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April 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
I6.jpg'll be the first to tell you that I've got a really cool wife. She's stylish, smart, funny, and there's that whole thing about her carrying my unborn child that makes her all the more appealing...

Anyhow, my wife was flipping through a magazine about pregnancy and came across this great little invention that is basically a soft and stylish blanket with a short strap that links around the neck of a nursing mother so that the little tyke can drink in privacy. The product is made by BEBE AU LAIT - a very classy sounding company in this namer's opinion. Even the tagline, "nursing covers for chic mothers" points to upscale and stylish customers. So it rather makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking when they named this spiffy new product...

Hooter Hiders(tm)

Really. That's the name.

Apparently it got the name because some male friend called it that upon seeing it in use.

I must admit that the name is quite descriptive.

But, no, I don't like it.

My reasons:
  1. When was the last time you heard a style-conscious breast-feeding mom refer to her life-giving breasts as "hooters?"hooters_triplets.jpg
  2. The disconnect between the word "chic" and "hooters" is huge. In fact, when searching the internet for "Chic Hooters" I found many hits. All of them seem to be porn sites that evidently can't spell "Chick." Imagine walking into a trendy boutique in New York... now ask yourself if you'd expect to see the bra section labeled "hooter holders."
  3. If a husband is going to buy his wife something for her... assets... I'm guessing more often than not it is going to involve the displaying of said assets rather than the hiding of them. Why does this matter? Because the name "Hooter Hiders" is a name that I believe is more targeted at the male psyche than the female one. Think I'm being stupid? Ask yourself this: Why aren't there any companies marketing breast pumps as "Knocker Kneaders?" I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that men aren't good at spelling silent letters.
  4. It is never a good idea to go up against La Leche League. Based on what I've read of theirs (and I do like 'em... I really do) it seems that anything that inhibits the fresh-air experience of breast feeding in public is to be shunned. The Courts often support them. Feeding an infant is pretty-much the only time a woman's breast can be publicly displayed in the United States while staying within the bounds of the law. Upsetting a bunch of lactating women by suggesting that they abandon their rights... yeah... not so smart.
  5. You will never get any desireable spokespeople to stand up and proclaim your product is worthwhile. Can you imagine Oprah, Gweneth, or Angelina saying they can't live without Hooter Hiders? Anna Nicole (GRHS) might have been up to the challenge, but few others would dare.
  6. EXTRAFUNTIMEBONUS Reason: The name logically doesn't work. Hooter (singular) Hiders (plural) implies one of a few things. Choose from a sampling:
    1. More than one of the product is needed to entirely hide one hooter
    2. Only one breast should be hidden
    3. The product is sold in packs (and thus must be referred to with the plural) like Huggies.
    4. A secret membership organization that advocates either:
      1. Going around placing one of their breasts in hard to find locations OR
      2. Finding owls and forcing them into said hard to find locations (presumably after aforementioned breasts have been removed.)
  • Note that there's a pretty good reason they likely didn't go with the grammatically correct version of "Hooters Hider" since it would be homonymic with "Hooter Cider" and I'm thinkin' that wouldn't go over well.
There are a couple of ways that the name could work - but they're even more risky than I would personally advocate for
  1. Get the backing of La Leche League and use this as a way to dissuede the populace from asking to have breast-feeding women cover their breasts. Make them use to "proper name" for the product. "Oh, you mean you want me to pull out my Hooter Hiders? Sure... just ask me to use it and I'll do so." Most of the people offended by the sight of a woman's breast probably will have trouble saying the word "breast" so I'm guessing that "Hooter" will be a near impossibility.
  2. Market 'em to husbands. Instead of going for chic and trendy go for comical. Have the designs show a woman holding a big bottle of beer up to her chest instead of a kid.
  3. Wait for the next "Sex and the City" type show or movie and pay major bucks to get the product mentioned in the script or used by one of the sexy progressive women.
If Hooter Hiders does choose to market to men I know just the professional race car driver to pitch the product.

Until then this one goes in my naming Misstep Hall o' Shame. (I may change my opinion of the kind folks at BEBE AU LAIT send us a sample and my wife can actually use it and also tell her grandma what it is. I think I'm safe in saying that she won't be able to bring herself to do so...)

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
January 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
I read a short blurb on page M6 of the 1/28/07 Washington Post (Registration Required) that I just wanted to quickly address.

If you're a pop star and have your own line of name brand clothing you probably should wear your own brand instead of everyone else's. Jessica Simpson appears to have missed this lesson. A quote from the Post indicates:jessicasimpson.bmp
Her shoe line, launched in 2005, is popular with shoppers looking for trendy styles, but the singer and actress has reportedly ruffled feathers for failing to embrace one of celebrity fashion's most basic commandments: Thou shalt wear thine own brand's clothes. "A PR disaster," says Claire Brooks, president of brand consulting company ModelPeople Inc.

I agree with Ms. Brooks. But this is more than a PR disaster, it devastates the brand and makes what might have been a strong personal name brand into a weak one.

The power of using a recognizable personal name for consumer goods seems to me to be that it connects the consumer to the named person. If a consumer learns that the named person doesn't actually use the product then the link between product and person is more tenuous - and this weakening has the potential to devalue both the product and the personality attached to it.

Imagine if Trump didn't ever stay in his own hotels or if George Foreman had silly Austrialians in sweaters demonstrating his products. What would that say about their products?

Maybe Jessica is just adding to her well-groomed ditzy blonde image.

Think of the products you use that are named after a well known figure. How many of those products aren't used by their namesake (or their living relatives?) If you can't think of any just consider the name-brand folks below:

  • George Foreman
  • Donna Karan
  • Martha Stewart
  • Ford
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Michael Jordan

I'm no fashion maven, but it seems that the most succesful designers live and breathe their own stuff. If they didn't then they'd be encouraging the use of competitive products.

Anyone out there able to tell me what's up with Ms. Simpson? Perhaps this is a case of having sold her name to a company that just sticks her name on the product and doesn't allow her any influence? (I've heard many horror stories about this - especially amongst sports stars - and they all end badly.)

(I probably should revisit this topic and look at the difference between designers and the name on the label. They are two distinct groups and I shouldn't have just lumped 'em together.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

October 31, 2006 | Tate Linden

Lane Bryant (a plus-sized women's clothing catalogue) is changing its name. New Name: Woman Within.

On the surface this is a fine name. We like the empowerment aspect that the label brings - wear our clothes and honor your feminine side. For a group of people that sometimes don't feel feminine at all (because of public perception) the name serves as an affirmation. It is also an existing brand name that the target clients are comfortable with.

The Woman Within brand has been around for fifteen years.

The name certainly has risks, however. If you take a cynical view the name can even be insulting. It took a leap of faith (or perhaps an act of putting on blinders) to adopt the name in the nineties. This is the sort of name that ends up on the lips of offensive comedians and talk-show hosts. It isn't a difficult leap to turn this empowering name into one that could tear the target customer down.

How might this be? For someone sensitive about their weight the suggestion that they are hiding a woman underneath their girth probably wouldn't be taken kindly.

I find it intriguing that the name went forward anyhow, and that the public hasn't pushed the negative aspect. We'll see if the added visibility of the Lane Bryant marketing machine puts this on the radar of the cynics (other than me.)

If there's a lesson in this it is that you can succeed even if you have a potentially risky name. Companies often agonize over names that might be taken the wrong way - to the point that they create meaningless Latinate names that avoid both offense and connotation. We've had a client that avoided a name containing the word "touch" because they thought it sounded pedophillic...

If you look hard enough at any meaningful but innocuous word you can find a negative. We have had people write our own name as "Strokefire" a few times - which connotes an entirely different sort of butsiness to us. But it isn't enough of an issue to abandon our name. We've also heard that some folks use the word "stoke" to mean "have sex with" but we're still not going to change. At some point you must accept that the target client isn't going to interpret the name badly and just move forward. The key is to be aware of the risks and associations and be able to respond and adapt to them.

Simply put... Avoiding risk leads to avoiding success. And that's not why we're in business.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 16, 2006 | Tate Linden
adidas may have found the Kryptonite to weaken the Nike hold on basketball-shoe dominance. At least in theory. You see, they've put two different ideas together - a cool brand idea and a trendy alternate spelling of a number.

We like one of 'em... but the other smacks of highscool cool-kid tactics.

The adidas brand is being recentered on the idea of a team - a "we, not me" approach. This is a direct attack on the current market leader - Nike. Nike spent millions of dollars pushing the idea that being an all-star is the ultimate goal, and that to be an all-star you gotta be able to humiliate your opponent - freezing them, dunking over them, putting the ball between their legs... The goal was to out hustle your opponent one-on-one.

People weren't wearing Nikes because they wanted to be team players, they were wearing them because they wanted to "Be Like Mike." Sure, Jordan was one of the best team players ever, but there's a reason why the posters plastered on the walls of aspiring ballers never seemed to contain thrilling pics of him passing off the ball. Think Jordan and Nike and you get high-flying, toung stickin' out, in your face skill(z).

That adidas would go in the other direction and point out that one person can't make a team (as evidenced by Jordan during his time with the Wizards) points to how seriously they're taking this. Not many people go against what Nike does. They've had a magic touch of lately.

What I personally like about this is that they're actually going after a larger market than Nike is. Sure everyone thinks that they're all-stars, but
October 11, 2006

ABC World News drops "Tonight" from name. Nation tries to tune in yesterday, tomorrow, and this morning but fails to find Charles Gibson anywhere.

Halloween Action Committee makes effort to rename Halloween to "Freakfest". We say that the name Halloween Action Committee is no Prince Charming itself.

Eric’s Family restaurants change their name to Love & Hunger. We thought Hooters had a lock on that. Oh... nevermind. That's lust.

A new brand of baby food starts with all the different foods mashed up together already - saving your kids all sorts of time. We're hoping that "peas with mint and fruity rice pudding" are two distinct offerings, but even so... peas with mint? Naming content: What's a Piwi?

Snatch Master as name for a data mining tool? Why are you laughing? No, really. Why?

MacAddict wants to re-brand as Mac|Life. Because when was the last time you used the | key anyway?

Can Kohl's target Target? Uninspired minds want to know. And as far as cage matches go, we think "a battle with J.C. Penney for middle-income clothing buyers" is something we'll not be watching on Pay-Per-View.
August 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
Hey kids!

Ever wanted to know if you could come up with the next "Just Do It" or "Where's the Beef?" Now you can see if you've got what it takes. Threadless has created a nifty little pseudo-competition that allows you to test your mettle at either wordcraft or design (just click the tab on the page to get to the slogan portion.)

We've been a big fan of Threadless tees for about two years, and tend to give out the shirts to unsuspecting relatives who universally say "Umm... gee. Thanks?" (Most Threadless tees seem to be printed just to get people to ask what the shirt means.)

Our recent purchase of this shirt (our first slogan-only tee - for use on casual cycling days) has made us think that just maybe we could bend our naming and tagline skills to this purpose. The challenge is on.
April 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
I just read the Wall Street Journal's ego piece on Armani. I think he's dissing me personally... or if not personally, he would be dissing me personally if he knew me, or knew of people like me, or saw that I had a Ficus-naming contest.

Anyhow, he provides five tips in the article (for which you will have to pay to read) and the last one is:
"I can't accept men wearing sports jackets in a board meeting. Sports jackets are for weekends."
Dangit! All I wear are sports jackets (except for on weekends.) I'm guessing he won't approve of my jeans, broadcloth shirt, and leather shoes, then. Nor will he enjoy my acute lack of anything resembling a tie around my neck.

Personal note to Giorgio - Yeah, most boardrooms probably call for a matching ensemble suit/tie combo. Not all of 'em do though. Mine? No suits, please. Sure - if you want to be seen as a conformist then by all means. Even in one of your suits I'd still think that a guy would be out of place. Classy, probably a tad too warm, maybe thirsty too, and likely better looking than all of us - but still completely out of place.

Also - your first comment that "Polyester is a fantastic fabric" makes me feel a little better about disagreeing with you. I've tried polyester and, frankly, was not particularly impressed. Especially poly shirts... I mean, come on. You tuck 'em in and before you can get your hand out the tail has already removed itself from your pants, and done so in such a silky and quiet way that the only way you'll find out is after you've passed by the cute receptionist who blushes at your predicament.

Hypothetically speaking this type of event would have been before my non-hypothetical marriage, of course. That is, if this had happened at all, which I am most assuredly not really saying it did. Not.

That is all Giorgio. Rest assured I could have gone on far longer, but feel you have been suitably upbraided for now. Be glad this one was just between us.
April 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
If you're reading this then you're probably pretty aware of the concept of branding and which brands you like.

Okay, here's a question for you. Without looking, can you name the brand of socks that you are wearing today?

I bet most of you have no idea. I didn't know myself. Why is it that I know what type of shirt (Tailor Byrd) jeans (Lucky) shoes (Camper) and underwear (Jockey - probably more than you wanted to know) that I'm wearing, but when it comes to socks I've got no clue? I didn't even need to check the brand name on any of the other stuff.

Okay - so now I'm intrigued. I pull off my shoes (thankfully I'm at my home-office today) and check for a brand name. Nothing - no tag (though I'm glad of that - nothing to itch), no sewn in name on the ankle, bottom of foot, or toe. Not even anything remarkable about the design - no raised toe-stitch or splash of color.

I shop at name-brand stores and buy socks that cost about $10.00 a pair. I would have thought that anyone charging that much for what is essentially a disposable piece of clothing would be intersted in creating some brand recognition by informing their consumers of their name. After all, if I don't know who made my socks then I probably won't be able to find them again.

I know that some sock makers put their names on their goods - or have signature looks - especially Gold Toe. I also understand why it might not be intuitively important to have a visible name (most men's business socks aren't meant to be seen.) But it seems to me that those that skip the label step miss out not only on advertising, but on brand loyalty as well.

How is this applicable outside the world of socks? Think about how you label your own product or service - not just the sign on the door or name on the box. Once people are using your product as intended and have thrown away the wrapper are they going to be able to find you again? Will they remember your name? Will they be able to refer more business your way?

If you only want one sale (or your product is so bad that you don't expect repeat buyers) then don't let it concern you (and stop reading this blog!) If you want buyer loyalty then minimally you have to give your buyer enough information to find you again when it's time to renew/repurchase/reengage.

Addendum: I hereby pledge to buy only socks that I can actually find again if I like them. Life is too short to serially change sock brand loyalties. And, though it has never happened, I will hereafter be prepared to answer the sock-related question, "Who are you wearing?"

Addendum II: Trackback to a wonderful (and profane - you've been warned) POV stated by a peeved consumer. The stated view is that there's no reason to have 'branded socks' among other things. Great to see real people upset with the bunch of copycat brands on the market. Click Here to view. The language is a quite rough, but the sentiment is valid.