Quick: What do Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Balenciaga, Puma and Bottega Venetta have in common?
If you’ve been following the marketing news, you’ll know that they’re all subsidiaries of the French holding company formerly known as PPR (an initialism for Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), which was recently renamed Kering (pronounced “caring”).
The rename was triggered when the company shed Printemps, a French department store, and put Redoute, a mail-order business, on the block: events reducing its old name, PPR, to alphabet soup.
Yet considering that the conglomerate had the benefit of at least one outside agency involved in its renaming process (Marketing Daily claims they had three), you’d think they could have done better.
Current CEO Francois Henri-Pinault hopes the name Kering will evoke a beneficent group that tenderly nurtures its brands. And the Kering name has added resonance for the Pinault family, who come from Brittany: in Breton, “ker” means “home.”
But will Kering speak to its larger audience, and if so, what will it say?
The answer is not much.
Renaming a holding company is hard. Ideally, the brand name should be broad enough to encompass both current and as-yet-unknown future holdings, while highlighting some common thread that runs through them all. Given the challenge, it’s not surprising so many holding companies fall back on vague, bland monikers that have no intuitive connection to their subsidiaries—or worse, are counter-intuitive.
Take conglomerate Philip Morris, which rightly provoked cynicism when it renamed itself Altria not long after its legal troubles with state attorneys general over the health costs of tobacco use. (Kind of hard to see the connection between the makers of cancer sticks and altruism.)
On the other hand Altegrity, a holding company formerly known as USIS, bears an apt moniker for an entity whose companies all focus, in one way or another, on the integrity of the information they provide to their customers.
But Kering, as in caring….Really? It may have some significance for the company’s internal audiences. But for outside audiences whose main point of reference will be Kering’s uber high-end fashion brands, the name fits about as well as a pair of clogs in a Manolo Blahnik boutique. Especially since the name sounds more Dutch than French: a disconnect not only with its brands, but with its provenance.
Would it have been so bad for the company to go back to its original name, which was simply Pinault? That name at least has a certain cachet that’s in keeping with the company’s stylish brands. A lot of brands would kill for the kind of cachet that Pinault comes by honestly. Or PPR might have spared itself the angst of rebranding altogether, and simply come up with a different payoff for its three little letters that spoke to its new focus.
Or, given that they apparently wanted to make a break with their roots and reflect their increasingly global customer base, an elegant name related to lifestyle or style would have provided a broad enough umbrella for the company’s house of brands, while still relating to the character of those brands.
All of that said, after the official fanfare has died down, few people are going to be affected by what this company is called. As with almost all holding companies, it’s their subsidiaries’ brand names that ultimately matter, and in the case of PPR, those are well-established. At least Kering is inoffensive (its Indonesian meanings of “dried” and “poorly paid” notwithstanding) and relatively easy to say. But having decided to abandon PPR, it’s too bad the company alighted upon another name that’s little more than another alphabet soup. By focusing on itself, the company missed a golden opportunity to capitalize upon its stellar portfolio.
Overall grade: C