O.co Coliseum…hmm, yeah the average Joe or Jane driving down the Nimitz is really going to see, rather than an abbreviation of its former name, the connection to Overstock…not.

Sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I see that many before me had the same thought–Oprah is up to something new? While I understand the desire to change the brand to more accurately reflect the product mix and the desire to maintain part of its legacy name, but I also agree with those that see this as an international move, but not here in the U.S.

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