Ayds Considers Changing Its Name to Aydslim

Times Staff Writer

Ayds, the diet candy desperately in search of a new name, may have found a new one--Aydslim.

That is the name being test-marketed for the appetite suppressant bedeviled by a name that sounds like the deadly AIDS virus.

“We hope this takes the curse off of it,” said Robert Berglass, chairman of Dep Corp., the Rancho Dominguez-based manufacturer that also makes such familiar consumer products as Lavoris mouthwash and Topol toothpaste. While most of Dep’s other products have seen sales rise over the past few years, sales of Ayds have plummeted as much as 50%, he said.


Since January, Ayds has been sold in new packaging under the names Aydslim in the United Kingdom. If sales improve sufficiently there, the product could be sold under the new name in the United States later this year, said Berglass. Several new flavors--such as apple and black currant--are also being tested in Britain. In the meantime, Ayds packages sold in the United States will soon have the word “diet” stamped in front of the name brand Ayds.

Doubts Are Voiced

“Every time I get a phone call from someone.” Berglass said, “they end the conversation with the same question: By the way, did you solve the Ayds name problem yet?”

Berglass hopes this will solve it. But several marketing experts have their doubts.

“I think it’s a dumb move,” said Charles E. Brymer, president of the New York-based product-naming company, Interbrand USA. “They should just walk away from the name Ayds, and relaunch it under a new name. The whole AIDS issue has become so large that I would not want to market anything under that name.” Indeed, more than 40,000 people in the U.S. are believed to have AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and federal health officials project that the total will exceed 270,000 by 1991.

“It doesn’t seem like they’ve moved the name a very far distance,” agreed Donald Sexton, marketing professor at Columbia University. “But I realize it is a very delicate matter.”

Others, however, say the conservative name change may be for the best. “If you change the name, you give up the equity,” said Ira Bachrach, president of San Francisco-based NameLab Inc. “Besides, the problem with the name is more in the mind of the media than the consumer.”

Berglass says an entirely new name would not only cost too much money, but also kill nearly half a century of advertising and marketing that has been invested in the Ayds name. “If we change the name completely, then we have nothing,” said Berglass. “Maybe Procter & Gamble could afford to walk away from a product after 47 years, but we can’t.”

Only a Fraction

Also, Dep has spent the past year trying to sell its Ayds division so that the company can concentrate on its much larger--and more successful--lines of health and beauty products. Berglass said he doesn’t want to spend millions of dollars on a product that the company may soon unload.

And even though Ayds seems to be garnering a lot of media attention, it accounts for only a fraction of Dep’s annual sales of $66.8 million.

Despite the drop in sales of Ayds, it is a profit maker for the company, Berglass said. But Ayds’ current annual sales of about $7 million are roughly half what they were during the product’s heyday in the early 1980s, Berglass said.

While a box of Ayds costs about $5, Dep has spent $250,000 trying to find a new name for it. “This is a small problem with a gigantic profile,” said Berglass. “We’d like to stop discussing it.”