How bad an idea is naming a lingerie brand after the designer?
For anyone responsible or merely interested in brand creation, positioning and visual identity, ‘Designing Brand Identity’ written by Alina Wheeler is an excellent book. It’s an invaluable point of reference for the whole process while also featuring a shedload of real examples. Lots of colours, lots of visuals, and written in pretty straightforward prose.
While the primary market for the book would probably be people working in larger companies, it’s a great introduction nonetheless for those in smaller companies or indeed starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.
When it comes to lingerie branding, there’s a common tendency to use the designer’s name as the brand name. Why is this? It doesn’t come without its own issues.
BRAND NAME TYPES
Wheeler explains the different brand types available. There’s seven in total, namely:
Combinations (of the above)
Needless to say, I started thinking about lingerie brands and examples of each of the different name types.
|LINGERIE BRAND||BRAND TYPE|
|Attollo Lingerie||Descriptive (says what it does on the tin)|
|Foxers||Fabricated (distinctive, created name)|
|Bordelle||Metaphor (Using names, places, things, animals etc to project a quality)|
|Let me know!||ACRONYM|
|Creme Bralee||Magic Spell (altering spelling of an existing phrase)|
|Bombshell Gabrielle||Combinations of above|
Although not an extensive or rigorous search (mostly comprising of LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers/followed) the biggest group would probably be the combination of ‘METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE’, i.e. Pounce Underwear.
Attollo Lingerie is an interesting one. Yes, it’s DESCRIPTIVE in the sense that ‘…Lingerie‘ is part of the name. Also in a sense equally descriptive with ‘Attollo…‘ assuming you learned Latin at school! Some people might argue that it’s actually a combination of METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE given that the meaning isn’t obvious to non-Latin scholars. But I’ve got the casting vote in this instance and I think it’s being cleverly descriptive. So there. (Good luck, A+F)
I also think Bombshell Gabrielle is a great name: a combination of METAPHOR + FOUNDER, with the bonus of sounding great when spoken. (Take a bow, Gabby)
As you’d expect, the same applies to lingerie retailers, with many brand name types well represented. Boutiques such as Gabriella Sandham and Caroline Randell are ‘Founders’ while others such as A Sophisticated Pair belong in the ‘Metaphor’ pair. There is no shortage whatsoever of ‘METAPHOR + DESCRIPTIVE’ and ‘FOUNDER + DESCRIPTIVE’ combinations. The latter is pretty self-explanatory. There will be a differentiating name, metaphor etc coupled with ‘…Lingerie’ or ‘…Intimates’. This obviously doesn’t do any harm whatsoever when it comes to SEO.
FOUNDER NAMES: PERILS AND PITFALLS ?
When describing ‘Founder’ brand names, Wheeler explains:-
“Many companies are named after the founders: Ben & Jerry’s, Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Mrs. Fields. It might be easier to protect. It satisfies an ego. The downside is that it is inextricably tied to a real human being.”
A few things spring to mind here. Wheeler mentions ego: something vital to possess when starting up a business. A thick skin helps too. This is amplified when it’s something as personal as designing lingerie, especially if it’s high end / couture. It can represent the thoughts, feelings, desires and so on of the designer.
But is the decision to name the company after oneself a sign of too big an ego? Or a lack of imagination? Personally, I doubt the latter. If a designer can produce some stunning designs but not a distinctive identity there’s something very wrong.
Also, what happens if the designer walks in front of a bus or gets caught in some embarrassing tabloid sting? (There’s a reason marketing and advertising agencies create fictional brand characters). What if further down the line there’s a boardroom punch up and the designer/founder leaves the company but legally cannot use his or her own name as a new trading name? (This HAS happened in the creative industries: Saatchi & Saatchi is a prime example).
MEANING TO A NAME?
But what are the implications of using the designer’s name in the lingerie branding world?
You see, words are powerful things. Not on their own of course (they’re just groups of letters strung together), but through shared meaning and fields of experience. Basically, how words are perceived and interpreted by others. These words immediately conjure up certain images.
When I see the name Pounce Underwear I can IMMEDIATELY start forming an idea in my mind about the type of items being sold and who their likely target markets are. It also gives a clue about the brand essence (its DNA, if you like), personality and perhaps the people behind the brand.
My mind has no difficulty in visualising images around ‘Pounce’, pouncing, or being pounced upon. It suggests something racy and animalistic, verging on predatory, even. Ooh la la. ‘Led by instinct’ they proudly proclaim on their website. You see how the picture in your head is being defined that bit more?
In a similar vein, Bordelle also conjures up something. Agent Provocateur? No further explanation required. I know immediately that these aren’t the sorts of safe, homely brands being talked about in care homes or down at the local WI.
In contrast, what do the names our dear old Mum and Dad gave us convey?
Consider two fictitious lingerie firms, called let’s say, “Amanda Jones” and “Jane Williams”. From this I have no idea if Amanda’s wares are more exciting than the ones offered by Jane, who in turn are more exciting than another brand called “Emma”.
Furthermore, are all ‘Amandas’ homogonous in their ‘brand essence and values’ ? Of course not.
Let’s step outside the lingerie sector for a moment to illustrate this more effectively.
Think of Ralph Lauren. On its own it’s just a name, but then apply an endorsed brand architecture with the introduction of ‘Polo’. The word and logo immediately conjures up images of a sport played and watched by the upper classes and all the associated trappings of that ecosystem. Wealth, status, success, influence: all these things come to mind. It’s easy to see how that one word has far more power in its ability to create a strong brand image and position in the minds of customers than mere ‘Ralph Lauren’. Capische ?
It’s all well and good if the person has already achieved widespread fame, and an enviable lifestyle that others aspire to…. And all the trappings that go with it. Think of all the actors, actresses, sports stars and athletes who suddenly have fragrances introduced in their name. It’s the intended rub-off effect of those people who’ve already made it, and the values they hold or behaviours they exhibit. Once more, their names per se are irrelevant. Its their brand values that are the big draw.
Conversely, it’s not so hot if the designer is still living with parents in the suburbs rather than a plush Mayfair penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. ‘Faking it til you make it’ won’t work. Consumers are too savvy.
(That said, moving back in with the oldies makes for great short-term business sense, keeping your cash flow and expenses in order. As for your sanity, that’s another matter!)
Perhaps there’s a certain exoticism in having a foreign name and marketing it in a foreign country. In marketing terms it would be associated with ‘country of origin effect.’ Or some sort of perceived erotic arbitrage. The obvious downside is that its own domestic market may view it less enthusiastically.
If someone enters ‘sexy lingerie’ into Google and the choice comes up between ‘Pounce’, ‘Bordelle’ or just someone’s name, I know which one I’d put my money on to receive the least clicks. Furthermore, if Amanda’s garments are erotic, provocative and conjuring up images of all sorts of debauchery and not at all designed with the school or supermarket run in mind, then isn’t such a nondescript name arguably a disservice?
But there’s something else to be considered: purchase rationale. What if the searcher’s key criterion is functionality rather than thrills? In this instance the named designer might get a look in, especially if the page description hits the spot. But what if the searcher is looking for something spicier?
What about lingerie bought by men for their beloved (or be-lusted) ? Smart guys will have undertaken a covert rake through his partner’s knicker drawer to see what floats her boat. In this instance if he comes across a few items from a named designer during his rummaging, then that will be his initial reference point when going online to investigate further.
But, given that men – anecdotally at least – are often guilty at the best of times of buying far racier skimpies for their partners in crime than what the women would normally buy themselves, what chance does lingerie designed by ‘Jane Doe’ stand in the Google results when listed alongside more thought-provoking brands such as Fraulein Kink and Bordelle? Again, I know where I’d put my money.
If the designer is at the very beginning of his or her career, then they may feel that simply getting their name out there and recognised is critical. On one hand, brand awareness is of course vitally important.
On the other, lack of sales will kill a business quicker. Having a recognised name out there is useless if the revenue and profit figures are depressing. And if a brand name is not attracting attention, creating interest, and helping to arouse desire and convince consumers to take action and buy, then what’s the point of it?
Maybe the use of the designer’s name is to try and appeal to a broad church and not limit themselves to one category. But trying to appeal to everybody is always going to end in tears. If I had a heart problem, who would I rather see: my GP or a cardiologist?
But the most important priority is to be revenue earning and making a profit. Having one’s own name in lights or on a swing label is a distant second. In other words, choose the brand identity which will have the biggest impact on the bottom line.
In a fast-living world, where time is in short supply and faced with 24/7 digital media and relentless advertising assaults on one’s mind, a company can have only the slightest of moments to make an impression. Make it count. Choose an identity that immediately means something to someone.
As you’ll no doubt appreciate, branding is a huge topic in its own right. And I’ll be coming back to it in future posts. So I’ll leave more talking points for then. But if you’re sufficiently stirred – for better or worse – by these here words, get in touch. Send a tweet or indulge yourself with flowing prose.
Until next time!