Late last night, as we were putting the finishing touches on our own spring-cleaning, popular WoW news and information portal WoWInsider.com became WoW.com. The name change was complimented by a change in design philosophy wherein the traditional light and open design was replaced with a dark background layout that is popular among many gaming web sites.
What is Rebranding Anyway?
Many companies choose to change their corporate or product image from time to time. The act of rebranding is usually the act of changing the way a product, service or company was traditionally portrayed into a new identity. More often than not, a rebrand signifies a desire by the company to distance itself from its previous image or identity. Sometimes a rebrand is forced by changes in society and other times the driver of change is the entity itself, perhaps seeking to cast itself in a better light. Still other times, a company changes their brand as an attempt to gain better control of their industry and/or market share.
There are successful attempts at rebranding and many examples of the not so successful. Building a successful brand is usually an extremely expensive endeavor, as it typically requires the investment of the three most costly expenditures of any business: time, effort and capital. Therefore, rebranding is traditionally a risky move that further implies that something was not working as intended with the initial product.
So, what was wrong with WoW Insider that they decided to rebrand?
Why the Change?
The changes to the site went much further than simply cosmetic. With the rebranding effort they also launched their new profiles service and add-on. This feature is obviously the focus of their new efforts- a revealing 80% of their welcome message is dedicated to the profiles feature. Accordingly, WoW Insider is now trying to capitalize on the rising popularity of social networking as they are now encouraging users to share their information with each other, develop personal blogs and galleries and show off their characters within their own proprietary closed network.
So there was nothing particularly wrong with the previous WoW Insider brand (although the upgrade in platform allowed them to address some long standing issues with comment control) so the change must be motivated by a desire to improve on their product. The primary reasons for the change, we believe, is both to increase revenue/drive traffic and to utilize what must have been a very expensive domain acquisition.
By getting readers to create profiles and install add-ons the people behind WoW Insider will be able to gather additional statistical data about their members/readers that will be of value to advertisers. We expect that WoW.com will eventually post a “We’re not selling your personal information” post which will be accurate because they won’t sell (hopefully) private user/reader data but will (presumably) use the generic data gathered to better sell advertising space.
As far as the acquisition of the WoW.com domain goes, the common thinking on internet marketing is that short, memorable domains are always of the highest value. By shortening their URL, the peopleformerlyknownasWI will be able to capitalize on both a closer association to World of Warcraft as well as a shorter, more memorable domain. Interestingly, we don’t think that they actually own the WoW.com domain. Long ago, AOL obtained this domain in a corporate buyout of a smaller company and we would expect that they would be hesitant to sell at any rate that the folks at Weblogs, Inc could realistically pay. A quick search of domain ownership at NS confirms our suspicions that this domain is indeed still the property of AOL and thus implies that it is being leased by WoW Insider/Weblogs and not outright owned.
Will it be Successful?
The jury is still out on this one. We suspect that there will be some confusion initially but overall the WoW.com brand will thrive. It was a successful brand before and will continue this success in the future so long as WoW remains popular.
There are still some kinks to be worked out and overall the transfer has a rushed feel to it. There was no announcement of the change prior to implementation, which would only serve to confuse users. Adding to the feeling of rushed execution is the typo in the original announcement, “By creating profile on WoW.com you can…” Note: You can expect this grammatical error to be fixed within minutes of this post going live so visit now if you want to see the error first hand (and you’re welcome for our pointing it out WoW Insider).
Other concerns would be those of privacy as mentioned above and last but certainly not least, the fact that Blizzard’s lawyers have been on a warpath lately. By converting to WoW.com and posting WoW related information, as well as creating an add-on and social network for Blizzard’s game, Weblogs, Inc. now runs the risk of walking very close to the intellectual property line. Hopefully these kinks either have already been worked out or are being worked on even you read this.
Overall, we’d like to wish the folks at
WoWInsider WoW.com luck in their new endeavor. It is a bold move and we wish them nothing but successful results.