What’s in a name? Well, potentially the future of a business. With the annual results for Mothercare painting a bleak picture – despite last year’s round of store closures and the brand’s much-lauded recent ad campaign – it might be time for Mothercare to dig in a bit to the significance of nomenclature.
Company names are so integral and inextricable from the brand that it can sometimes fall to the bottom of the list of things to be examined and upheaved. But a brand’s name is the shop window to so many things: how we perceive it, what images it brings to mind.
The name Mothercare conjures up hugely outdated images of female domesticity, complete with twin set, pearls and a casserole on the stove. In an era when both parents are (rightly) expected to take responsibility for childcare, the company needs a more modern take on the word "care".
It should evoke less of the outmoded wrap-you-up-in-cotton-wool notion of parenting and more nurturing and preparing babies to thrive in an increasingly complex world. Millennial parents are the most hands-on yet and the world is a lot more complicated than the 1960s that baby boomers lived through.
With this in mind, here are some suggestions for new names that would indicate a modern brand that understands what it means to be a parent today. Mothercare should be trying to imagine how an ambitious start-up would look at parenting; that is ultimately what it’s up against.
What do families look like now?
The name Mothercare is plain confusing when you think about it – and not just the gender bit. What does the care bit even mean these days? It’s the parent taking care of the child, not the company taking care of the mother.
The company’s role needs to be reflective of modern parenthood. Not just dads, but also step-parents, siblings, single-parent families and double-dad/double-mum families. Something like ParentCare or FamilyCare would indicate that.
What Mothercare calls itself (as well as how it speaks and what it offers) can either embrace this more fluid notion of parenting or it can exclude many people. In particular, its tagline, "Welcome to the club", doesn’t sound very inclusive of new models of families.
This tweak to the name would represent a brand that is inviting to anybody raising a child, whether that be a parent, carer, sibling and so on. It’s about acknowledging that the traditional role of a parent has evolved; it’s no longer just about the mother.
Subscribing to a new approach
What if Mothercare changed its offer to a subscription parenting model – ParentPrime?
Would a challenger brand or start-up in this space open a brick-and-mortar store, selling stuff you could get on Amazon? Of course not. A start-up in today’s world would begin with the needs of anybody raising a child and think about the best way to deliver that. Essentially, parenting as a service.
Think about it – suddenly you have to think about nappies, wipes, bottles, clothes, bedding, prams, car seats, slings, cribs, cots, toys. Now, think about the shelf life of most of those items. Does owning them forever really make sense?
A subscription-based model, where you have everything you need when you need it but somebody else gets the benefit afterwards, makes more sense for the parent and the planet.
The world at your feet
A name like LifeCare would mean Mothercare could keep itself open to branching out into different offerings, as many companies do now. Being able to diversify beyond traditional childcare would open new avenues.
A name change only goes so far, so it needs to also think about what it is actually offering as a brand. Parents can get all of what it offers elsewhere, from Argos or Amazon, and most likely cheaper – so why Mothercare?
Businesses don’t build their reputation solely on their name. Names are not experienced in isolation and a great one won’t rescue an ill-conceived idea or badly executed one. However, a good name shouldn’t be underestimated. A rose might smell as sweet by any other name – but it’s certainly more romantic-sounding than a bat plant or monkey face orchid. Mothercare rethinking its name could lead to the birth of something truly beautiful.
Emma Barratt is creative director at Wolff Olins