O.co Going Back to Using Overstock.com For Now – .co Domain Bust?

Advertising Age reported today that the major online shopping site O.co has decided to use Overstock.com instead (at least over the holidays). They did indicate O.co will still be used internationally and also still targeted to mobile users given its shortness.

Consumer confusion

The article highlights our biggest reason why companies should not use .co – consumer confusion. .co is close to .com and .com is what everyone is already used to. In this case, they faced a double-whammy as O.com doesn’t resolve. ICANN has O.com reserved along with most other single-character .com domains – it is not owned by anyone.

As Overstock’s president Jonathon Johnson indicated, a good portion of those who sought out the website went to O.com. This is after massive advertising including even rebranding their sponsored stadium in Oakland to “O.co Coliseum”.

Even massive marketing efforts can’t erase people’s familiarity with and expectation of .com.

Keep this in mind when ICANN’s new TLD program kicks into full gear. Fancy new TLDs will be on their way in 2013 but it won’t change the above truth. .co may have over a million registrations, but that still pales in comparison to the nearly 100 million .com’s registered. It would take dozens if not hundreds of generic extensions as popular as .co is now for .com to fall.

Was Overstock’s $350,000 purchase of O.co a bust?

Overstock IS still using O.co for international markets and for mobile. I can see benefits in both cases, although in those cases it’s still going against their decade of branding Overstock.com. O.co’s potential life as a short URL generator was squashed once Twitter defaulted all links to T.co – there’s little use for short URLs elsewhere.

That said, I believe their purchase was a bust. We have no idea how much they’ve LOST from the rebranding to O.co. This whole situation bears some similarity to the recent Netflix/Qwikster debacle though. Why go against 10+ years of branding you’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on if it’s been working?

Is .co a bust?

Overstock’s reversal doesn’t mean .co is a complete bust…yet. The extension will certainly reel from this news – O.co was the most public branding of a .co domain. Even though the prominent .co sales have mostly been single-letter ones, .co NEEDS more large brands on .co domains for long term viability.

Although .mobi had a particular use, they faced this same dilemma. There was no widespread adoption of it by large companies early on. The web capabilities of smart phones wound up burying the extension and its purpose before it could reach massive adoption. .mobi still exists but the average consumer has no idea it does.

While it doesn’t face the same technology concerns, .co does face the same limited time span to succeed. They’ve spent so much on marketing and promotion, capped with their Super Bowl promotion with GoDaddy, that it’s now or never. New TLDs will be coming soon which will pit them amongst a sea of other supposed .com alternatives.

If they don’t see more companies use .co as a primary brand soon (especially popular companies or ones that then become popular), .co will begin to sputter. Hundreds of thousands of domains will be dropped. They’ll not only completely lose their momentum but will start a downhill momentum that will be hard to stop.

This is why it’s important to avoid the hype with new TLDs. Any company branding to a .co is taking a huge risk whether they realize it or not. Overstock took one of the biggest risks and clearly it hasn’t worked out for them.


9 Comments on “O.co Going Back to Using Overstock.com For Now – .co Domain Bust?”

  1. Timm Martin says:

    Condemning an entire TLD for a single marketing misstep? Seems like an overreaction. .CO or any other TLD will never rival granddaddy .COM. But try to get a decent .COM these days without hyphens, misspellings, alot of characters, or a boatload of cash. The truth is that .COM category-killer domains have become the 90210 of the Internet. For the other 99% of us who cannot afford a Beverly Hills mansion, TLD’s like .CO open up many new opportunities. .CO has a distinct advantage over other TLDs like .WS in that .CO is the international abbreviation for company. .CO will never rival .COM in value, but that doesn’t mean its value is zero. Just watch Sedo and GoDaddy auctions, and you’ll see there is a healthy secondary market for other TLDs. There’s money to be made here, folks!

    • Steve Jones says:

      Timm, I did NOT condemn the extension – I said it is NOT a bust. However, the extension has been losing the momentum it had from a lot of these large purchases that happened early on. Overstock’s decision highlighted one of the major issues with the extension. Their decision will influence other businesses away from using the extension.

      .com category killers are surely expensive, but there are nearly 100 million .com’s registered and a tiny fraction of those are category killers. In fact, nearly all of the top sites on the internet are NOT on category killer domains. The question is two-fold for anyone starting up considering a non-.com:

      – Is spending more on the .com more worthwhile than getting the equivalent in .net, .co etc.?
      – Would an available .com be good enough vs. an available domain in another extension?

      Even if many businesses might think no to the first question, most of them still think yes to the second. Keep in mind as I mention in the article, when new TLDs come in 2013, .co will be one amongst a sea of .com alternatives, at least some of which will take away some of its luster.

      .co may be an international abbreviation for company, but .com has already been filling the company role for 20+ years and is what people are familiar with worldwide (except maybe their own ccTLD). Yes .net, .org and other extensions are also well-established and provide alternatives, but for a primary brand domain, .com is still the recommended way to go. Especially if business become more open to spending more money for their domain, that opens up millions of possible options in .com.

      • Timm Martin says:

        I’m more bullish on .CO. For the rest of the world, .CO = Company, like bbc.co.uk. This is probably why Overstock.com has decided to remain o.co exclusively internationally, and is just scaling back on its use in the U.S., which is more familiar with .COM. One way for companies to stand out on the Web is with category-killer domains. If you don’t have a boatload of cash, then .CO is a great alternative that’s internationally recognized and still has category-killer domains available at an affordable price.

  2. Dr. Altaf says:

    Recently we observed of so many drops of good generic .co. What does that mean? Are domainers leaving investments in.co or it is like .com bubble? Will .co rise again. Please put insights on .ca or
    .om (misspelling of .com).

  3. Timm Martin says:

    Here’s an example of gTLD shortcut branding done right: http://v.me. Visa launched a complimentary brand and website, but didn’t completely abandon it’s visa.com website and Visa name.

  4. I am amazed at how often those in the corporate world think it is a good idea to re-brand a company (that’s a marketing / branding fail.). That aside, to try and brand a Dot CO in a Dot Com world is a Web Marketing fail.

    Yes, it was a colossal waste of money. I guarantee that $350,000 could have been used to grow their brand much further. And now to go back to Overstock (which is what most people knew them as already) just makes them look foolish.

  5. […] than 3 months after O.co infamously rebranded itself back to Overstock, Startup America Partnership has decided to rebrand itself to S.co. In addition to the rebrand, […]

  6. Sharon Hayes says:

    Reblogged this on Sharon Hayes Dot Com.

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