Brand Confusion: Magazines with Similar Names Present an Obvious Branding Problem. but What about When Their Parent Companies All Start Sounding Alike?

Article excerpt

ZIFF DAVIS. ZIFF DAVIS ENTERPRISE. Summit Media. Summit Business Media. Apprise. Ascend. Aspire.

The publishing industry--particularly on the b-to-b side--is filled with confusingly similar brand names. And given the tumultuous state of the print magazine business, that similarity becomes problematic when one brand falters, like Ziff Davis, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March.

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So problematic, that Steve Weitzner, the newly-installed CEO of Ziff Davis Enterprise, felt the need to post a note on the ZDE Web site reminding everyone in cyber-earshot that Ziff Davis Enterprise is not Ziff Davis.

"Ziff Davis Enterprise and Ziff Davis Media are not the same company," Weitzner wrote. "Ziff Davis Enterprise is an entirely separate entity. We were acquired in July 2007 by Insight Venture Partners, a leading venture firm with an extensive portfolio of internet enablement companies. We are well-funded and continually investing in infrastructure and innovation that best serves our customers. Thanks to our parent, we have significant investment capital at our disposal."

The note, he says, was meant to clarify the situation for customers and suppliers and to prevent rumors and disinformation from hurting the business. "The unfortunate situation that has developed at the other Ziff Davis company has been confusing and the confusion has been exacerbated by some of our competitors," Weitzner told FOLIO:. "Everyone has been very understanding about the two companies with one name situation, but about the third time I had to explain to a customer that we aren't that Ziff Davis, we're the other Ziff Davis, I realized we needed a name change."

Weitzner says the company is working on a name change but is in no rush. "We only want to change it once."

Do Readers Even Care?

Evaporating what was a marquee publishing company name is puzzling, to be sure. But do readers of an overarching company's magazines even care who the publisher is?

"My experience is that company parent brands are important to our customer base but not very important to our audience," says Weitzner. …