O.co Going Back to Using Overstock.com For Now – .co Domain Bust?Posted: November 14, 2011
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.
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.