The Lane Bryant catalog, which sells plus-size women's clothing, recently renamed itself Woman Within. The new brand name had been a sub-brand name for fifteen years, used only for the catalog's underwear line. Tate Linden at Stoked Brands admires the new name for "taking risks" and expressing "empowerment."
I'm not so sure.
My reflexive response on seeing "Woman Within" was to think of the old, maligned chestnut: "Within every fat person there's a thin person longing to get out." Maybe that's intentional: after all, "thin" is the second syllable of "within."
My second thought: "Woman Within" is too similar to Inner Self, a shopping-mall lingerie chain owned by Sara Lee. (Yes, the baked-goods maker--which thanks to its Hanes, Playtex, and Bali brands is the biggest underwear retailer in the U.S. Synergy is a strange, strange thing. And while we're disclosing, let me add that I played a small role in the name-development process that eventually led to Inner Self.) "Woman Within" is being used only for the catalog division of Lane Bryant, which is currently owned by Redcats USA, a division of a bigger French retail brand; it won't come under the general Lane Bryant umbrella--parent company: Charming Shoppes--for another year.
Yes, it's all very confusing. And yes, Charming Shoppes should change its own name. Please.
Aside from its meaning, Woman Within is an unlovely four-syllable name that forces your mouth to do awkward calisthenics. Seems to me a smarter option would have been to build on the existing equity of the century-old Lane Bryant brand and modernize the original name to appeal to a new generation of savvy large-size customers. I'd have preferred to see a name like "Lane"--"Lane Bryant" on a diet, if you will--that suggests (a) one of those genderless modern female names and (b) a pretty street that invites strolling and window-shopping.
Meanwhile, just to be really confusing, Lane Bryant has launched a new retail concept specializing in plus-size underwear: Cacique. Cacique--pronounced kah-seek--occupies the opposite end of the naming spectrum from Woman Within: soft, romantic, evocative, and elegant. Never mind that cacique was the Spanish name for a tribal chief in 16th-century Brazil--doesn't it sound Frenchy? And just look at those curvy letterforms--c, q, a, e, and u. So voluptuous. So womanly. So on target. The only skinny letter in the word is "i," as in "it's all about me." Dave Young of Branding Blog and American Small Business points to this excellent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the opening of a Cacique store in the King of Prussia mall. Don't miss the slide show, which beautifully captures the happy excitement of shoppers and store staff. This is a brand that gets it.
My prediction: Woman Within will wither on the vine until Charming Shoppes, or some other absentee owner, comes up with a better identity and strategy. And Cacique? It sounds like big, big money.