Cahners, the name that wouldn’t die, may finally have been killed off.
In February, Cahners Business Information, publisher of Variety and 134 other b-to-b titles, announced that it changed its name to Reed Business Information. The new name is intended to tie the company closely to its owner, Reed Elsevier plc, and to other b-to-b media divisions in the Anglo-Dutch giant’s stable, such as Elsevier Business Information in Europe and Reed Exhibitions.
Reed Elsevier tried once before to drop the Cahners name, when it briefly changed the company’s moniker to Reed Elsevier Business Information in 1997. The change occurred shortly after Cahners acquired the Chilton Business Group. In March 1998, however, the Reed Elsevier name was ditched and Cahners resurrected.
At the time, a senior Cahners executive explained the move to Business Marketing, BtoB’s predecessor. "What we found is that the Cahners name reflected considerable strength," he said.
So what changed in four years that Reed Elsevier became comfortable enough to jettison the brand equity of Cahners?
The name change appears to be driven in part by globalization. The Reed name is perceived to have a stronger worldwide presence than Cahners, which has been primarily a U.S. brand.
"This rebranding initiative driven by Reed Elsevier will further extend our market leadership position, as well as more effectively communicate the excellence of our products to global customers, suppliers, governments, trade associations and investors," Jim Casella, CEO, Reed Business Information U.S., said in a statement.
In the past, Cahners was criticized for its scant presence in event and face-to-face marketing. The name Reed Business Information will more closely align the publisher with its sister company Reed Exhibitions.
"It shows the full integration of the various business units into Reed, which presents a much stronger overall marketing face to the various constituencies of the company," said Roland DeSilva, managing partner of New York-based media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips Inc.
Robert Crosland, managing director of AdMedia Partners, another New York investment bank, said the name change reveals the confidence Reed Elsevier has in the division. "It would seem on the surface that the name change from Cahners to Reed Business Information indicates that they plan to keep this for the long term," he said. "You really wouldn’t be throwing away the Cahners brand equity if you had any intention of selling the U.S. subsidiary."
In a move that also seems to indicate the confidence the company has in itself, Reed Business Information said it had no plans for a large-scale marketing plan to announce the name change. Crosland supported that strategy. "There is very little branding at the corporate level," he said. "Consumers and advertisers are more familiar with the title of the publication that serves their market." In other words, the Hollywood mogul doesn’t know Cahners but rather Variety; just as the electronics engineer doesn’t know Reed Business Information but rather EDN.
Strong financial position
Industry observers say the time is right for the name change, because the company is in such a strong position compared with many b-to-b media companies that are hamstrung by long-term debt.
"While other companies might be having to deal with debt issues and related matters," Crosland said. "VNU and Cahners are in the enviable position of having really solid balance sheets, which enable them to make good strategic decisions for the right reasons moving forward."
Crosland added that Cahners had made a strong selection in naming Jim Casella CEO in January. "He’s been in the business for a long time, and he knows this business intimately," Crosland said. "He’s got a very stabilizing personality and a calming, reassuring demeanor that I think the employees of Cahners are going to find easy to live with."
In an ironic footnote, Chilton, which was swallowed by Cahners in 1997, will outlive the name of its buyer. Its brand lives on in Chilton’s automotive repair manuals.