If I said ‘Fat Face’ to you, what first springs to mind? Fleeces, dusty colours and a family on a sailing holiday, perhaps? I’m guessing most people wouldn’t slap me?
Even though some brand names are ridiculous, it doesn’t take long for them to enter our consciousness, stopping us from questioning them and thinking about what the words actually mean. Let’s explore this further…
We’ll start with Fat Face. You called your brand Fat Face. Fat. Face. Your casual, fairly upper class sporting label is called that forever. Why?
The brand was started in ‘80s France by Tim Slade and Jules Leaver, two friends who began selling sweatshirts together on the ski slopes. The name was in fact based on an infamous black-rated piste in Val-d’Isere, called ‘Face de Bellevarde’, or more widely, ‘La Face’. I’ve read a little bit about ‘The Face’ and it sounds horrible, a practically vertical and seriously daunting course for even the most experienced skier. It brought back upsetting memories of my first day skiing, when I was forced to descend a red run on my bum. To clarify, my instructor didn’t force me to do this, I just needed to. It was my first day!
you can call your brand almost anything and the public won’t be put off
I digress. So for Tim and Jules and other members of the skiing community, the name really meant something. It referenced a notorious piste few were brave enough to descend. Perhaps the pair started with humble ambitions for their business; planning to keep selling sweatshirts to fellow skiers on the slopes, where their in-joke of a name made sense and life was simple. However, we all know that didn’t happen. In 1993 they opened their first UK store and over the coming years, the brand exploded, building up to over 200 shops in the UK and an online store which ships worldwide. The name Fat Face had captured the attention of a wider audience for being something different, but also a safe product with mainstream appeal.
Turning our attention to betting; it seems fairly disconcerting that one of the UK’s most iconic gambling brands is called Ladbrokes. Lad. Broke… s. Does the lack of a space hide the meaning of the two words it comprises? Does it sound like someone’s surname? But then surely it would need an apostrophe? Perhaps what helps is that ‘brokes’ is not a word, making that little ‘s’ Clark Kent’s proverbial glasses; a seemingly transparent, yet oddly effective disguise. Reversing things, if it was called ‘Ladsbroke’, I’m not sure anyone would be comfortable. Pssst, Superman, you need your glasses. Contact lenses aren’t a disguise.
Ladbrokes was given its name over a century ago, in 1902. Like Fat Face, it was named after a place of relevance to the brand; Ladbroke Hall, a place in Worcestershire where horses were trained. Innocent enough, but surely there were other training centres with more innocuous names, which were less descriptive of their customers’ bank accounts? Narrowing our focus to restaurants, the exclusive mini-chain Sushi Samba must be addressed. Despite being known as a pretty decadent place to eat (‘no trainers, no big cameras’), its name conjures up imagery of a hand roll gyrating back and forth to the Sex and the City theme tune, possibly wearing a striking red dress. Which sounds a bit… silly. Sure, the name acknowledges the restaurant’s fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines, but could there not have been a different way of putting it? Perhaps the ‘Samba’ element references the flavours and cultures ‘dancing’ with each other? All this goes to show you can call your brand almost anything and the public won’t be put off, as long as your offering matches up with what you set out to do. The quality of the product or service will be what people think and talk about, not the name. An initially ridiculous name will get you noticed and remembered, but rarely questioned.
Rebecca Hughes – Strategy Director