In January of 1997, AuctionWeb experienced phenomenal growth. The site hosted 2,000,000 auctions (compared with 250,000 in all of 1996). It was ready to roll out to a wider market, but soon discovered they had to change the name of the company. The founder, who also owned a consulting firm called Echo Bay Technology Group, wanted to buy echobay.com, but the domain was already owned and wasn’t for sale. So he purchased his second choice, which lead to renaming AuctionWeb in September 1997.
That domain was eBay.com. A brand as ubiquitous as Amazon or even Facebook.
With a growing, successful site, they needed to take the new name public in a big way. One piece of their strategy involved branded merchandise that could be given to consumers – in this case, a crisp white sweatshirt with their colorful new logo embroidered on it. Why? Because people tend to keep and use branded items; and consumers are more likely to recall brands from which they have received a branded product.
We all know the rest of the story. In September 1998, just one year after launching a rebranding effort, eBay went public and its name became synonymous with consumer driven, online auctions.
A well-conceived, strategic branding campaign, including branded merchandise as a key component, positioned eBay – and many other brands – in the minds of consumers and helped drive their success.