TRENDS IN NAMING
Perhaps nowhere is the power and value of branding more visible than in the world of fashion. A house style, a designer label or a name have an immense impact on who consumes fashion, how they feel about themselves sporting your label and how much they’re willing to pay for it. From W, Code and Zara to Louise Vuitton and Vera Wang, fashion branding exerts a powerful influence on pop culture and tells us an interesting tale of how we see ourselves. From cult designer names to coined labels, from evocative and clever phrases to names that have been given meaning over time with steady myth-building, fashion branding is a complex marketing landscape with many layers of meaning and as many ways of thinking about brand names, as there are to accessorize a little black dress.
So say you’re creating a fashion brand. Where exactly do you begin?
The first step to creating a successful brand is to understand exactly what your product is, who it’s aimed at and what you want to say about it. Is it a signature designer line with haute couture aspiration? Is it daily wear for working women over 40 in India’s biggest cities? Is it for rich teens, eco-conscious urban elite or middle-class first jobbers? As you build a picture of your brand, you answer questions about what you aim to produce or source out, who your target group is, what materials you intend to use, whether you intend to have a sharply defined design language or not, at what level you want to cost and where you want to market your product.
The next step is to define the more intangible attributes of your brand, pitching invisible values, status codes and brand messages on to it. Does your brand have swagger or is it understated and elegant? Is it exclusive or does it beckon to everyone in the market? Does it have a stance?
NOT FOR EVERYONE:
Exclusive designer labels focus on a particular slice of the premium market, sticking closely to an ever-changing house style that defines them. The name of the designer inevitably signals the exclusivity of the brand. By using an individual designer’s name, a brand says, look at me, I’m one of a kind. I walk an imaginary runway wherever I go. From homegrown fashion celeb labels like Sabyasachi and Rohit Bal, to international behemoths like Berkin, Jimmi Choo or Stella Mc Cartney, designer brand such as these, intentionally signal custom-made, highly priced fashion which confers its opulence on the wearer.
A LA CARTE FASHION:
Coming a step beneath pure designer labels and a step above simple apparel retail are accessible fashion brand and fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, FCUK, Mango, UCB or Urban Outfitters. On a more affordable scale exist brands like Van Heusen, Biba or Global Desi. Much more wallet-friendly than couture, they nonetheless offer a very sharply targeted brand statement. They have a clear design sensibility and offer a sharp if mass-produced fashion statement to their target audience. In this category names can range from eccentric and evocative like Mango FCB, to faux designer names like Zara or Nicobar right down to brand stance statements like United Colours of Benneton or Forever 21. Denim brands like Levis, Pepe or Gap also create a very specific stance to go with their name, creating meaning where there was none originally.
OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE:
The final broad tier of fashion brands includes multi-brand retailers or mass fashion brands that make a little of something for everyone. The design language is inclusive, safe and conformative, aiming to offer a little of something for everyone. The product is costed at an easily affordable range and brand names are designed to invite everyone in. Examples for this type include retailer house labels like AJIO to Provogue, Puma, Crocs or Code by Lifestyle.
The various paths that you can follow for naming your brand are as below:
- Invented or Coined Names: Unique coined names are a good way to go for brands looking to market to a larger audience. These are created using other languages such as Greek, Latin or Sanskrit roots, by coining a phonetically apt name or by combining or changing existing terms to create something new. They can be neutral or imbued with an attitude. Examples of these include FCUK and Adidas.
- Evocative Names: Evocative names aim at creating an image within your mind about what the brand aspires to do for your emotionally. Examples include Nike which references the Greek Goddess of Victory and Flight and Hermes which references, the beautiful God Mercury, the messenger of the gods with winged feet.
- Experiential Names: These names are created to bring alive the human experience of the brand. Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 are examples of this type of coinage.
- Signature Names: Aimed at highlighting the pedigree of the brand these names take on the title of the designer behind the brand. Examples include Chanel and Versace for instance.
A STITCH IN TIME
While coming up with a brand name there are some caveats you need to keep in mind.
- Analyze the category and ensure that your name does not sound like everyone else in your competitive landscape.
- Avoid names that are tough to pronounce or spell or lengthy.
- Reinforce your brand positioning. Always keep your brand message in sight while coming up with the name. An outlandish or cool name that does not communicate your brand values will not serve you well in the long run.
- Avoid purely functional names. Names like TopShop, Lifestyle or Shopper’s Stop work for multi-brand retailers because they are neutral and inclusive. They will not serve a unique fashion brand well.
And last but not the least ensure you’re guided by brand experts that can read the market, create clear brand positioning and harness a creative pool to come up with a name that is unique, memorable and brand-worthy. This name is going to be the face that your consumer will learn to know over the course of your brand’s lifecycle. It deserves all the care, commitment and expense that you would invest in giving a good start to a newborn child. Happy naming!