Naming a product line pt.68

Between Miracle and me, I don’t know how many entries we’ve written about product and company naming, hence pt.68. Chalk it up as one of my affectations. This entry is about Misty who does have the book but was getting inordinate influence from well meaning friends. Just because someone likes you, has your best interests at heart and is a good friend, doesn’t mean their advice is any good. Between the advice she’s getting and the brand she’s managed to create, she is having some difficulty separating the concept of a company name, naming a product line and branding. She produces an infant wear product we’ll call “Picky Bum” (the real name is cuter).

Her friends were lobbying that she name her company “Sew Picky”. If you’ve read my book, you know why a name like that is a death knell (pg. 16-17); there’s no better way to instantly destroy your credibility with anyone who sees or hears it. She knows this and needed some back up. Still, I think there’s a disconnect based on this comment she made to me:

I totally agree with you that Sew Picky was terrible, but while I love PickyBum for the products, no grown woman or man wants to wear a shirt with a “pickybum” label, do they? I like “Picky” as the business name but justpicky.com as the domain name, since all the picky.extensions are taken.


Let’s review. There’s a difference between your company name and your product line(s). While I realize you may be a tiny company (one person) you need more than one name. I realize that seems like overkill, needing two names representing one person but that’s the wrong view. While you imbue the company with your values and standards, it is not you. It is a separate entity. Just as you are not your company, your product line(s) are not your company either. Your company (separate from you) imbues your product with its influence.

Now, you can name them as you please, but you have to think ahead. In this case, Misty mentions “no grown woman or man wants to wear a shirt with a “pickybum” label” which means she has an eye towards growth, branching into new product lines. As such, these product lines should not share the same name. In other words, secondary product lines are not the child lines of your first line. Think of these as sibling lines. Maybe George Foreman can get away with naming all of his kids “George” but few have the penache to execute that successfully. Besides, he’s not selling his children and doesn’t need to worry about creating an independent image for each of them in the marketplace. In other words:

Your company is the parent of your product line(s).

  • Product line 1 (infant product)
  • Product line 2 (women’s shirts)
  • Product line 3 (men’s shirts)

As such, each sibling brand (infant product, women’s shirts, men’s shirts) needs it’s own name. Each needs to have it’s own identity (brand). While they may have all come from you, just like your individual children, they will live their own lives. The reason is that down the road, you may become acquired or some of your product lines may die, just like people. It is entirely possible that someone may be interested in only buying one or just some of your product lines or brands but not the company. Likewise, they’ll only want a product line with it’s own identity. The family analogy is if your daughter is being courted, her beau is not interested in acquiring her pesky younger siblings in the deal or you for that matter.

One final word on the parent (company) name. This can be something very blase and tepid. Personally, I love names like XYZ Mfg. with no hint of the child brand names they may hold. It tells me the company is professional, serious and pragmatic with little ego involved. You want consumers to identify with the name of the given product line that appeals to them, not the parent company. The name of the parent company should appeal to your peers and colleagues, not consumers. The names of parent companies that own the most successful brands are virtually unknown to consumers. A great example is Kellwood. Kellwood owns Baby Phat, Calvin Klein, Hanna Anderson, Nautica, Prophecy, Sag Harbor, XOXO etc, and some of each of those respective lines have product lines that have varying product line names similarly distinct from their parent line. In such case, Kellwood would be the grandparent of each parent line in the stable. In summary, thinking ahead means adopting name practices of Kellwood not George Foreman.

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8 comments

  1. dosfashionistas says:

    I think this is going to partially depend on how she is and will be selling her product. I totally agree on the business name being something dull and practical. But for a small company, there is value in the product names having continuity. Mothers who buy the infant brand should know immediately that they have picked up something made by the makers of the infant brand, etc. Again, it is part of your brand to be identifiable. Not so important for the Kellwoods, indeed, they don’t want us to be aware that the same people who make Hanna Andersson have anything to do with Sag Harbour. But Hanna Andersson uses the same name on their catalog as goes into the clothing. And it goes into all of the clothing, from infants to adults.

    I realize that this just makes the task more difficult, but I think it is a point to consider. At the point that the business goes into the public eye, probably, is the point where everything should be part of the brand id. Picky Woman, Picky Men? Picky Enterprises? Probably just XYZ Enterprises.

  2. Lameka says:

    I have read that section of the book a few times but I thought I was doing too much by having my company name and line names different from each other. The analogy you used aboved made it very clear to me. Thanks!

  3. Lisa NYC says:

    this makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, I’ve already registered my business name as Downtown Joey (same as my product line). And every once in a while I do some girls’ special occasion dresses…I usually sell the girls’ under the label Domestic Diva.

    If I keep my main product line Downtown Joey, does anyone have suggestions on a business name change which would include the name “Downtown?”

    With friendship,
    Lisa

  4. kim owen says:

    Another thing to consider is trademarking…if you are going to spend lots of time, energy and cash on creating a brand identity for your line, make sure you have a right to use that name! Go to http://www.uspto.gov/ and do a search on your name. Garments are Class 25. Almost every conceivable name is taken, you have to be really creative when you name your line. I personally went through 5 different names when naming my children’s line. It was really challenging. I would think up something oh-so clever only to find out 50 other folks had tried to register the name or some variation of it. ( BTW, my corporation name is pretty generic).

    I hired a ttrademark attorney to do the work, but you can do preliminary work yourself online. Use the above link, or order a report from Thomson Compumark, about $500, but tells you everything.

    Nothing would be worse than working hard to create your brand only to have the name and/or mark already taken, and you are looking at trademark infringement!

  5. Kim,

    Thanks for the info. Can you be more specific about where to go to search once you hit that home page. Garments are class 25–but where do you find the classes? I just couldn’t navigate this site.

    Thank you.
    Marguerite

  6. Marie-Christine says:

    Let me go back to something that got swept under the rug there… The domain name is also very important. If you have company XYZ Mfg making Picky Bumm, you need to go in business with at least pickybumm.com, so your potential clients can see all you offer, or where to pick it up, or which shows you’ll be at. This is not an option, these days. If you see that pickybumm.com already exists, and is textile related (or not just delivering hot sticky buns by mail), take that as a serious warning and think over your brand. If the precursor is not textiles, consider pickybummskids.com or some such, as long as you’re not already over 60 characters. But don’t even think of pickybumms.net or some such idiocy to confuse the matter.

  7. J C Sprowls says:

    Lisa,

    How about Downtown Brands, Downtown Productions, etc.? There’s so many avenues you can go down, here, e.g.: Domestic Diva, another Downtown Production.

    In my case, the Company Name is Declan Steed. There is only one brand that will receive this label – luxury men’s suits. The diffusion line and all subsequent lines may launch at different times; but, will each have their own brand identity.

  8. Kimberly Owen says:

    Sure, to navigate the site, go to the side bar on the left side of the home page. Click on “Trademark”. Then click on “search TM database TESS”. It will bring up the search page. Select “New User form search” .Type in your name and the search results will come up. If you have a common name or common words in your name, you will get a huge amount of results. This is the tedious part. You will click on each name to see the details, including the classification. It takes forever to do, but this way it doesn’t cost you anything but time. Remember, this search only covers active trademarks or applications recently filed. Domain names and unregistered names are not covered.

    The easiest way to cover all bases is to order a search from Thomson, but it will cost $500. http://www.thomsoncompumark.com/do/pid/1
    The Thomson report includes domain name searches (as mentioned in another post above), unregistered marks that are in use and registered marks. It also includes any action against pending applications (say if someone is trying to register XYZ and another party objects).

    I hope this helps. don’t get discouraged. It is alot of work, but worth it if you are going to build your brand up.

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