Can a New Name Keep This Company Growing?

Last Updated Jan 19, 2011 1:21 PM EST

By Caitlin Elsaesser
After 25 years in business, Jane Glazer was tired of the assumptions people made about her.

When she would introduce herself as the owner of Home Trends, the first question they would ask is, 'Oh, do you run that out of your home?' "It's fascinating," says Glazer, "because people never would ask a man that."

As it turns out, she did start her company out of her home. Glazer launched a small mail-order business for microwave cooking. But that was almost three decades ago. Now she runs a business with three separate mail-order catalogs, 110 employees and $40 million in revenue in 2009.

Glazer knew she needed a new name that would appeal both to younger audiences and convey her company's versatility -- not one that implied she ran her business out of her kitchen. And she needed to find a way to brand her company without losing long-term clients attached to the company's identity.

Here's how she came up with a new name and made it stick.

When a name holds you back
Glazer's business had grown into three separate catalogs offering home organization tools, outdoor accessories, and insomnia products. But that meant it had three separate business names and no overarching corporate identity. She owned a direct marketing company with the potential to do order processing for other corporations. But without a clear corporate identity, she was losing out on potential collaborations with partners that saw her business as a loose collection of catalogs.

The name Home Trends held the company back in other ways, too. The name was associated with her older client base -- 30% of her clients were over the age of 75 -- and gave some the impression that her company was no more than a hobby. She wanted a name that could attract a younger audience and project an image of power.

She chose QCI Direct, short for Quick Cook Incorporated, because the name felt modern and broad enough to encompass the company's separate divisions.

A history of change
This wasn't the company's first name change. Glazer has changed her business name a few times in the past to avoid dead ends.

Not long after launching her first business, Microwave Magic, she realized that customers were not discarding their ovens for microwaves, so the brand had little potential for growth.

To reflect a shift to carrying a wider range of kitchen tools, Glazer changed her company name to Microwave and More. A few years later, Glazer expanded into household products and changed the name to Home Trends. The catalog has been her most popular to date.

Staying familiar
That popularity was a concern for Glazer. She knew she would risk losing her loyal customers if she changed the individual catalog names. "Home Trends has over two million customers, and it is risky to upset that many people by changing a name," she says.

So instead of replacing her existing brands, she decided to keep the catalog names intact and make QCI Direct the umbrella company.

To facilitate greater name recognition, Glazer made sure that "QCI presents" prominently introduced every catalog and box of catalogs. She also updated all company communications to include the umbrella logo, including business cards, email and company stationary. Finally, a central website ties together all of the different catalogs.

Not all smooth sailing
To her surprise, it was her staff, not her customers, who were uncomfortable with the name change.

"The staff was really comfortable with the old name," says Glazer. But getting staff buy-in was critical to the transition. "If a vendor calls asking to talk to a Home Trends supplier, staff needs to correct them." The reason, explains Glazer, is to take advantage of new opportunities that the name change provides. Vendors who contact a specific division of QCI Direct but aren't a perfect fit can be handed off to other divisions.

Glazer's employees are finally on board, but the process wasn't easy: She says it took her staff two years to completely buy into the new name. Slapping the new name on almost everything around the office -- from pens and stationary to signage and packaging -- helped.

Change is the name of the game
It's still too early to tell if the new name will translate into results, but Glazer believes that the QCI Direct brand will provide significant opportunities for growth. And there are some positive signs: Sales from the new QCI website have doubled every week in the last two months since the site debuted, thanks to the company's new branding and increased marketing efforts to promote it through e-mail blasts and press releases.

Glazer says that the key to the company's growth is being open to new opportunities. A one-woman home business can't scale to a company bringing in the tens of millions in revenue without learning to be versatile along the way, she says.

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