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Highsnobiety Commentary August, 1 2013
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The DO’s and DON’Ts of Naming a Brand

Whether it’s naming your firstborn or merely looking to put together the perfect word cluster to perfectly evoke a sensation for a variety of creative endeavors in the world of music, art and fashion, choosing the right moniker proves to be an important – and at times diabolical – a choice a person will ever have to face. Specifically, when launching a brand into an already crowded sartorial sector, being too on the nose creates a sense of being stale rather than nostalgic, while being too on the edge of innovation creates a feeling of “lost in translation.” Over the years, we as an editorial staff have been inundated with an array of emails announcing the arrival of the next “hype” brand – relying on one word statements as if Guy Ritchie film titles, or more lengthy choices that read like a copy of Mad Libs. Using that knowledge as a point of reference, our editorial staff presents some do’s and don’ts if you ever think about trying your hand at fashion.

David Fischer – Founder & Publisher

Unlike most people I actually believe that the brand name is not as important, as long as the product is good. By that I mean of course that a mediocre brand name at first, might become a fantastic brand name, simply because the product speaks for itself and is outstanding. A poor brand name on the other hand will make your life as a brand owner harder than it has to be. If you have to fight too hard to overcome the bad brand name, then something clearly went wrong. Bottom line, think carefully about the brand name you choose, while also not losing too much time with it and moving on to making great product.

Some of the most obvious mistakes that I see is falling into current brand name trends; that might be over quicker than you think. Do not use French words in your U.S. streetwear brand name, that ship has sailed already. Especially do not do it if you are not aware what the words you are using actually mean. Do not remove all vowels from your brand name, that one was hot a long time ago and is also over now. It does not need to mean anything, it can be entirely imaginary. Keep in mind that with the Internet everything is global, so make sure that people all around the world can actually pronounce it (unlike Highsnobiety, lol). Highsnobiety is pronounced in the U.S. most of the time “Highsnobriety” and Selectism many times “Selecticism” – you see, easy to pronounce will make your life a lot easier.

To be continued….

Pete Williams – Editor-in-Chief

Full disclosure. I myself have named a brand. Twice. The first brand name I came up with was honestly so bad that I have sworn to never mention it publicly… at first I thought it was cool and unique but after one season, it felt whack. To get to the point, DON’T make up words or purposefully misspell things (or as David mentions use words from a language you do not speak) or you’re going to have to explain your brand name every time it comes up. It’s going to get very tedious, very fast, if not downright embarrassing. Remember, if things go well (and in unfortunately this industry, it’s a big if) you will have to live with your brand name for a long, long time. So DO think about growth. Will you still like this name in 5, 10, 20 years and will it work with what the product you imagine making at that point?

First impressions are important. You know this. So to come back to having to clarify the name – what is the first thing someone thinks of when they hear yours? Many times you won’t have the opportunity to explain it. If confusion is the first reaction, you’re in a bad place. As mentioned by David, good product is the most important thing in the world of apparel, and in many cases can and will speak for itself, but the big factor here is that you don’t want to end up with a name that takes away or distracts from the product itself. How many times have you seen a cool product and said “I just wish it didn’t say ___ on it.” DON’T be that brand.

Another big DO from personal experience: if you’re serious about your name, protect it. Trademarking is a long, tedious process, and costs money, but the headaches that can be avoided in the future are 100% worth it. The last thing you want is to come up with the perfect name only to have someone else take it from you, and vice-versa – do your research before launching a brand. You don’t want to go through all the hard work of creating product just to have someone else (rightfully) coming after you either.

In this day and age, you also want to be able to secure as many social media handles as you can, and see how your term factors into a Google search, so check for those before diving in.

And lastly, once you do choose a name, DO be ready for people to make fun of it. My advice in general for any endeavor is not to take yourself too seriously, but know that people will refer to your brand as Brought Up by Foxes or Raised by your Mother.

Luis Ruano – Art Director

When this subject came up last week, I started to think of quintessential American brands and how they’ve managed to stand the test of time. A good brand name should serve a personal interest, whether obvious or a bit more subliminal.

Building off what Pete mentioned, most people will fail before they can succeed, myself included. If the first name doesn’t work out, go with something else. Even though this isn’t exactly fashion, I was reading a bit about how Google was initially named BackRub. The name was a bit peculiar, but it was derived from the fact that the system Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed was designed to check backlinks, in effect, estimating the importance of said website rankings. Eventually they changed their name to Google, based off googol, a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros, reflecting their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.

I feel like the most important approach you can take with a brand is producing something that is genuine to what you’re trying to achieve. I see too many brands focused on milking the cash cow with trendy names that in a few months won’t really be effective. Push creativity and don’t be afraid to come up with something crazy. The brand I’m developing has 17 characters. Like David said, the product will speak for itself.

Alec Banks – Editor

One of the most helpful pieces of advice I got when I decided I was going to make a run at the creative field is that “the audience wants to believe.” Whether you’re writing a film, documenting a person for a profile, or in this case naming a brand, it’s okay to assume that the person who is doing the consumption is willing to take a leap of faith, but it’s your job as the auteur/brand director to ensure that the experience is one that is met with a certain “challenging accessibility” rather than a twisted and confusing narrative. I have an entire list of brands that rely on gimmick spelling, capitalization and usage of numbers that I’ve gathered as a means of always getting it right for editorial purposes (I think it’s about four pages long and is the largest gathering of umlauts in recorded memory). For me, a new brand name shouldn’t be hard to pronounce or spell for the simple fact that editors out there want to convey authority to a readership, and if there is any confusion regarding naming and country of origin, that’s a huge problem. Think about how many times a website will mention the name, the designer, and where the brand is from – those are the most important things because even if that person doing the writeup doesn’t have specifics regarding that Fair Isle print, at least the other key details will be in tact.

It’s like Frank Lucas said in American Gangster, “Brand names mean something, Nicky. Consumers rely on them to know what they’re getting. They know the company isn’t going to try to fool them with an inferior product. They buy a Ford, they know they’re gonna get a Ford. Not a fuckin’ Datsun. Blue Magic that’s a brand name; like Pepsi, that’s a brand name. I stand behind it, I guarantee it. They know that even if they don’t know me any more than they know the chairman of General Mills.”

Selectism