Olivier Auroy is a creator of names. But strangely enough, his own profession doesn’t have one. Without concealing his pride, he explains that his profession is ancestral. He has published four books including Au nom d 'Alexandre (2016), an autobiographical novel which discusses his experience in naming. Numéro caught up with him to ask the simple question: how do you create a brand name?
Numéro: Your job is unusual to say the least, how do you go about creating a name? Is a literary qualification essential?
Olivier Auroy: My path has been relatively classic: Sciences Po followed by Celsa Sorbonne. During my civic service, I had the opportunity to go to Rome. That’s where I had the lightbulb moment: I came across an advert for an agency that created names called Kaos Consulting and they were looking for an intern. They had organised a competition: find a name for a new line of baby socks by the brand Olympia. So I rushed over to the primary schools and nurseries to spy on the mums and listen to what they affectionately called their children: “chouchou”, “doudou”, “chaton”, etc. The company liked my approach and I got the position. Gradually I became a creator and then director of creation.
You were the director general of Kantar Consulting, which advises brands on their communications strategies. Does inventing a name always entail a laborious methodology where there’s no room for freedom, or creative spontaneity?
Those who think that creative people need to be free are wrong, it’s completely not true. The more a brand’s brief is elaborate, the more precise their framework is, the more – paradoxically – I’m able to push the limits. Most of the time I come up with a list of 300 names, from which I’ll keep 30 that I present to my client. Generally they say to me, “I don’t like this name but I like the idea”. I will then work for another week or two to come up with a final list of maybe 5 to 10 names. They are then analysed extensively: a legal study and URL check are carried out to ensure the name is not already registered. Perhaps more original is that they are also the subject of a cultural study, to make sure that the name has no negative connotations in other countries. For example, Sega, the name of a Japanese video game company, means “handjob” in Italian! If everything goes well, the process of choosing a name takes around six weeks.
“The brief was as follows: “This perfume must evoke man in his essence, a perfume for all men.” That wasn’t a brief, it was a nightmare!
What are your main constraints?
It is important to define the axis of reflection all while respecting the customer's requests: the messages to communicate, the linguistic constraints, the sounds or the length of the name. Then I identify keywords, which themselves lead me to abbreviations, as well as mythological, historical, geographic references ... I then select the most relevant results, from the point of view of memorisation and their ability to tell a story. The only real constraint is to absolutely respect the spirit and the universe of the client.
Which luxury houses have you worked with?
I’ve worked a lot with the perfume houses: Chanel, Guerlain, Lancôme… Once I was given the following brief for a men’s perfume: “This perfume must evoke man in his essence, a perfume for all men.” This, you see, is not a real brief, it’s a complete nightmare! Things became clearer when someone else summed it all up in one word: "bandit". With that, we can do so much more. Straight away we’re looking at the mafia, gangsters, transgression...
You also worked for the luxury market in the Middle East, what was that experience like?
In the Middle East, I was taken on by the Chalhoub group, a huge distributor in this market, to find the name for the largest luxury shoe store in the world, located in the famous Dubai Mall, an area exclusively reserved for prestigious brands, from Louboutin to Jimmy Choo… My contact had explained to me: “I want something for glorious women, perched on stilettos, women who dominate”. I noticed, in the very terms he used, that he kept talking about the theme of height… and at the same time I remembered that we were very close to the tallest tower in the world. The name suddenly came to me: Level. A palindrome (a word that can be read in both directions) with the biblical first name “Eve” surrounded by the two "l"s. It immediately suggested a very tall woman, a supermodel, and at the same time the very first woman…
Are there any particularities imposed by the various regions of the world for which you work?
Yes. In the Middle East, for example, I created a brand of sunglasses. The idea came from a question: why were there so many pairs of glasses branded Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, etc., but absolutely no brand from the Gulf? This is how the idea of creating it came about. It was inspired by the UAE burqa. Its name, bq, with inverted letters, derives directly from the word burqa and recalls the shape of the glasses, an element that was used for the logo. Burberry was very interested in this project, as was Britney Spears’ artistic director…
“Most of the time, the right name is the first one we come up with, searching for things at the frontier of tolerability.”