The beauty-education industry serves a diverse, mostly female population of instructors, students, and beauty-school owners. Many students come to beauty-school programs with only a high school degree; instructors may have community-college backgrounds or four-year degrees; owners usually have a bachelor’s degree.
That educational diversity was one of my challenges when I was asked by Milady, a leader in beauty education and certification, to name the company’s new digital learning system. A second challenge: communicating “innovation.” Milady is well established and respected—it’s an industry pioneer—but not as closely associated with technological advances as some of its younger competitors.
Meet CIMA, a name to position Milady for a dynamic future while honoring the company’s heritage.
CIMA may look like a wholly invented name, but in fact it has deep roots in Milady’s history. The company was founded in 1927 by an enterprising young man from a family of Italian-American barbers; he started his career by selling razors, hair tonic, hairstyling charts, and a book he’d written, New York State Barber Exam. In 1976, he was inducted into the National Barber Museum Hall of Fame. His name: Nicholas F. “Nick” Cimaglia.
But appropriating the first half of the founder’s name wasn’t a matter of instant recognition and acceptance. Internally, Milady team members had developed a set of names representing some of their objectives, including ADAPT, AIM, CATALYST, and IGNITE. These abstract names are typical of first-round lists; they are inevitably shot down by trademark lawyers as unavailable. They’re also undistinctive: they could be used by any competitor. Who doesn’t want to be a catalyst that ignites success?
I told my clients that I would be nudging them into new territory and presenting names with a closer connection to their unique legacy and brand personality.
Here’s where a third challenge arose: competition. Not only did I have to avoid names of other beauty-education companies (PivotPoint, Beauty as a Business, BeauteSchool, et al.), but I also had to consider digital learning platforms in general (Coursera, PropserU, Udemy, et al.). On top of that, the new name couldn’t conflict with any beauty-brand name—a huge space that encompasses Wella, OPI, Nioxin, Coola, and scores of other brands.
CIMA was one of more than a dozen names that I presented. Yes, I created it from Cimaglia, the company founder’s surname. But cima has independent positive significance. It means “summit” or “the top of a mountain” in Latin-derived languages such as Italian and Portuguese. It’s pronounced SEE-ma, subtly reinforcing one of the key naming objectives: vision and farsightedness. (And -ma recalls the name of young Nick Cimaglia’s family business: Mah Studios.) The “feminine,” open-vowel ending of CIMA is a nod to the mostly female target audience(s) as well as the lady in Milady. While the name referemces company history, its truncated form looks and sounds fresh and modern. And although it’s not an acronym, it can be backronymized if the company chooses (I suggested Collaboration Insight Mentorship Achievement).
Earlier in this post I identified three of my naming challenges. There was a fourth: selling the name to internal team members, who have to believe in the name and its story before they can bring it to the external audience. The Milady executives I spoke with are deeply committed to the company and what it stands for—including its long history of success. “I’m a Milady fangirl,” one of them said on a conference call. For these key employees, honoring the company founder with the CIMA name felt authentic and appropriate. It was a pleasure to bring them a name so resonant with the company’s past while so full of potential for its future.