The Return of Boo

The Return of Boo

The Return of Boo

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Sept. 6 2000 11:47 AM

The Return of Boo

One of the clever things that Andy Warhol is supposed to have said is that he did not take the time to read the various articles and commentary written about him in the press, but he did weigh them. If the quantity of words was high enough, then their quality didn't really matter. Operating on a similar theory, an online retailer called Fashionmall.com is planning to make the most of what is arguably the Web's most battered brand: Boo.com.

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Boo, you will recall, is well-known because it was a massively hyped failure. The company spent gigantic amounts of money marketing a Web site that didn't work. It succeeded in getting on the cover of Fortune but failed to stay in business and was finally liquidated in May, having run through something like $135 million. Boo has since become more or less synonymous with the very worst excesses of dot-commery.

Enter Fashionmall.com, which has purchased Boo's trademarks and the rights to its virtual spokeswoman (Miss Boo, described as "sexy" by the Wall Street Journal) for $400,000. In the bargain, Fashionmall.com also procured some 40,000 promotional Boo Frisbees. "What we really bought," explains a Fashionmall executive, "is a brand that has phenomenal awareness worldwide."

I'm not really that familiar with Fashionmall.com, but I guess that's the point: Buying Boo is essentially a stunt and perhaps will distract observers from asking questions more fundamental to Fashionmall's long-term success, such as whether an online clothing retailer is a good idea or not.

But once everyone's finished savoring the irony of Boo's "revival," what then? Apparently Fashionmall intends to use the Boo domain for a content-and-chat site, with advertising. If you go to the site, you are greeted by Miss Boo, who promises that the re-launch is coming soon and invites you to join the site's mailing list. This circumstance will be very familiar to anyone who visited the old Boo site at the height of its promotional blitz, and I opted not to sign up. A fashion advice site just doesn't sound all that interesting. On the other hand, I would love to have a Boo Frisbee, which seems likely to hold up as an authentic artifact of dot-com wishful thinking for years to come. Viewed in that light, actually, I guess you could say Fashionmall really did buy the rights to a lasting brand.