jeff bennett

Last week, Boston-based startup SwapTree.com officially re-branded under the generic name Swap.com. The site still allows users to exchange books, video games, CDs and movies with one another for free, but now they’ll be a whole lot easier for interested swappers to find. We touched base with Swap.com CEO Jeff Bennett to find out more regarding the re-brand and pick his brain about some other swap-related items that had been bugging us. Of course, the local serial entrepreneur was happy to oblige.

BostInnovation: Can you talk a little bit about the brand strategy that goes along with “going generic” with your web brand? Why is this still so effective?

Jeff Bennett: I like to say that we are applying a “descriptive” approach for the brand. Swap.com is descriptive. Swap.com is a verb. Swap.com is a category. Swap.com is simple. Swap.com is memorable. Swap.com is trusted because it is transparent. So by adopting Swap.com as our brand we are applying a descriptive moniker to our company, our service and our community. We don’t have to spend millions of dollars in advertising to convince a consumer what we are. Swap.com is all about swapping!

swap.com logo

BostInno: Many companies talk about being the Amazon of this or the Care.com of that… what is the best way to actually pursue a generic URL that will work for them?

Jeff Bennett: What we love about Swap.com is that if a consumer wants to swap something, Swap.com is a logical place to explore for this. There are many brands in the tissue category, but we all call tissues “Kleenex.” As the swap category expands when a consumer wants to get involved, there is a high probability they will go to Swap.com.

BostInno: Is the generic URL space inevitably a seller’s market? What can companies do to leverage better deals with URL owners?

Jeff Bennett: There is a notion that all of the good names are taken. Surely most of the good names are owned by someone, but maybe not utilized in a way that will maximize their value. There are many great descriptive domains that are owned by domain investors. The goal is to increase the value of the domain. Building web properties is not easy to do. In this case if an entrepreneur has a great idea and some traction, there is a great opportunity to acquire/partner to get a great domain. It can be done.

BostInno: This is massive news for Swap.com because it means your name and your URL will be synonymous with what you do. What will change about Swap.com? What do you hope remains the same?

Jeff Bennett: It is massive news. The re-branding will allow many efficiencies in how we market the company to expand our current offerings. Adopting this “category killer” name also implies that we are more than just a book, music, movie or game swapping site. We have plans to expand and serve a wider set of categories and the whole swapping market. We will work diligently to deliver on these aspirations.

BostInno: What do you think of the Internet’s ability to empower users to find a whole new way of experiencing an ancient practice like swapping?

Jeff Bennett: In this modern day swapping is gaining in importance as it might have been in previous times. Easy credit powered a binge on consumption of almost everything in the last decade. Today folks at all levels of the economic ladder need to reassess and make more sense of their consumption. Swapping, renting and sharing are all important elements of the opportunity for a more collaborative consumption pattern. The Internet has also moved from a network of links to a network of people…enabling lots of social activity. Swapping is a social experience that is peer-to-peer…has been for thousands of years. When you combine all of this there exists a powerful opportunity to leverage the social and network effects of the Internet to expand swapping.

BostInno: How is Swap.com’s user base growing? Can you give us any juicy figures?

Jeff Bennett: We are closing in on one million members.

BostInno: You guys are sponsoring a big swapping event at the end of September in Denver, Colo. How do you envision in-person brand experiences for customers improving Swap.com’s business?

Jeff Bennett: We have a large base of swappers that are members of Swap.com. We know that many of these members engage in other swapping activities. There are a many offline swap activities and events across the world. We want to be part of the action enabling our members access to these events. Think of this as another instance of what is being called online-to-offline (o2o) commerce. Groupon drives demand online-to-offline. OpenTable drives demand online-to-offline. Swap.com drives demand online-to-offline too. The swap meet integration is one way we advance o2o…though there will be others too. We also want to be involved in these events to spread the word about Swap.com to acquire new members as well. We are delighted to be part of the Denver swap meets and have more planned as we go forward.

BostInno: Swap.com re-launched with a brand new logo. Can you tell us who you worked with on that and how you’re approaching that process?

Jeff Bennett: I have been pretty upfront about the fact that it’s all about user experience…this is critical. We have added this competency to our team, secured the advice of the best innovators on the web and through collaboration with Cuban Council. CC is a world class design firm with an incredible portfolio of work ranging from Apple’s iPod store to designing the Facebook logo to designing iGoogle and many other cool projects like Foodzie and more. The Swap.com logo is the first of series of design modifications we are making through our collaboration with CC. We are psyched to have such a world class group working with us…great talent and cool people.

To learn more about Swap.com, be sure to follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook. You can also check out Jeff Bennett’s blog, which he uses to share entrepreneurial thoughts and talk about the Boston startup ecosystem in general. Swap.com is also currently hosting voting for their new slogan at the company blog. Get in on that action today or tomorrow to help with the re-brand.