Vintage Appeal

Catching On

When your product name stinks.

When tom slightam took over his family's fledgling salad-dressing business in 1989, he soon realized something smelled fishy. "I had a marketing problem," Slightam says simply. "People were really turned off by the [product's] name."

That name--a derivation of the Slightam family's Stewartville, Minnesota, seafood restaurant--was Fish House Dressing. "[Our customers thought] there was fish in the product," explains Slightam, 40, "or they'd think of a building where you clean fish."

Either way, the name was sinking sales of the salad dressing line that was created from Slightam's father's recipes. Clearly, a name change was in order--only it wasn't such an easy decision for other family members to make. "They told me `You can't change the name--you can't even think about it.' "

Eventually, however, Slightam won them over, and Fish House Dressing was re-christened Jimmy's Salad Dressings. "It just made sense to name it after my father," says Slightam, who eased the transition period by initially including the Fish House moniker in big letters on product labels.

It was a good call. From sales of $100,000 in 1990--the first year the salad dressings sold under the new name--to 1997 sales of $2.4 million, the Slightams' products have indeed caught on. Now available in nine states, Jimmy's Salad Dressings are projected to enjoy a sales increase of 15 percent this year. "That single thing really turned sales around," says Slightam of the change. "It made our product more widely accepted."

Contact Sources

Fish House Dressing Inc., 1711 Second Ave. N.W., Stewartville, MN 55976, (507) 533-7786

Wine Brats, (707) 545-4699, http://www.winebrats.org

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Vintage Appeal.

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