What's in a name?
Jennifer Negley, editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 9/3/2001 12:00:00 AM
A gaggle of geese
A covey of quails
A school of fish
A murder of crows
A litter of...
The answer to that last one is "licenses."
Licensing agreements seem to be pouring in lately. In the past month alone, these pages have reported licensing agreements, initiatives or extensions for The Mount Vernon Collection, Laura Ashley, Gloria Vanderbilt, J. Peterman, Croscill, Waverly, Susan Sargent, Sesame Street, Lynn Chase, Field & Stream, Betty Whiteaker, Chris Madden and Dick Idol.
Most of those names are well-known in the home textiles industry. Some of them are even well-known among consumers. But let's be honest, some are head-scratchers — even within the industry.
And if industry types don't know who these folks are, how much of an effort is it going to take to break through to the consumer?
Designer labels aside, if you asked most consumers to reel off the names of home textiles brands, most would get stuck after Royal Velvet, Cannon and Martha Stewart. (In consumer terms, by the way, the "Everyday" part of the Martha moniker is like a silent "e" at the end of a word.)
Which is not to say that brand-building is a bad thing or that brand extensions aren't a sound strategy to pursue. Nor is it impossible to develop a strong license from a name that has little or no resonance among the population as a whole. Cheri Blum is practically the poster girl for the proposition that an artist can be a nobody among consumers but quite a somebody at retail.
And before you 8,000 Cheri Blum licensees out there charge me with heresy, try this. Call or e-mail four or five women across the country who have absolutely no affiliation with home textiles or retailing and run Cheri Blum's name past them.
I performed that very experiment this morning, e-mailing female friends and relatives in the Northeast, the Midwest, the South and the Northwest. Some of them are single, some married. Some have kids, some don't. They live in large cities, medium-sized cities and small towns.
I asked if they'd ever heard of Cheri Blum, Warren Kimble, Dick Idol, Chris Madden, Lynn Chase or Betty Whiteaker.
The result: nada. Across the board.
Are these names worthless? Clearly not. Cheri Blum's designs can be found on bedding, quilts, tabletop, fabric, wallpaper, floor coverings, kitchen textiles, stationery and decorative accessories, to name just the home-oriented products, and the license certainly wouldn't warrant that kind of scope if it didn't perform well at retail.
Which brings us back to the central question: If nobody knows who they are, how can some of these licenses make an impact?
The answer is, as it always has been, by having the right design for the right consumer on the right product at the right price. If a license can get that going, who cares about name recognition from the woman in the street?
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