Brand Extensions: Has Overstock.com gone overboard with Pet Adoptions?

July 30, 2014

Several weeks ago, I saw a surprising TV ad from Overstock.com, the web-based mass merchant. Rather than their usual offer of off-priced jewelry, clothes and furnishings, Overstock was hyping its free pet adoption service.

Several weeks ago, I saw a surprising TV ad from Overstock.com, the web-based mass merchant. Rather than their usual offer of off-priced jewelry, clothes and furnishings, Overstock was hyping its free pet adoption service for rescue dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, birds and “other” pets available at local shelters. At first, I thought this was somehow a bad exercise in brand extension. Has the world become so heartless that homeless pets are considered to be “overstocked” merchandise?

After a closer look, I found out that the firm has nothing but the best intentions at heart and altruistically wants to bring people in contact with local shelters. They’re not selling pets. Overstock’s management realized that they could use their same world-class search technology used on their site to allow pet lovers to search for hundreds of thousands of animals in adoption shelters to locate a pet for their family. Overstock doesn’t even collect a fee when putting the families in contact with the shelters.

As a designer, however, what bothered me was what Overstock did to their iconic “O” logo for their Pet Adoptions division. Using an endorsed brand architecture, Pet Adoptions, by overstock.com, features the masterbrand icon, but now altered to have a cartoon cat’s face in the O.

The ”O-Cat pet adoption mark”, the red color and the “O-face” still have too much reference to the Overstock identity for me. Perhaps a new logo for this adoption service is what was needed, separating its Pet Adoptions brand from Overstock’s original e-commerce merchandizing. If the company truly believes in supporting “connecting people and pets,” then it deserves its own identity that doesn’t try to leverage a business far removed from the parent.

Sometimes we can’t deny our heritage. And especially when a name resonates what we do at our core. Perhaps what Overstock should not erode is its master brand and give its Pet Adoption sub-brand a home of its own.

What do you think about brands that try to extend into new areas unrelated to their core? Tell us about it.

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