In 1998, Steven Boal started a company to bring those Sunday newspaper circulars into the digital age. First incorporated as X Advantage Corp., the Mountain View, California-based company eventually became Coupons.com--a name that, 16 years later, went public. But at the same time, Boal realized that the name did a disservice to the data component of the business that was becoming the key to Coupon.com's growth. Last October, Boal rechristened the company Quotient (as in "intelligence quotient"), and this spring, he explained how he navigated the post-IPO change.
-- As told to Lindsay Blakely.
We've rebranded several times before. But the holy grail for us was really when we landed on Coupons.com. I didn't think that it would ever be limiting at that point. It was pretty straightforward--we were in the coupon business.
But our business has evolved in the last four or five years. Now we're focusing on the data that retailers and consumer packaged goods companies want. We measure what people buy, how often they buy it, where they bought it, what influenced them to buy it. If the CDC's flu count numbers go up, we can turn on promotions for products like surface cleaners, and track whether or not that makes people buy more in stores.
So our sales people were spending 45 minutes of each hour trying to get our clients to think about us differently. We still do digital coupons, but this analytics business is what's really going to grow from here. At this point, yes, we were public and yes, our investors knew us one way, and yes, our stock had been beaten up very badly in the market. Over the course of a year, our business is relatively smooth, but quarter by quarter, it's lumpy--manufacturers' spending changes between quarters to move product, and in response to commodity prices--and that affects us directly. Investors don't like that. And we had let people down because the rollout of our big new data platform was behind schedule.
We did get some questions from investors about the rebranding. "Why don't you put up a few good quarters, instead of bad ones, and then do it?" they said. My response: It's limiting our growth opportunities, which is not good for you as an investor--and honestly, how much worse could it possibly get? We needed to create a brand that could last and that meant something to all of us.
Of course, we went to buy the Quotient domain name and it was taken. The tricky part was, as a public company with a public balance sheet, you can't just reach out to the owner--you'll get taken to the laundry. We tried a domain broker and he couldn't get it for us because the owner was unresponsive. So we went to our No. 2 name, which we really didn't like as much, and redid all the logos. Forty-eight hours before the rollout, I get an email from someone I worked with more than 20 years ago. He owned the domain name. After two days of some pretty hard negotiating, we got it.
The lesson of all of this? Really stress test your company name and whether it puts you in a box. No one has perfect 20:20 vision. Ask your major partners how they feel about your name. I wasn't in a position to ask this question after we went public, but I did have one of our largest partners pull me aside a week before the rebrand rollout--he was completely unaware of our plans--and ask if we ever thought about changing the name. And the investors who have been with us the longest knew our name was limiting us. Coupons.com was really just coupons. Quotient is ours to define.