eToys failure. The Loss of a Great Brand
By Tom Dougherty
From Fairchilds Brand Marketing
Many years ago I was compelled to run out and purchase a CD from a Hawaiian folk singer names Israel Kamakawiwo’ole after hearing his version of “Somewhere over the rainbow” on NPR’s All Things Considered. As it turned out, was not the only person who fell in love with this recording. Even to this day, whenever I play it on the office, passerby’s stop and exclaim, “Oh, that’s eToys.” The ill-fated Internet retailer fell in love with the song’s intro and used it effectively in all of its broadcast advertising.
This is important because I am mourning the loss of a great brand. I am mourning the demise of eToys because its brand touched me in powerful ways. Did I use it? It’s a great question and needs to be asked. I did, once, a year ago this past Christmas. And I swore I would never shop it again. I kept my word. As a brand man, I feel the need to weigh in on all the turmoil in the Internet commerce today and set the record straight.
The Internet is an incredibly viable business frontier, one that craves great branding to a greater degree than any other vehicle I know. I also want to go on record as applauding the eToys brand as a job done brilliantly well. I didn’t shed a tear when the myriad of online pet stores closed their doors or when CD Now warned of impending doom. But I am sad about eToys. It is as if a valued friend has passed away.
You see, great brands do a bunch of things: they reach into me and tell me they are important; they find a way into my sense of self; and align themselves with my values and aspirations. Great brands help me see myself, as I want to be perceived and promise that their services are both different, and hopefully better. I maintain that eToys succeeded in most, if not all, of these crucial brand tests. It’s advertising was brilliantly effective.
It was evocative, emotional and memorable. Its imagery and musical bed was distinctive and spoke to me of parental caring, childhood and innocence. It invited me to remember it as important and even on my side. It was so compelling that I bought a whole truckload of toys and gifts for my five kids. Most of the presents arrived the second week of January.
You see, eToys had a flawed business model, not a flawed brand. Because it didn’t deliver, (literally), it lost my life-long involvement and investment in the brand. Let us learn our lessons well at its expense.