Would Clothes By Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

Last year Liz Claiborne Inc. sold its brand to J.C. Penney for a cool $288 million (US).  The naming rights also jumped ship as part of the transaction.  Now that Liz Claiborne Inc. is no longer Liz Claiborne, it’s time to unveil the new brand name.  As of May 15, 2012, the old Liz Claiborne will be known as Fifth and Pacific Companies.  Its brands Juicy Couture, Kate Spade and Lucky Brand will continue to exist.  According to Liz Claiborne Inc.’s recent press release, the rationale behind the new brand name is that it encompasses its New York roots and pays respect to its Californian and Asian presence.  It is hopeful that under this new brand along with some adjustments, the company will be able to re-emerge as a viable fashion house that appeals to a sophisticated audience.  It also marks a departure from largely serving the department store market to focusing on direct consumer retail.

As a self-professed trade-marks law geek, this is interesting.  Changing an established company’s brand involves more than simply changing the name on the letterhead.  Trade-marks are critically important to a company in terms of public recognition and generating consumer loyalty.  Through the trade-mark there is an unspoken dialogue between the consumer and the company.  The trade-mark signifies the quality, reputation and expertise of the business, its products and/or services to the consumer.  The value of this unspoken dialogue (commonly referred to as “goodwill”) is figuratively priceless.  In reality, branding is big business.  The value of each of the world’s favourite brands can reach into the tens of millions and in some instances billions of dollars.  The trade-mark is the foundation of the brand.  So it’s always interesting when established companies trade in their goodwill and start from scratch again in building public recognition and consumer loyalty.  

Bonne chance Fifth and Pacific Companies!