Brown Shoe Company to Rebrand Itself as Caleres

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From: St. Louis Today

One of St. Louis’ oldest public companies, Brown Shoe, is stepping out with a new name, Caleres. Brown has been part of the corporate name since the company’s founding in 1878. Next month, however, that name will be dropped once shareholders approve the change on May 28.

“Brown Shoe doesn’t conjure up the image of who we are today,” Brown Shoe’s CEO, president and chairwoman Diane Sullivan said in an interview. “Our name has to be more than a name — it must be managed as a brand. It’s hard to be emotional about a brown shoe.”

The $2.6 billion retailer whose brands include Naturalizer, Franco Sarto, Dr. Scholl’s and Vince has expanded beyond its roots as a shoe manufacturer.

Its Sam Edelman brand, which made its debut in 2004, recently added apparel, jewelry and handbags in addition to shoes, and the company’s Famous Footwear chain has grown to more than 1,000 stores in the U.S., Guam and Canada.

The new corporate name Caleres comes from “calere,” a Latin word that means “passionate, to glow,” according to the company.

“That really hit us as being about our passion in our people,” Sullivan said. “You can’t be around for 137 years without passion.”

Brown Shoe began as Bryan, Brown and Co. in downtown St. Louis, and switched to Brown Shoe Co. in 1893. After operating as the Brown Group from 1972 to 1999, it reverted once again to Brown Shoe in 1999.

With the rebranding, the Brown name won’t disappear, however. Named for its founder, George Warren Brown, the company plans to launch a new men’s shoe brand called Brown Shoe Bootmakers next year. The company also continues to sell Buster Brown children’s shoes under a licensing agreement.

The rebranding process began about 18 months ago, Sullivan said, after a portfolio realignment and restructuring.

The company closed dozens of underperforming Famous Footwear stores and sold several brands, including Avia and AND 1. It refocused its business on three growing consumer segments: family, healthy living and contemporary fashion.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch at the company’s Clayton headquarters, Sullivan said the changes prompted her to approach the company’s executive leadership team with the question: Did their name best represent the company and the company’s ambitions?

Its stable of namesake footwear lines now includes Fergie and Fergalicious by Fergie, named for Grammy-award-winning performer Fergie. The line includes red suede and platinum shoes, and a new gladiator sandal with gold-colored metallic embellishments.

As the company grows, it sought a name that was less literal and evoked a sense of curiosity.

To develop a new name, Brown Shoe hired Lexicon Branding, the Sausalito, Calif.-based company that has helped create brand names including BlackBerry, Febreeze and OnStar.

“Caleres works, because it’s much more globally suggestive, and we aspire to be world class,” Sullivan said. With 11,000 employees, the company also wanted a name that would inspire and work better in recruiting efforts.

After the company’s shareholder meeting May 28, in addition to its rebranding, Brown Shoe also will replace the B in its logo that was added after Sullivan became CEO in 2011.

Brown Shoe hired another firm, New York-based brand consultancy Collins, to help design a logo for the new name.

Several Collins employees traveled to Clayton last year and spent several days combing through company archives to find inspiration and uncovered Brown Shoe’s Star-Five-Star mark that was used in company advertising dating to 1885.

The mark – a number 5 with a star on either side – was once stamped on the bottom of the company’s shoes, and Brown Shoe advertised that if the mark wore off before the shoes did, it would refund the customer $5.

Cartoon character Buster Brown, which served as the company’s mascot beginning in 1904, had a dog named Tige who had the number 5 with two stars visible on his scarf. Just inside the doors at its headquarters, a decades old wooden bench has the mark inscribed on the backrest.

The “Star-Five-Star” mark represents the company’s dedication to creating the perfect fit, Sullivan said, and it hasn’t been used in years. With the addition of the mark to the new Caleres logo, “We have a ferociousness about fit, and it was just really true to us,” she said.

The Brown Shoe letters on the headquarters building above the front door will come down after May 28, and its ticker symbol will change from BWS to CAL.

A giant sculpture made of shoes that’s long been a fixture in front of the footwear company’s headquarters will soon relocate to another part of the campus. The move is part of other landscape improvements underway that include a fountain and gathering spots for its 900 local employees.

CORPORATE BRANDING

When rebranding, companies must consider the impact on consumers, investors, employees and suppliers or retailers they work with, said Joseph Goodman, associate professor of marketing at Washington University’s Olin School of Business.

Because Brown Shoe isn’t a consumer facing brand, the company shouldn’t expect much backlash, he said. “The brand equity for the consumer is in the Naturalizer brand or the Famous Footwear brand name, Goodman said. “I don’t think it’ll have any effect on the consumers’ decision making process because they’re unaware of the Brown Shoe Co. name.”

Goodman said it may take awhile for the new name to take hold, however. “We tend to underestimate the power of familiarity,” he said. “When you build a brand by scratch, it’s costly and it takes time.”

Corporate rebrandings are common as companies evolve and add products or services or grow outside their home market, said Jim Fisher, an associate professor and marketing chair at St. Louis University.

After a merger, PricewaterhouseCoopers rebranded to the simpler PwC, and Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp. was shortened to HSBC. The initial name for Yahoo! was Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.

“A memorable and apt name is a big boost,” Fisher said. “To have a global brand is to have a very valuable asset.”

Brown Shoe is focused on achieving organic growth, acquiring and incubating brands, being a magnet for talent, building global relevance and having a portfolio of relevant brands that endure, the CEO said.

“We’re on a mission to do everything we can for another century of progress,” Sullivan said. “We can’t look back anymore, we have to look forward. And the best thing is, we are only beginning.”

Tags: naming rebranding Brown Shoe Co. Diane Sullivan St. Louis Caleres footwear