the product naming blog

April 23, 2012

When Fashion Product Naming Goes Bad: Helen Keller Sunglasses

HelenKeller.pngIt's hard to know where to start when you read that a company has named a line of sunglasses after Helen Keller.

These sunglasses are sold as a fashionable, high-end product for the ultra-chic but this is no "lost in translation" moment.

The company in question, Xiamen Jinzhi, insists they were aware Helen Keller was a famous blind activist when they chose the name. The company says they named the sunglasses in honor of Keller's "philanthropy and optimism."

The tagline for the specs, "You see the world, the world sees you" is paired with ads that suggest when you wear these sunglasses you'll immediately attract the attention of the paparazzi.

At least one blogger thinks this might have been a "shortsighted idea." Another blog post is even more blunt, saying that this product answers the question "What kind of sunglasses do I wear if I want everyone to immediately know that I'm an idiot?"

Still, this just might be a respectful tribute to an avowed socialist instead of a naming faux pas. Or not.

Gizmodo asks whether or not a Stephen Hawking treadmill is on the way, which may put things in perspective for some.

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March 1, 2012

Navajo Nation in Product Naming Dispute With Urban Outfitters

NavajoFlaskUrbanOutfitters.jpegA few months ago I wrote on how Urban Outfitters got itself into trouble with the Navajo Nation over the use of the word "Navajo" in its product naming.

Urban Outfitters has been using the product name to sell clothing and other products without the stamp of approval from the Navajo Nation, who hold trademarks for the name that includes "clothing, footwear, online retail sales, household products and textiles."

Imagine their surprise when they found Urban Outfitters selling Navajo goods, including a "hipster panty" and a flask (pictured at right). These products, the Navajo say, are "derogatory and scandalous."

The Navajo Nation has decided to move forward and sue Urban Outfitters alleging "trademark violations and violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which makes it illegal to sell arts or crafts in a way to falsely suggest they're made by American Indians when they're not."

The lawsuit says "The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the 'Navajo' and 'Navaho' marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed."

Urban Outfitters has scaled back their use of the product name in catalogs, but have not done away with it entirely, with one spokesman saying "The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term 'Navajo' [has] been cycling thru fashion, fine art and design for the last few years."

Urban Outfitters may have an unlikely ally with Irish Americans who are irritated with the products the company is selling for St. Patrick's Day, which includes "Drunk Vomiting Shamrocks."

Even the people in Ireland say this is "not cool," with historian Michael Lavery noting "If you allow others to cheapen your culture like this they will find it easier to overlook you in every other sphere, from politics to culture."

He goes on to say "Urban Outfitters [is] trafficking in out of date stereotypes that have been used to diminish the Irish for centuries and I'm sorry to see it still happening in 2012."

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November 17, 2011

Tamara Mellon Leaves Jimmy Choo With Rights To Her Own Brand Name

tamara-mellon.jpgThe fashion icon Tamara Mellon has left Jimmy Choo.

Mellon's departure has left speculators to believe that she may start her own brand, leading everyone in advertising agog.

Here is a woman who really created the Jimmy Choo brand and who has the looks and savviness and even stared in the ads for the Jimmy Choo fragrance. As the Telegraph points out, "there aren't many chief executives who star in their own perfume ads."

Yeah. Make that basically none of them.

As Vogue's market editor has pointed out "she's incredibly glamorous, but also a successful businesswoman and single mother. She ticks a lot of boxes."

So the loss of Tamara Mellon for Jimmy Choo must be immense (think about how Apple must feel after losing Steve Jobs, but imagine if Jobs was incredibly, mind blowingly beautiful, and you get the idea).

Some people are simply the nuts and bolts behind the brand name.

Mellon has so much cred that we can expect anything from her, not least because Josh Schulman the creative director of Jimmy Choo, may be joining Mellon to form this, as of yet, unnamed brand.

Mellon has a cool £85 million (approximately $134 million) from the £525.5 million sale of the Jimmy Choo business, but this is almost beside the point because anyone in the fashion world would work with her.

Mellon has retained the rights to her own name, which is crucial, and she has long thought that Jimmy Choo could be a lifestyle brand.

I would expect to see her name being used on a more accessible, comprehensive lifestyle brand in the near future.

Tamara Mellon Perfume.jpg

This seems to be the way high fashion is heading in tough times anyway.

Everyone from Aerin Lauder at Estee Lauder (who founded the "luxury lifestyle brand" Aerin) to Karl Lagerfeld, who is gunning for masstige, the stylish but affordable market, with his own line of clothing, are moving from the boutique to the mall.

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November 7, 2011

Madonna Embraces Truth or Dare Brand Name for Millennial and Boomers Alike

Madonna.jpgThe announcement that Madonna is launching a lifestyle clothing line called Truth or Dare in 2012 is not really a surprise.

Her Material Girl brand for juniors seems well named and successful. The Truth or Dare line will be aimed at people closer to her age (53), and looks like a way to cater to the needs of, well, her original fans.

What is interesting about it is that the brand is supposed to appeal to women between the ages of 27-50.

This has a few bloggers scratching their heads, with one twenty-something blogger saying "I'm not sure that I can visualize a line that would be appropriate on women my age, as well as my mother's age." The same blogger says that the clothing line should be aimed at women over 45, for whom Madonna, with her timeless beauty, would act as a perfect brand icon.

Truth or Dare is taken from the name of her 1991 documentary, not from the name of the middle school game you played during sleepovers.

I think it has appeal and the name has a close association with Madonna herself.

But I can't help but think that a fifty-year-old woman has to be pretty daring to dress like a twenty-seven-year-old these days. If you do the math, a fifty-year-old woman was 30 when the documentary came out. But wait for it, she would have been 21 when Madonna's first hit came out, "Lucky Star" in 1983.

The twenty-seven-year-old woman buying this stuff was only six years old then.

Madonna stills plans on making music, by the way, with plans to sign on with the same label that gave us Lady Gaga. Now that is an interesting combination of names.

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October 28, 2011

Karl Lagerfeld Embraces Online "Masstige" Brand Name

Karl Lagerfeld.pngThey say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. That is unless you're talking about 78 year old fashion visionary Karl Lagerfeld.

He recently told CNN that his real name should be "Lablefeld," as he is aggressively building up his own name as a fashion brand separate from Chanel, where he is creative director. He now has a namesake signature "masstige" line called "Karl" that you can buy online at Net-a-Porter.

To support the launch he has organized the following blitz, which is designed to bring high fashion to the rest of us:

  • Pop-up shops in major cities, including Paris
  • Lagerfeld "experience" stores (A mix of his Karl line and a new high-end line, as well as all his other interests, like books)
  • Social media marketing
  • A brand book
  • Revamped website
  • Men's wear to hit in fall 2012

Think blazers, biker jackets, jeans, and t-shirts.

There is even a logo that shows his profile featuring his famous ponytail and sunglasses.

His high-end line, called Karl Lagerfeld Paris, will be relaunched in the European market. Add into this his new perfume, called Karleidoscope. He is licensing the name Karl Lagerfeld for an assortment of other products, including Fossil watches and luxury pens made out of nail polish (I know).

Karl is really getting his name out there, shilling for Diet Coke and VW among others. This seems to be a sudden move to make fashion accessible and affordable.

Or maybe just a savvy retirement plan for one of the doyens of fashion.

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