The Namer Of Nail Polish Colors Speaks Up

In What It’s Like, people tell us, well, what it’s like to have experiences many of us have not even imagined. For this entry, we talked to someone who has many kids’ (and adults’!) dream job: coming up with the zany names for nail polish colors. Amy Fisher is one of the main name brains at Butter London, which carries polishes called things like Yummy Mummy (a cool beige), Molly Coddled (a bright orchid), and Waterloo Blue (a cornflower blue).

My name is Amy Fisher, and I’m the senior brand and marketing manager for Butter London. I’ve been with the brand for about three years now. I do everything from naming our nail polishes and other products to creating them. I also help with some of our sales and retail. But everyone is always curious about the naming part.

When we’re coming up with a new product—I’ll use our nail lacquers as an example—we usually start with a color. We’ll take a look at our full assortment: What do we think is missing and what is the white space in that category? Each season, we physically take our nail lacquers and our product and lay them out in front of us and see what colors are missing. We like to keep a very unique and curated assortment. So sometimes if we’re going to launch a new shade, that means we have to discontinue another one. Once we review that, we also look at trend data. What’s the trend right now? What’s the trend going to be in a year from now when we’re launching this? We’ll also look at past sales data. If we had a shade a couple seasons ago: How did that perform? Do we want to bring that shade back or a similar color? And we look at feedback from our customers. We get a lot of inquiries from customers about old shades that they want us to bring back.

The naming really comes along once we have those shades or colors, whatever the product might be. Typically we come up with the name once we have the final-final shade. And I say “final-final” because sometimes there’s a final but then we need a final final.

We typically have a theme or general story that we want to tell with the shades, so we’ll do a small brainstorm with our copywriter. We’ll take that theme and then bounce ideas off of each other. It might take three to five days before we’re ready to come back to the table with some ideas. But it doesn’t really take that long to come up with a name, honestly. Sometimes it’s a brainstorm meeting. Sometimes it’s an email chain. It really depends. But we’ve done it both ways.

I, along with Julie Campbell, who’s the general manager of the brand, will choose the final name that we would like to proceed with and then our copywriter takes it to our regulatory team. The regulatory team makes sure that we can use the name from a legal standpoint. Sometimes there are trademarks and things of that nature that we need to be careful of. If we have to go back to the drawing board we do so, but usually for shade names, it’s pretty seamless.

The brand was founded in 2005 in London. It was acquired by an American company a few years ago, but we really do want to stay true to those British roots and keep things cheeky and fun and really British-inspired. In my opinion, an example of a perfectly named Butter London product is All Hail the Queen, which is one of our hero nail lacquers. I absolutely love that name. It’s British, the color is beautiful—it’s like a shimmery taupe. Some other names include Cotswold Cottage—that one’s also a taupe—and Bang On!, a deep teal.

We’ll sometimes utilize British dictionaries, and we do lots of Googling since everyone is actually American. We do have a distributor in the U.K., so sometimes we reach out to them for their input as well. And then we also have a team that helps with our search engine optimization keywords. Sometimes they’ll come to the table with words that we can incorporate for a more 360-marketing approach when people are searching for different nail lacquers online. On our site, we have both the product name and a descriptor that says something like “a bright red shade” so people know exactly what they’re getting.

If you want an example, I can point to our Fall 2021 holiday collection. I helped with two names in particular. One was Tickety Boo, and it was a very fun, shimmery pink overcoat. And then Proper Do was another one. That was a really beautiful, deep purple.

I’m still developing a sense of what words sound like what color. One of our shades that we launched this past spring was called Bespoke Lace, and lace is obviously very indicative of white. That was this beautiful white sort of matte glitter overcoat. It kind of looks like lace when you apply it. But sometimes the names have absolutely nothing to do with the shade. With Tickety Boo, which means something like “in a jiffy,” it’s just such a fun saying that it seemed to go well with the fun glittery overcoat. But Proper Do, which is slang for a fancy social event, that doesn’t really scream purple.

At any rate, you just want to be fun, whimsical, and British. You really have to nail that. Sometimes a darker shade is a little bit more serious. Something like that can be a little bit harder than maybe a glitter or something like that.

For the most part, it’s easy-peasy and fun for us to go back and forth with a brainstorm, but there are times where you’re like, Wow, this is taking longer than I anticipated it was going to. But it’s not just a nail polish, at the end of the day. It’s important to make sure that it’s right for the brand. So, yeah, sometimes it is a little more intense than you anticipated.

It’s always really good to see what your competitors are doing and what they’re naming their products. If I see a word that strikes my fancy and could be a potential name, I definitely write that down. We also do keep a list of names that we don’t select. We can always refer back to it if we need to have more inspiration for a name.

My background is in English. So I have a degree in editing, writing, and media. In terms of my job, naming is definitely one of the more fun things I get to do, I would say, because I get to be creative. But I know there are probably people who think I sit around all day naming nail polish. Even my mom, sometimes she’ll be like, “What do you do again?” It’s way more than just coming up with fun names. You know, there’s the research, there’s the retail side of it that I have to do. I think maybe people would be surprised by the amount of research that we have to do and staying on top of the trends. It’s actually quite difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on all the time. But at the end of the day, it is fun. I can’t lie—it is fun.

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