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e are all familiar with brands built on the reputation of their found-
ers. The beauty, fashion, and design sectors have long been dominated
by known names, from Stella McCartney to Karim Rashid. Strategists
attribute human values to brands to establish a desired tone of voice
and open a dialogue with the consumer. When a real person is at the heart of the brand, it
seems an intuitive step to align the brand’s values with those of its founder.
But the process involves careful interrogation of the personality behind the brand, and a
number of key decisions needs to be made, starting with the name. To name the brand for
its founder offers the most distinctiveness, but it potentially also carries the greatest risk to
the reputation of the expert if the brand fails. Not every brand can match the longevity
of Coco Chanel, and many designers have found themselves in the unenviable position of
relinquishing the rights to their name following acquisition by a large corporate group. The
alternative approach is to create a separate brand and closely associate it with its founder’s
reputation. For example, the Body Shop is synonymous with the campaigning spirit of its
founder Anita Roddick, and it retains her core values beyond her lifetime.
Naming a Brand
We were approached by skin-care specialist Jo Robbins to review her brand and products,
and our focus immediately turned to the brand name. A renowned expert in her field,
Robbins’s treatments are familiar to an exclusive clientele who frequent the world’s top
spas. Yet, when it came to creating her first retail range, the decision was made to name the
brand Cream London. The Harley-riding woman behind the brand felt that Cream London
was underperforming, largely because of the name, which leveraged neither Jo’s reputation
nor her attitude. Thus, the products had to be marketed under the Jo Robbins name. But
Absolute Zero Degrees in London, England, and Merryl Catlow
Keith Stevenson and Mark Hampshire are the principals of Absolute
Zero Degrees, a multidisciplinary branding and design studio based in
London. The studio’s diverse output encompasses branding, identity,
and packaging design, as well as a range of in-house homewares mar-
keted under the Mini Moderns brand. The team is also responsible for
writing and designing a number of graphic design books, including the
popular Communicating with Pattern series.
Personality Brands
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