Retail is a tough business. Small, local retail is even tougher. You want to stand out from your competition, but you don’t want to appear standoffish. Most of all, you want to build your word-of-mouth reputation.
Which is hard to do when your customers can’t pronounce your name.
The name of a store in Berkeley, California, illustrates this problem.
How would you pronounce Keneuoe Vivere? (Yep, that’s Boss Robot just beyond it. Good name, cool store.)
Keneuoe Vivere, which sells women’s clothing and accessories on College Avenue, is a stunning store and the closest thing to a unique retail concept that I’ve seen in the Bay Area. Customers choose from three levels of customization: off the rack (ready-to-wear), fitted (ready-to-wear with tailoring), or made-to-measure from your choice of fabric. All clothing is made in Berkeley. In the ready-to-wear clothing I saw, fabrics were exquisite and styles were beautifully constructed. Ready-to-wear prices are at the high end of moderate—higher than, say, Ann Taylor, but lower than Max Mara. The dress pictured below, from the Spring/Summer 2011 collection, costs $479.
Made-to-measure items can cost $1,000 and up.
Now, this is an interesting concept that could appeal to women who are frustrated by mass merchandising and can afford tailoring. It's also a concept that requires some explaining to contemporary shoppers. But as difficult as the concept is to understand, it’s easy compared to the name, which trips me up every time I try to say it.
In a bit, I’ll share the pronunciation of “Keneuoe Vivere” with you. (Don’t look for clues on the website; there aren’t any.) Right now, just know that “Keneuoe” is the single name the designer and business owner answers to. I haven’t found any explanation for “Vivere,” which is Italian for “to live” but who knows? It may mean something else entirely here.
To summarize: unusual retail concept with a hard-to-pronounce name. To me that says: This is going to be difficult.
So how do you pronounce Keneuoe Vivere? Well, the first word turns out to be pronounced “canoe way,” according to an article on SFGate. Is Vivere pronounced “vee-VARE-eh”? A mystery.
I understand Keneuoe’s desire to use her own name as her brand, and in general I have no problem with this store-naming strategy. In this case, though, I’d have vetoed the choice. Too many vowels, too odd, too damn difficult.
What would I have recommended? “Canoe” might have been an interesting alternative: it plays on “Keneuoe” while walking a nice line between clear and mysterious, as befits a high-end boutique. And it suggests ease rather than difficulty: imagine a pleasure craft floating effortlessly down a gentle stream.
Retail success is hard. Why make the challenge even harder with a difficult-to-pronounce business name?
Related: “Etymology Isn’t Enough: The Aegis Problem.”