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2 incisive Ks and 3 unpronounceable Ls – the unconventional approach to brand naming

2 incisive Ks and 3 unpronounceable Ls – the unconventional approach to brand naming




George Eastman created the name Kodak partly because he liked the letter K: “I devised the name myself. The letter ‘K’ had been a favorite with me – it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with ‘K.’ The word ‘Kodak’ is the result.”




Chip Wilson has founded a number of a sports and fitness brands, the most famous of which is lululemon. It’s another brand whose name is based around the multiple use of a particular letter.

The reason behind his choice of the letter ‘L’ is perhaps at first surprising for a brand he wanted to have global appeal. Wilson chose it specifically because the Japanese couldn’t pronounce it.



His reasoning was that North American brands have strong appeal in Japan and consumers there are willing to pay a premium for authentic products that genuinely come from the USA.

He further explained his reasoning in a blog on the company website: “It was thought that a Japanese marketing firm would not try to create a North American sounding brand with the letter ‘L’ because the sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics. By including an ‘L’ in the name it was thought the Japanese consumer would find the name innately North American and authentic.

In essence, the name “lululemon” has no roots and means nothing other than it has 3 “L’s” in it.  Nothing more and nothing less.”




Though, he did go to give another reason when talking to Canada’s National Post Business Magazine; “It’s funny to watch them try and say it”. It is typical quote of his outspoken approach to brand building.


Evoking an emotional response – the Birds Eye’s way

Evoking an emotional response – the Birds Eye’s way







The best brands should appeal to more than your rational self, they should evoke an emotional response.

So while it might have started with a Birds Eye Beef Burger, went through an awkward phase over a Ready Meal, who could have thought that the humble Fish Finger could end a romance.

In the 1970s, Mary’s unrequited love for Ben, who only had eyes for his Birds Eye Beef Burgers, entertained the nation in one of the most famous TV advertising campaigns of the time. (If you haven’t ever seen them enjoy )

In a famous ad from the 1990s, Ben Wishaw starred as Steve whose mate Sean is distracted from his curry by Steve’s mum who is getting ready to go out. Sean, slightly embarrassed, confesses: “I think I fancy your Mum” (another 30 seconds well spent of you’ve never seen it before )

Fast forward to 2013 and real life and some Fish Fingers appeared to have helped end scriptwriter Peter Morgan and Lila Schwarzenberg’s marriage.


Peter Morgan, the scriptwriter behind films such as The Queen, The Last King Of Scotland and Frost/Nixon married Lila Schwarzenberg — born Princess Anna Carolina zu Schwarzenberg — in 1997. The celebrity couple had five children and divided their time between Vienna and London.

Following their divorce, in a series of columns for a leading American magazine. Lila shed light on their tempestuous marriage and some of the moments that led to their parting of ways.

‘Peter . . . always says you can gauge the state of our marriage on the number of fish fingers he gets served up in a week,’ she wrote in 2013. ‘And it appears I went too far once again with my culinary neglect towards Peter as . . . I served him the leftovers of the kids’ meal (guess what it was). He took one look and said: “I am neither five years old nor a f***ing penguin.” He left the table and left the house in the search for a decent dinner.”

And the moral is …be careful what emotions you play with, you never know what might happen


The Purr-fect model for the sophisticated sell

The Purr-fect model for the sophisticated sell

The latest high earning French model has long, silky, white-blonde hair and brilliant sapphire blue eyes. 

She has over 100,000 followers on Twitter and like all the best models appears regularly on Instagram

She is very particular about who she works with, “She doesn’t do foodstuffs, she is too sophisticated for that” says her manager. In fact she accepted only two assignments in 2014 – a collaboration with the cosmetics brand Shu Uemura and a photo shoot for a Vauxhall Corsa car calendar. They did however earn her a cool £2.2 million which is nearly as much Cara Delevingne got for all her assignments in the same year. 

Choupette, for that’s her name, is small even by model standards but clearly needs constant pampering. She has two full time maids: Françoise and Marjorie. It is said, that of the two, she prefers Françoise.

Karl Lagerfeld has said of her, “She is the center of the world. If you saw her, you would understand. She is kind of Greta Garbo. There is something unforgettable about her, the way she moves, the way she plays. She’s an inspiration for elegance. For attitude.”

She moves with feline grace, probably because Choupette is feline. 

She is a Birman cat and her smitten owner is of course none other than Karl Lagerfeld.

She is living proof that cats and celebrities sell and it seems like celebrity cats sell even better. 


Footnote or should that be Pawnote: It had been rumoured that another feline internet sensation Grumpy Cat earnt $100 million dollars in commercial deals last year, but owner Tabatha Bundesen, told The Huffington Post this was “completely inaccurate”. 


The best job in the world – making your passion your purpose

The best job in the world – making your passion your purpose

Hotel Chocolat is perhaps one of the most vertically integrated brands around.

It came into existence in 2003 as the latest iteration of the business that Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris started in 1993, when they began selling mints as “MMC”. A few years later, they moved into the market that they were both truly passionate about – chocolate – and rebranded as “Geneva Chocolates”. 

Their stated objective was to make chocolate that really excited the senses and to make that chocolate widely available. To that end, they start selling chocolates online, becoming one of the UK’s earliest “e-tailers”, predating the likes of Amazon and eBay. Another change of name followed, this time to “Choc Express”. 

In 1998, they launched the Chocolate Tasting Club, a subscription-based service which allows members to receive, taste and test chocolates every month. It is still running and has around 100,000 members.

 In 2003, Choc Express rebranded as Hotel Chocolat and in 2004 launched its first retail store in the centre of … London? New York? Paris? Geneva? – no, Watford. 

It was a showcase for their unique take on chocolate, an approach that didn’t follow the accepted ‘rules’ of the market… 


Those rules said that a slab of chocolate should be regular and divided into bite-sized pieces, Angus and Peter made curvy and iconic Giant Slabs.

When they started making Easter Eggs, they were advised by experts to make them as thin as possible and put the chocolates on the outside. They did the opposite – making really thick shells with all of the chocolates hidden inside for extra excitement. 

Long before the recent trend for more cocoa and less sugar had started they were already doing it. Their house-grade milk chocolate was 50% cocoa, and their white chocolate was 36% cocoa, well above the averages at the time.

Despite breaking all these rules, the store was a huge success and others quickly followed in other towns and cities across the UK and later in the USCA and Europe.

In 2005, a loyal customer sent Angus a book she had found while tidying her husband’s study. She thought he might be interested, little did she know how interested.

It was a 1920 edition of “Cocoa & Chocolate, Their History from Plantation to Consumer”. It told the history of cocoa growing in the West Indies. It touched a nerve with Angus who had he spent part of his childhood there and wanted to link the brand more closely with its roots – literally and metaphorically. 

An intensive search began. A search that included several islands, before Angus and Peter found The Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia. They both fell in love with the estate and bought it in April 2006.

The brand now grew some of its cocoa, made its own chocolates, developed its own new recipes and sold them in its own shops, but this vertical extension of the brand was only just beginning.

In 2011, Hotel Chocolat lived up to its name and opened its own hotel – the Boucan Hotel. It sits on the edge of the Rabot Estate, perched high up in the Piton Mountains. The luxury hotel and spa has six lodges and a cocoa-inspired Boucan Restaurant. It too is a success and people fly in from around the world to enjoy the food.

In 2014, Angus and Peter decided to bring the cocoa plantation experience to Britain, and launched two new restaurants in London and Leeds.

Not content with that, they also launched their School of Chocolate at Cocoa Vaults in Covent Garden, London, where they offered chocolate-making sessions, tasting events and bespoke parties for everyone, from chocolate loving kids to cocoa addicted corporate teams.

In 2015, they published their first cookbook ‘A New Way of Cooking with Chocolat’ providing the recipes and tips so anyone can have a go at making some of their award-winning dishes in their own homes.

Not surprisingly, Angus loves his job. “I count myself as one of the luckiest people around – to work every day in a business that lives by my obsessions for chocolate, true creativity and honest ingredients, and which also has a link back to my childhood in the West Indies through our cocoa estate in Saint Lucia”.

It is a job that is the envy of millions of chocolate lovers.


A punk, a dwarf and the world’s smallest protest – how Brewdog changed the brewing world

A punk, a dwarf and the world’s smallest protest – how Brewdog changed the brewing world

James Watt is a self-proclaimed punk. He doesn’t pull his punches, he tends to go in both – beer – barrels blazing.

In his book “Business for Punks” he describes the launch of his brand “Rewind to 207. Based in a shed on a remote and godforsaken industrial estate in north-east Scotland, Brewdog came howling into the world. Martin Dickie (my best friend) and I set up one tiny brewery with one very big mission: to revolutionize the beer industry in the UK and completely redefine British beer-drinking culture.”

Their purpose was, and still is, to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they are.

Since that launch, the brand has gone from strength to strength. From two humans and a dog, Brewdog now employs more than 500 people. Its beers are exported to over 50 countries and they now own and operate over 40 Brewdog craft beer bars in some of the coolest cities around the world. For the last four years, it has been the fastest growing food and drink producer in the UK.

It has done it all in its characteristic unconventional and in your face style. “You need to get incumbent companies, competitors, random people and in our case regulatory bodies to completely hate you”

And it was in taking on those aforementioned regulatory bodies that Brewdog truly demonstrated that brands can and do change the world.

The year was 2010 and Brewdog decided they wanted to serve their craft beers in two-third pint measures in their UK bars. They felt this was a better size to showcase some of their stronger and more complex beers. It also fitted with H.M. Government’s desire to avoid irresponsible drinking. 

What Brewdog didn’t realise was that they were up against a 300 year old piece of licensing legislation which outlawed the two-thirds measure.

James and his team tried writing to Parliament and lobbying politicians but conventional methods got them nowhere. They decided to adopt a more unconventional and frankly smaller alternative.


They hired a four foot five inch dwarf dressed as a punk and, armed with an array of placards bearing  slogans like “Size matters” and “Small for all”, they started a week long protest at Westminster and No. 10 Downing Street. They called it “The World’s Smallest Protest”. A petition and social media campaign were simultaneously launched.

It worked. In 2011 Science minister David Willets confirmed that the coalition government would change the rules and allow the introduction of the new two-thirds of a pint measure sometimes known as a  ‘schooner’ measure.

On hearing the news James Watt said: “The craft beer revolution has claimed another scalp in the form of archaic licensing rules. This is nothing short of a landmark victory for BrewDog and an acceptance at government level that we speak for the people and understand the changing landscape of the UK beer market. The two-thirds of a pint measure means British beer drinkers can enjoy bold and creative beers responsibly – we knew that and we made sure the government caught up.”

And finishing off in his characteristically understated way on the Brewdog blog he went on to comment: “If we weren’t so busy brewing, we would probably be able to solve most of the world’s problems.”

When Armand met Octave – Two famous Belgians

When Armand met Octave – Two famous Belgians

Or why Le Creuset is Orange?

It is often jokingly said that there aren’t many famous Belgians and that the most famous ones are only fictional – Poirot and TinTin.

There are, however, two other Belgians who deserve some recognition –  Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq. Both were successful industrialists in the early twentieth century, but their claim to fame arose from their meeting at the Brussels Fair in 1924.

Armand Desaegher was a casting specialist and Octave Aubecq was an enamelling specialist. They decided to work together, combining their skills.

The results were to transform a kitchen staple into a worldwide brand, making a commodity that was both more functional and more attractive. They added ease of cleaning and visual appeal to the durability of cast iron cookware.

As they developed their first prototypes they experimented with shapes and colours. The colour they chose, and which is still most associated with the brand, was Flame (an orange colour). Some sources say that the choice was based on a Scandinavian cooker that Octave had seen on his travels. 

Whatever the source of that original choice, it was to give their new cookware both the aesthetic appeal they wanted but also the inspiration for their name. Once applied and hardened it gave the pots the hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron or “creuset” in French. The brand now had a trademark colour and name.

Now with a product, a brand name and what was to become an iconic colour, the partners set up the “Le Creuset” foundry. They chose to base themselves in the French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand, Aisne, Picardy, as it was the “crossroads” of transportation routes for iron, coke and sand. 

The foundry opened in 1925 and the first Cocottes (or French Ovens) were produced.

Today Le Creuset is sold in more than 60 countries around the world. The Cocotte is still the most popular item, still produced at Fresnoy-le-Grand  and of course still sold in the original orange colour.

Unfortunately for them Desanegher and Armand still don’t make most people’s list of famous Belgians.


The joy of branding

The joy of branding










According to IMDb “Joy is the wild true story of Joy Mangano and her Italian-American family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty by inventing the Miracle Mop and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.”

Following on from its success I’m waiting by the phone for a call from Hollywood.

The stories of Brownie Wise or Sara Blakely both have all the ingredients to make great movies.

Indeed when I researched and then wrote my version of the Brownie Wise story – “The Queen of Tupperware, I introduced it saying; “The story of Brown Wise is an amazing one and one I wish I could take an option on to turn into a screenplay.” In case you have any doubts about its potential in 1956 the Houston Post reported that “It has been estimated that Brownie Wise has helped more women to financial success than any other single living person.”

The story of Sara Blakely, which I called “The billion dollar butt” – a movie title if ever I heard one – is the story of a woman who is actually grateful for cellulite and back fat. That’s because Blakely turned an idea and the $5,000 she had saved from selling fax machines into a $250-million-a-year business and when asked where that idea came from she candidly replied. “My inspiration was my own butt”

Alternatively you can use the serach button the right entering Tupperware or Spanx

Santa’s longest running gig?

Santa’s longest running gig?

Everyone who has seen the original version of Miracle on 34th Street knows that the real Santa Claus works for Macy’s.

However, perhaps surprisingly, Macy’s wasn’t the very first store to hire someone to pose as St. Nicholas. That honour goes to Philadelphia store-owner J.W. Parkinson, who hired someone to pose as St. Nick and had him climbing his chimney as a publicity stunt.

Rowland H. Macy wasn’t too far behind. In 1862, he borrowed the notion of the gift-giving gnome known around New York as “Sinterklaas” (from the Dutch “Sint Nicolaas”), used the Anglicised name and had him impersonated by a welcoming, friendly man dressed in a nice, clean cloak.

Parkinson’s store is long gone, so Macy’s is Santa’s longest-running gig, going steady for over 150 years.

By the 1870s “Macy’s has postcards showing Santa … In one, Santa is coming down the chimney wearing a red suit without fur and carrying a white bag with the Macy’s star on it,” says Bob Rutan, director of event operations at the store from 1999-2008.

Nowadays Macy’s Santa is not only in the store, but leads the famous New York Thanksgiving parade, which first took place in 1924 and features in Miracle on 34th Street. 

Ensuring that this iconic figure always looks his best has now become a major task at Macy’s. 


Macy’s uses two versions of the suit, both based on a 7/8 coat worn over matching pants cut extra-roomy and firmly attached by means of a bib front and sturdy straps – a modification made a few decades ago when a little girl tugging on Santa’s pants tugged them off on national television. 

His ‘everyday’ suit, on which up to a quarter of a million children have sat, is a fake fur-trimmed wool twill that weighs around 18 pounds.

On Parade Day and on Christmas Eve, when he comes prepared to ‘fly’ out of the store at the stroke of 6pm, Santa wears what is known as the ‘flight suit’. It’s trimmed with real rabbit fur, comes with a coordinated quilted cotton greatcoat and weighs about 40 pounds. 

All this means that Santa could get a bit sweaty, and no-one wants that, so Santaland got its own air conditioning system in 1998 and, every time Santa takes a break, he changes the white shirt he wears under his suit jacket. The suit itself lasts only a couple of days at most before being sent off for dry-cleaning.

The attention to detail and safety of everyone are concerns too. Santa changes gloves constantly. “We try to stop the germs spreading from one kid to another. The same parent who pulls a kid out of school for no reason, thinks nothing of sending a kid with a 103-degree fever to see Santa,” Rutan says. “We use the same type of white gloves they use for the West Point cadets: They’re flexible, sturdy, and stand up to lots of washing.”

And without wanting to destroy the myth,  Macy’s Santa has the magical ability to appear simultaneously at up to six different workshops inside the New York Santaland alone, and to remain supernaturally spotless; he relies on 30 identical everyday suits and four flight suits.

The last major revamp of Santa’s costume came in the late 1970s when Macy’s then vice president and director of special productions, Jean McFaddin, updated Santa to look not more modern but actually to look more old-fashioned.  “People relish the tradition,” says Rutan


Footnote : if you’ve only seen the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street you may be a little confused but Macy’s declined any involvement with this remake, so the fictitious ‘Cole’s’ was used as its replacement. Gimbels, the original rival store, had gone out of business in 1987 so it was replaced by the fictional ‘Shopper’s Express’.


A classic for Christmas – well that’s my excuse

A classic for Christmas – well that’s my excuse

There are classic Christmas songs which are played every Christmas and there are classic Christmas films that are repeated year after year… so why not classic Christmas brand stories.

I’ve written a couple of them over the years so this year I thought I would follow tradition and bring them back for the festive season. The first of which tells the tale of Coca-Cola and their role in the creation of the modern day depiction of Santa Claus but which like so many good stories has a twist…

There are two ways you can find the story – either enter ‘Santa’ in the search box and select the story “Santa and the backwards belt” or copy and paste the link below…

The fabulous illustration is by Dawn Childs. We used to accompany the story as our compnay Christmas card a couple of years ago 

Mr. Bucket’s Mascara

Mr. Bucket’s Mascara

In the British TV comedy “Keeping up appearances” the lead character is a social-climbing snob called Hyacinth. She insists her surname is pronounced ‘Bouquet’ even though it is spelt ‘Bucket’. However one Hyacinth, or rather Hyacinthe, would could more rightly have claimed ‘Bouquet’ as his surname or maybe nickname was Hyacinthe Mars Rimmel. 

Hyacinthe was trained by the Pierre-Francois Lubin, the personal “nose” to the Empress Josephine. As a rising star he was invited to move to London to manage a prestigious perfumery in Bond Street. It, and he were a great success and in 1834 he opened a perfumery of his own in Albermarle Street. His new boutique quickly became the “in” destination for the ladies of London society when looking for luxury in skin care preparations and fragrance.   

Hyacinthe was the original founder of The House of Rimmel but it was his son, Eugene who was to prove the real driving force behind the brand we still know today.

Eugene was not only an expert perfumer but was to prove himself both a product and promotional innovator and entrepreneur.  At 22, having already been running his own business for a few years, he took over the whole family business. 

He set about building the brand

He developed innovative products, including mouth rinses, fragranced pomades and an ingenious scented steam vaporiser. He extended the use of his fragrances by creating scented fans for ladies to use at the opera, theatre and ballet and perfumed Valentine’s cards

He was the first to introduce mail order catalogues to the world of perfume and cosmetics. He wrote a Book of Perfumes, one of the first “modern” beauty bibles. It explored the allure of fragrance and the etiquette of beauty, not surprisingly it promoted fine, elegant perfumes…

“Above all, avoid strong, course perfumes and remember that if a woman’s temper can be told from her handwriting, her good taste and breeding may easily be ascertained by the perfume she wears.”

He went on to write two other books “The Perfumed Almanac, Recollections of the Paris Exhibition of 1867”, and what became a Victorian best-seller, “Scented Valentines”.

Perhaps his most famous publicity stunt was the creation of a fragrance fountain for the Great Exhibition in 1851. The fountain shot perfumed jets of eau-de-cologne into the air. Any passer-by could use it to scent their handkerchief. One such passer-by was Queen Victoria and so impressed was she that she became Rimmel’s patron and appointed him her official Royal perfumer. It was the first of what were ultimately 10 Royal Warrants he was awarded by various heads of state throughout Europe. 

If all of this wasn’t enough it was another of his innovations which would actually become the defining product that really drove the brand to international success.  In 1860 he created ‘Superfin’, what was the first commercial non-toxic mascara.  Prior to his invention, women had been using various potions and pomades to darken their eyelashes, but Rimmel’s new and unique blend of coal dust and petroleum jelly was a real step change. Although it was still quite messy, it was huge improvement on what had gone before. Its popularity spread like wildfire not just in the UK but throughout Europe. 

In what may have been the first example of ‘genericization’ – when a brand name becomes the generic term for a whole range of products, think Hoover or Sellotape – “rimmel” or “rimel” became synonymous with mascara. In fact ‘rimmel’ still means mascara in several different languages.

Eugene wasn’t finished and continued to expand his empire. He extended internationally opening stores in both Paris and New York. He set up a flower garden and essential oil distillery in Nice. 

He was one of the first pioneers of aromatherapy and created vaporisers which could be used in hospitals to disperse the beneficial oil vapours into the air. They were forerunners of today’s aromatherapy diffusers. 

He died at the age of 67 on the 15th March 1887. His obituary in the New York Times described him as “The Prince of Perfumers”.

The company continued to be owned and run by the Rimmel family until 1949 when it was bought by a London company and later sold to Coty in 1996. 

Nowadays it is now a brand that is linked to London and “cool Britannia”, associated with British stars like Kate Moss, Lily Cole, Georgia May Jagger and Sophie Ellis-Bextor … but maybe not Patricia Routledge who plays Hyacinth Bucket.

And if you enjoyed this little tale, I posted the story about how Mascara was invented (almost simultaneously on the other side of the Atlantic which you’ll probbaly enjoy too – just seach Maybelline in the box above