Pets.com had one massive marketing success: its advertising icon, the unnamed Pets.com dog. The puppet, performed by Michael Ian Black, was a simple sock puppet with button eyes, flailing arms, a stick microphone emblazoned with 'pets.com', and a Timex watch around its neck.
As the puppet's notoriety grew through 1999 and 2000, it gained almost cult status and widespread popularity. The puppet made an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America, Nightline, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, and even had a balloon made in its image for the 1999 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to the media appearances the Pets.com puppet made, merchandising was also done for the company including clothing, other trinkets, and a retail version of the sock puppet that delivered five of the puppet's famous lines (shown above).
As Pets.com's recognition began to grow, it attracted the attention of the creator of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Representatives from Robert Smigel sent letters to Pets.com claiming that the puppet was based on Triumph. After Pets.com received two threatening letters from the representatives of Robert Smigel, one of which ordered Pets.com to cease and desist using the puppet or further action would be taken, Pets.com proactively sued in the state of California, its home state, in order to prevent a threatened lawsuit in the state of New York. The press did not know what the real genesis of the Pets.com lawsuit was and wrote negatively against Pets.com assuming it initiated the action. It is true that Pets.com initiated the lawsuit. It is not true, however, that this was an unprovoked action. No press person asked Pets.com why they had filed the lawsuit.
The publicity surrounding the Pets.com puppet, combined with the company's collapse, made it such a symbol of dot-com folly that E*TRADE referred to it in an advertisement in the 2001 Super Bowl. E*TRADE's ad, which parodies the Crying Indian announcement, shows a chimpanzee riding on horseback through a ruined dot-com landscape. The chimpanzee comes across a company named "eSocks.com" that is being demolished, and weeps when a discarded sock puppet lands at his feet.
After the company folded, Hakan and Associates purchased the rights to the puppet. In 2002 Hakan licensed it to an American automotive loan company called 1-800-BAR-NONE, a mortgage and refinancing firm which took advantage of the Federal Reserve's drop in interest rates in the wake of the dot-com bust (of which Pets.com was a part). The puppet's new slogan: "Everybody deserves a second chance."