Should Coach Inc. have changed its name?

Discussion
Photo: Tapestry
Oct 16, 2017
Tom Ryan

Coach Inc.’s decision last week to change its name to Tapestry Inc. brought more questions than praise.

The change follows the company’s acquisition of Stuart Weitzman in 2015 and Kate Spade this year as part of its strategy, initiated three years ago, to become a multi-brand conglomerate.

“We are now at a defining moment in our corporate reinvention, having evolved from a mono-brand specialty retailer to a true house of emotional, desirable brands, all leveraging our strong operational foundation,” said Victor Luis, CEO, in a statement.

Some reports questioned the wisdom of becoming a multi-brand player that will face fierce competition from European luxury players, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Kering and Richemont. Rival Michael Kors recently acquired Jimmy Choo and plans to acquire more brands.

Multi-brand conglomerates don’t always work. Nike, for one, sold off Starter, Umbro, Cole Haan and Bauer Hockey to better focus on its flagship brand. But Robin Lewis, founder of The Robin Report, believes multi-branded conglomerates are necessary, telling Forbes, “Infinite growth for a mono-brand is impossible.”

Another question was whether a shift away from the 76-year-old Coach name was necessary. A corporate name change heralds a change in direction. Among the more notable have been Google to Alphabet, Philip Morris to Altria and Kraft to Mondelez.

Mr. Luis told The New York Times that the Tapestry name declares that the company’s multi-brand strategy is “not limited to any category, channel or geography.”

Mr. Luis in a statement said the name “embodies our creative brand-led and consumer-focused business, while also representing the deep heritage of the group. Most importantly, we are establishing a strong and distinct corporate identity, which enables our brands to express their individual personalities and unique language to consumers.”

The name reminded some, however, of Carole King’s famous 1971 album. After initial panic on social media, consumers were reassured that the Coach name would remain on handbags. But changes can dismay investors. Activist investor Nelson Peltz has said the Mondelez name sounds like “a disease.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Coach’s new multi-brand strategy and new name? Are names all that significant for multi-brand conglomerates?

Braintrust
"Changing the Coach corporate name to Tapestry has created more confusion than clarity."
"Perhaps this is their first step towards redefining who they are going to be and sticking to it."
"They made a good decision changing the corporate name. Legacy names around brands run into problems. "

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27 Comments on "Should Coach Inc. have changed its name?"

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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Re-branding is always a tricky business and especially when you have such a well-known and beloved brand as Coach. The strategic rationale to change the master brand to a new, more inclusive moniker is reasonable, but perhaps management could have launched the brand change in a way that was more subtle and evolving in order to minimize concerns from Coach aficionados.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I strongly disagree with Coach changing its name. The public doesn’t care to know about all the changes a company is making internally. What they do focus on is reputation, one that the Coach name has had since the 1940s. Many businesses through the years have changed their model without changing their name, and the public is okay with it because they know who the company is and continue to do business with them. Coach changing their name to Tapestry is unnecessary and may not work well for them at all.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Let’s see. To start with there is a brand name of leather goods that is known across the world. That brand purchased other high-end brands with similar items to those that they sell. Now they think it’s a good idea to change the name to one that refers to a thick textile fabric with pictures or designs used as a wall hanging or furniture covering? I don’t think so.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

These are highly impactful marketing decisions. All three brands; Coach, Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade are well known and followed in their own right. Why mess with that and confuse all three constituencies?

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Changing the Coach corporate name to Tapestry has created more confusion than clarity. While it’s clear that Coach, Inc. has to come up with a strategy to move to more of a multi-brand conglomerate, the Coach name is extremely valuable from a brand recognition perspective.

Historically, companies have faced challenges when they have to explain the re-branding and name changes. It’s challenging to find a name that keeps the integrity of the original parent brand yet makes a statement for the road ahead, especially when the company is undergoing a transformation.

Lets see how things progress as Coach expands their acquisition strategies.

Jasmine Glasheen
Staff

Far too late in the game for a name change. It would have made more sense to keep the Coach name for their leather goods line and used “Tapestry” to represent the multi-brand conglomerate.

Without the name “Coach” they lose their brand history and, with that, they lose what makes their leather goods line stand out from the competition.

Seth Nagle
BrainTrust

Never too late to make a change, but at this point they need to do something drastic because your right, Jasmine, if they don’t do something, their competition is going to surpass them pretty quick.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
I don’t know much about Coach or any company that charges a mortgage payment for a purse. But I do know why many organizations do this sort of thing. In my book “Going Deep” written 20 years ago, I outlined six developmental stages organizations go through on the way to discovering who they really are and why they are here. Phase Four is “Irritation,” a desperate restlessness over the realization that things just aren’t working, that they’ve passed their prime and that, unless they learn how to re-invent themselves into a butterfly, they are about to die. This irritation is the fruit of blind bureaucracy focused on short-term goals, profit at any cost and command and control leadership. Instead of seeking true insight as to how they can meaningfully re-invent themselves they revert to refurbishing the very institutional bureaucracy they need to escape. So they more or less do what Coach is doing: Come up with a new name and a new logo. I’ve had clients spend millions trying to make a fading organization look life-like. It means everyone gets a new golf-shirt but not much beyond that. Re-locate headquarters. All kinds of rationalization for this like “having everyone under… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

I understand the concerns about a potential loss of focus. However, by itself a corporate name change need not have any impact on its flagship brands. Consumers can still shop in a Coach or Kate Spade retailer.

The bigger question is, what new fabrics will be woven into the company’s tapestry?

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a change of corporate name, not of the name consumers will see on storefronts or products — those will remain just as they are.

The move is largely sensible as the corporate entity comprises more than just Coach and will likely become larger still over time.

There’s nothing wrong with Coach becoming a house of brands, just so long as it nurtures each brand and gives each the space it needs to grow.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

This is s tough one. I hope that they did the due diligence to ensure that it was the right move–it’s like Burberry changing their name. All of their new sub-brands have legacy and Coach has both positive and negative legacy–but it’s global. Their brand has certainly been frenetic in style, target market and price point. Perhaps this is their first step towards redefining who they are going to be and sticking to it.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Your last sentence is insightful and is THE key for their future. Well said Laura. IF it turns out to be an honest discovery of what they want to be it may work for them. But if it’s just a literal cover-up the rust will soon come through.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

The logic for the name change to a corporate conglomerate name makes perfect sense. The company should not develop Tapestry as a consumer-facing brand. It’s a financial umbrella. In this case the consumer brands are loved and have great meaning, so focus the brands toward the shoppers and Tapestry, Inc. to the investors. Perhaps more effort to be clear about the strategy could have been part of the announcement.

Lesley Everett
BrainTrust

I think the name change is a big mistake for two key reasons: Coach has a great reputation and brand and the success of the newly-merged companies will largely rest on this; the name Tapestry is not appealing, creating visions of dated, heavy, clumsy fabric — not what Coach or the other two brands are known for. Also why not keep all three brand names as they are? Why mess with something that works?

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

They made a good decision changing the corporate name. Legacy names around brands run into problems. The Disney “corporation” has hurt the Disney family entertainment name by releasing movies that violate the family sensibility yet come under a “Disney” name.

The problem here is that Coach botched the announcement — leading most headlines to suggest the Coach product/store brand was changing to “Tapestry.” This change should have been discussed only with a Wall Street investor/retail buyer audience.

The right execution could have made that happen.

Tom Dougherty
BrainTrust

The throwing away of a respected brand name, so cavalierly, is a danger flag in my eyes. “Leveraging our strong operational foundation” is like skipping meals to save money for food.

When will they discover how much it costs be a recognizable brand? One as known as COACH? This brand did not need major repair, just repositioning. It certainly did not deserve the trash can.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

When I first read about the name change I was confused as to what it meant in relation to the Coach brand. It is now a week later and I am still not clear. Hopefully the women who shop these brands will know and continue to purchase from them. I for one don’t get the purpose from a sales and marketing point of view.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Coach is one of the very few brands successful in reinventing themselves to a new generation back in the late ’80s. A feat for sure! Coach does have an emotional connection with consumers. Over the decades, Coach has become shorthand for products consumers can count on to be authentic, good quality with a bit of cachet.

Why replace a powerful brand with a word that means, “a piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving colored weft threads or by embroidering on canvas, used as a wall hanging or furniture covering”?

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I don’t have a problem with the name change because it is aimed at the investment community — not at consumers of the company’s multiple brands. Coach is still Coach as far as the customer is concerned, and likewise with Kate Spade. The new name suggests to investors that Tapestry is literally “more than Coach,” especially if it has more brand acquisitions in the future. Google’s decision to rename its parent company as “Alphabet” was a similar move that didn’t dilute the strength of the Google brand at all.

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

If Coach continues to market its leather goods and related accessories with the Coach name intact, then I see no downside to the corporate name changes. There will be no change for consumers to see and therefore no particular impact. Retailers and other business partners have to be assured that Tapestry will maintain positive relationships it has established and improve sales for all the brands in the conglomerate. Changing the corporate identity to Tapestry opens the way to consolidation of in-house operations and perhaps greater profitability overall.

Dan Raftery
BrainTrust

Not a good move. Coach is a solid brand name, with exposure beyond its direct consumer base. It takes years to build that level of exposure and trust. Tapestry, on the other hand, is a classic album by Carole King. I for one am confused.

Todd Trombley
Guest
The name change to Tapestry does not alter the branding for the three operating units. Thus far, all communication from Coach Inc. indicates that the Coach, Stuart Weitzman & Kate Spade brands will continue to operate independently. Many seem to be missing this point and commenting as though the Coach brand will be going away; that does not appear to be the case. Changing the name of the holding company so that it is distinct from that of one of the operating brands gives the holding company the opportunity to create a unique story for the investor community. The ability to spin up a distinct and unencumbered story to the investment community is a very important consideration and very necessary. The name Tapestry itself does convey the notion of combining several elements (brands) to create the whole. I would give a positive score to the name they’ve chosen for the holding company. If Tapestry is attempting to build itself into something akin to the LVMH, Richemont, Kering, etc., then branding the holding company as Tapestry may prove to be a positive. As to the merits of its strategy to go multi-brand, I think I’ll declare myself as being from Missouri.… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

A feel of the cart before the horse: worrying about whether the new name — which supposedly reflects a new strategy — is a good thing, when the concern should be over the strategy itself. I have doubts about the strategy, but I’m sympathetic to the “do something” fears that lie behind it.

As for the name change itself: it seems like a risky move — “desperate” is probably too strong a word — since a familiar and popular brand has enormous value, Juliet’s inquiry of “what’s in a name?” notwithstanding.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

Given the apparent widespread confusion over the name change (the Coach brand remains Coach — it is the parent company changing names to Tapestry), this appears to be a lesson on the importance of communicating a parent company name change to all important stakeholders. Clearly stating the change doesn’t affect the consumer-facing Coach brand. Otherwise, as has been the case here, the media and consumers become unnecessarily confused, leading to an unintended dilution of the Coach retail and merchandise brand equity.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Changing their corporate name is more about creating a feeling of “growing up” as a business. You would think a 76-year-old brand would not need to do this, but other brands go through this phase – it’s not unique.

The only real problem with the new name is in how it was announced. This announcement has created more confusion than “New Coke”. It would be amazing if someone went to a Coach or Kate Spade store and polled the customers: a) if they even know about the name change, and b) if they do, what they think of it. While I’m sure Coach management thought this one through and had plenty of good reason to rebrand the parent company as Tapestry, the need to tell the world at large about it in such a prominent manner seems unnecessary. The net result seems to be a significant number of potential consumers believing the Coach name is going away (not so) and that soon they’ll be buying Tapestry branded handbags (also not so). This really matters more for Wall Street than it does Main Street.

Seth Nagle
BrainTrust

Any time there is a merger or acquisition a name change is always in the cards and for some companies it makes sense and for others, it’s just to make the new marketing exec feel like they made an impact.

For Coach, I think this makes sense as the fashion industry is not what it used to be. If you get a second, check out “How Luxury Lost Its Luster” and you’ll see what I mean. Also with the new generation entering the workforce and their need for brands that are responsible (Toms), sustainable (Patagonia), and convenient (Bombfell) why not start something new and start fresh?

Sarah Nochimowski
Guest

I can’t wait to welcome “Embroidery” next! Coach was perfectly fine.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Changing the Coach corporate name to Tapestry has created more confusion than clarity."
"Perhaps this is their first step towards redefining who they are going to be and sticking to it."
"They made a good decision changing the corporate name. Legacy names around brands run into problems. "

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