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Why did Brown Shoe Company change its name to ‘Caleres?’

Caleres Logo
Courtesy of Caleres

When it comes to a successful company, having a significant brand is essential to generating business. It is often a key factor in setting one business apart from another.

After 137 years, the historic Brown Shoe Company in St. Louis changed its name to Caleres. With the help of Brian Collins, executive creative director and founder of Collins, a brand consultancy company, Caleres decided to rebrand itself with new ambitions in mind.

“Brown Shoe Company sounds very predictable, which suggests that we make brown shoes,” said Will Smith, chief marketing officer of Caleres. “When you think of all we do, all that we’re trying to do, and all that we want to be, we felt as though [the name] was a little limiting. We wanted a name that could live up to our ambition.”

Since its beginning, the company has expanded its reach to include a variety of other brands, including Sam Edelman and Vince, both of which include apparel. As a result, Collins explained that the brand name “Brown Shoe Company” could not allow the business to achieve its projected goals.

An important consideration when changing a company’s brand, according to Collins, is to make sure that the name change would continue the history the business has already established. In Caleres’ case, a “star 5 star” symbol was added. The logo had been a part of the business for over 100 years, Smith said.     

“The power of a brand is that is contributes to very efficient and effective communication when done right,” said Jim Fisher, marketing department chair at Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business. “So, there is the prospect now of a lot of money going behind those communication (marketing) efforts.”

When it comes to redefining a brand in today’s times, social media has become an important, yet unpredictable tool to consider when branding. The connection between a company and its brand that once took years to accomplish is achieved faster today with social media. “[Today], we have a flood of social media and we’ve seen how that can affect branding, [such as] when The Gap changed their logo and there was a huge public outcry,” said Eric Thoelke, president and executive creative director of TOKY Branding + Design.

“The way that companies have to engage their audiences is changing,” Thoelke added. “It’s a momentous decision for a company [as old as Brown Shoe Company] to make this big of a change.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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