What does ISIS Equity Partners, ISIS chocolates, Isis Mobile Wallet have in common with Elk Grove Village-based automobile wiring manufacturer ISIS Power?
If you said they all have the word ISIS in their name you're wrong. They all used to have the word ISIS in their name.
Jay Harris, Oak Park resident and owner of ISIS Power, now known as Infinitybox LLC, recently joined a growing list of companies dropping the word "ISIS" from their names because of its connection to the militant terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Sunni insurgent group, which made headlines earlier this year for the beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, did its own rebranding in June, dropping the acronym and dubbing itself Islamic State. But Harris said the negative perception persists.
"None of our existing customers confused us with a radical terrorist group," he said, adding that he's more concerned about potential new customers.
At first he wanted to stand his ground on the name, which was first established in 2007, but the beheading of journalists is "where it started to become an issue."
It not only had an effect on his employees' morale, but the popularity of Internet searches for the word ISIS was inadvertently reducing traffic to the company's website, Harris said.
In the month of October, he noted, seven of the top 10 search terms used to find his website were related to the terrorist group. A spike in visitors who left the site quickly because they did not find information about the terrorist group resulted in an increase in the site's so-called "bounce rate." Higher bounce rates cause search engines like Google to drop you in their ranking system, Harris said.
Clifford Shultz, professor and Kellstadt chair of marketing in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University, said the name matters less in a business-to-business dynamic, but he echoed Harris' concern that it could make it harder to attract new clients.
"If it's a local company that's been around and has a good relationship with its customers, then it's a non-issue," Shultz said, "but if they are inspired to grow and expand their market share, then it potentially becomes problematic."
The company, which designs and manufactures wiring systems for commercial and custom racing vehicles, spent thousands of dollars on marketing and branding over the last six years, but "much of that is thrown out the window," Harris said.
Although it has not hurt the bottom line with existing customers, he noted, it had become a distraction.
"People loved to talk about it; our sales people were spending a significant amount of time with customers talking it through," he said. "Some people called and said, 'What are you going to do with the name?'"
Shultz said rebranding doesn't come cheap, but many companies with the word ISIS will have to endure the cost. Some create a subsidiary brand with a new name or phase out the old brand slowly as they establish the new one.
Infinitybox made its debut last week at the SEMA Show, an automobile specialty products trade show held in Las Vegas.
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