Launches need more research

It says something about 21st century culture – if not of the diligence and research capabilities of consumer brand management and development teams, let alone their sense of the appropriate – when a beauty products company with a natural, new age styling decides to call one of its products “to sleep: perchance to dream”.

Great quote, isn’t it? Great name for a product. Except, of course, if you know anything about its provenance.

Did anyone at the company stop to think what it means? What does Hamlet’s equivocation with death through suicide at a moment of despair have to do with 21st century beauty products? Take a look at the play and you find the quote actually begins, “To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream”.

Hamlet, shocked at the discovery of his father’s murder by his uncle, who soon after marries his mother, contemplates what to do next.

Suicide seems an option for a 16th-century Danish prince. So, he muses, shall I kill myself or not? Didn’t Shakespeare say it so well: to be or not to be?

Does Hamlet mean it? Arguably no, for he’s worried enough at the “being-eaten-by-worms” prospect of final death to characterise it in this soliloquy as a sinking into sleep. After all, he’s a young man, and some say a bit of a drama queen. He’s just indulging himself.

Which brings us back to the company in question and poorly researched names for new products.

Here’s one possible reason for the chosen name. The company’s products are bought by spoilt, self-indulgent individuals, who delude themselves that their lives are so unnaturally stressed that their best prospect at the end of the day is to be drenched with a heady mixture of perfumes so strong, they will transform thoughts of death into a potent sleep.

Well perhaps not, after all.

How these things happen is what worries me. I can just see the team meeting in the new products department at the nameless company. Someone’s just seen Shakespeare in Love, and their project file is full of clippings about how the bard now has sex appeal.

And why not, when Gwyneth has just starred in his film, when he’s played by that scrummy boy, Joseph Fiennes? He’s good enough to eat, let alone fall asleep, perchance to dream with!

So the beauty product needs a new name? Here’s a good one: a dash of pseudo retro culture, and an archaism for that unmistakable note of charm. And a really obvious reference to what the product wants you to think it can do for you. Sleep. Dream. Except of course, it’s all about death.

Does anyone else worry about these things? Am I the lonely raving PR woman at the back of the bus, the un-hip one who spots the mistakes, who knows where to put (or not) the apostrophe in “its”?

I believe I’m not the only one who worries about the detail, who knows where to find integrity in the dictionary, who cares about what’s right and wrong, and damn it, good and bad. I care. When “they” get things wrong, I care. I happen to think it makes a difference.

Deborah Lewis

Director and co-founder


London WC2

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