Quick Hits: Klout Gets ‘Validated’; O.co Meet Overstock.com

A few thoughts on recent marketing and PR industry news:Klout Gets ‘Validated’An item in the Nov. 28 issue of Adweek about Klout’s recent reputational issues caught my attention. Not because Klout is facing consumer backlash over changes to its algorithm and consumer privacy issues (no surprise there, given that it has basically pimped out the very essence of influencing others, but in a rather skeevy way), but in what Klout executives had to say about the effects of bad publicity on their brand.

Basically: not much of substance. Oh, company execs trotted out the usual line that “controversy means people are paying attention to and care about our brand,” and that this latest round of controversy over consumer privacy has actually “served to validate” Klout’s model (the latter is an actual quote from a Klout exec).

I’m not sure how backlash from the very people who use your brand constitutes “validation” but we’ll let this one slide for now.

Give the Klout folks credit, at least, for admitting what everyone could plainly see: the company needs better communications. Not surprisingly, like just about every Internet start-up that has come around in the past five years, Klout often seems to operate in the change-things-first, apologize-later framework when it comes to corporate communications. This has predicatable results (see: Netflix, Airbnb, Blippy, et al.).

Of course, this recognition is offset by being couched in the same Adweek article with a quote from Sci-fi writer and blogger John Scalzi, who says that Klout is “a little bit socially evil.”

But hey, at least it has that user “validation” going for it.

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Just Call Us ‘O’

Overstock.com marketing executives appear to have been played by ICANN when the online shopping retailer recently changed its moniker from Overstock.com to O.co. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, now allows brands, organizations and other entities to register domain names beyond the standard .com, .org, .biz and other common domains that have existed since the commercial Internet came to fruition more than 20 years ago. (Though this is causing more than a little consternation from marketing trade groups, as BtoB magazine reported recently.)

Just a few months after changing to O.co, AdAge reported recently that the company has now reversed course … sort of. According to AdAge, the company is returning to Overstock.com on its website, in online ads and in holiday TV ads because “people were confused,” said company president Johnathan Johnson.

O.co, er, Overstock.com … or is it just Overstock? Who knows … isn’t alone in the brand moniker/identity confusion game. Gap fell into a similar issue last year when it infamously tried to change its iconic logo to something that looked more like a teal blue rainbow than a logo that had helped the brand emerge as one of the classic American logos in the 1990s. As has been well documented, Gap was forced to revert back to its old logo upon a fierce backlash online and in social media, though it did bizarrely claim that the rebranding effort was all part of one big crowdsourcing exercise or a PR stunt.

It wasn’t. It was just an example of a company misreading the market and neglecting consumer’s affinity for a familiar logo or moniker. And as Overstock has now learned, marketers may love a rebranding exercise, but consumers aren’t always so keen on the hoopla.

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