Unintentional Brand Association

Last summer, one of the wine stores[1] 605868_glass_of_wine_with_cork_2 that I frequent most announced that it would be moving later that fall. Since the name of the shop included the street name where it was located, they would be changing their name — and they were holding a contest for customers to suggest a new one. The winner got a $250 store credit, so I was keen on winning… but my suggestion, La Dolce Vino, didn’t win (maybe someone else can use that). When the relocated store opened earlier this year, I was quite surprised to see what did win. Personally I found the new name uninteresting (maybe that’s sour grapes!), but the bigger surprise — and mistake — was the unintentional brand association.

Without giving away the name of the shop, it now shares its name with a certain pop star’s surname. Meanwhile, the shop itself has gone a little more upscale in keeping with the new location, and has done a fine job of it. But back to the new name, and logo… which has a large purple circle as its main feature. Hardly on the scale of the Lisa Simpson 2012 Olympic logo fiasco, but it reminded me of a vinyl record or a CD, perhaps partly because of the pop star association. To make matters worse, the url for the new name was obviously unavailable, so the store’s new web address advertised large on the side of their company vehicle includes the name of the owner plus the name of the pop star, as in “www.joespopstar.com”.

If nobody else had said anything, their creative team should really have told them. Simply put, it’s a mistake to allow your brand to be tied to a pop star, especially (as in this case) one who is a little to the, uh, unpredictable side. There’s no telling what kind of unintentional associations are going to be made with your brand in the future, and they’re all outside your control. Besides which, in this case the association has a big disconnect with the more upscale shop. Even if it does have “wine” in the title. I’ll still shop there, but every time I do, I think they’ve made a major branding mistake.

Lesson: screen more carefully… and if you really must go with it anyway, at least adopt a logo that doesn’t reinforce the association, but puts some distance to it.


  1. In Canada, liquor sales are through provincial liquor commission stores; beer is also available at licensed vendors, and wine is also available at specialty wine stores. Convenience stores and supermarkets: nada. [back]