The dot-com boom was an exciting time for all involved at first, but as the companies began to develop and the market opened up to even greater levels of investment, it quickly became apparent that the incredible amounts of cash being ploughed into many of these ventures could only mean unsustainable practice and for those companies to fail. Sure, there was millions spent on lavish and complex marketing campaigns, many teenagers becoming millionaires out their basements overnight, but there were some absolute failures amongst the dot-com era and here we look at a few of those nightmares. 

How great branding couldn’t save was open for business between 1998 and 2000 and on the face of it, the marketing campaigns and general advertising for the brand was a huge success. It had created a very popular sock puppet as a mascot, that was even on a Super Bowl commercial, but even the most sophisticated and well-thought-out advertising campaigns isn’t enough alone to make a successful business. The problem with was that it just wasn’t able to get enough pet owners to make the jump from buying their pet supplies in store to buying pet supplies online. The waiting time for deliveries and the low costs implemented to lure new customers, meant that it was losing money from the start. After raising $82.5 million in an IPO in the early part of 2000, the entire business collapsed later on in the same year. 

Webvan grew too fast, too soon

Webvan only lasted two years, between 1999 and 2001. It was even a great idea, an online grocer that we see from almost every company today. Back then though, the margins were so thin that it was important to have enough customers to justify the spending on advertising campaigns, high-tech warehouses and an expansion plan that would see it move into 26-cities over a short period of time. It was worth $1.2 billion at its peak but it still failed. There are a few reasons why Webvan is thought to have failed. First, it targeted a price-sensitive mass-consumer market, instead of looking at a different segment of consumers who were more likely to pay more. On top of that, the expansion plans were too aggressive and too fast. Before Webvan had even solidified its model and become a success in its first market, it was looking to expand into other cities. Running, before it could walk, Webvan closed down in July 2001, with 2,000 people out of work. was ahead of its time

One of the big dot-com disasters that was actually a good idea that we see working today with services such as Amazon Prime, was Between 1998 and 2001, Kozmo was a place for cool kids to buy convenience goods at speed and at a good price. Customers could order snacks, movies, and other items direct to their door and with free delivery, within an hour! If you were at home in the city on a rainy night, you fancy a movie and some popcorn, you’d get on and order those items for a fun night in. As fun and convenient as this was for the customer, for the business, the free delivery and lack of minimum charge meant that it lost a lot of money, fast. Customers ordering a pack of gum or other single items only meant bad news for the business. Despite expanding to seven cities and implementing a $10 minimum charge, the damage was already done, and it closed its digital doors in March 2001.

A desire for globalisation and complicated UX damaged is one of the most well-known dot-com disasters and it didn’t last very long at all, running its online fashion retailer between 1998 and 2000. It had problems from day one, with a lack of expertise in key positions throughout the company and a mangled, complex and sometimes baffling user experience on their e-commerce website. Boo spent loads of money on positioning itself as a global company, but then failed to implement strategies and processes that would work effectively in different territories and languages. 

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The might of Disney isn’t even enough sometimes

The Walt Disney Company launched in 1998 and although it still exists in some form, it stopped trading in its original incarnation as early as January 2001. The idea was a good one in principal as it was intended to be a destination site in the same way that Yahoo was at the time. The power of Disney was surely enough to make it a success, right? They certainly thought so, ploughing millions into promoting, but with content restrictions on adult material and other little quirks, it could never get enough visitors to justify the spending and Disney wrote off $790 million. Today, it exists as a portal for Disney Web feeds.

Kibu giving up before the end saw where the web was going and created an online community for teenage girls back in 1999. At the time, the founders had realised that this was one of the fastest-growing segments when looking at overall web users, and this has been borne out with how we’ve seen the Internet used over the past 20 years. Kibu had in fact, started to see an increase in traffic but the end came when they decided to call it quits, just 46 days after a big, glitzy San Francisco launch party. The company stated that the timing for the company launch could not have been at a worse time in terms of the financial markets. Kibu had plenty of big Silicon Valley backers, so its withdrawal from the market sent a strong message as to the potential dangers ahead for other dot-com businesses.

Building your brand the right way with Candy

There is still a lot to learn from the dot com nightmares of the late 20th century. As you can see in the examples above, A LOT of money was wasted on weird and terrible business models that with hindsight seemed doomed to fail from the very first time they were thought of by those in charge. 

Digital marketing today offers a much brighter future and chance to succeed for any business looking to build a thriving brand. At Candy, we understand what it takes to create and deliver digital marketing campaigns that encompass website design, web development, and unique marketing campaigns for multi-channel purposes. 

To find out more about Candy and our range of services, please feel free to contact us on 0161 826 0123 or and we’ll help you build your brand in the correct way, using our knowledge and experience and by learning the lessons of the past.