La Mer The Body Creme

Millimeters apart on the label, miles apart in meaning. Yes, a few extra millimeters of blank space can make all the difference in the world for some brands. Especially when the brand name consists of two words, and the typical visual treatment has all letters appearing in identical size and style (all caps), and when compressing the words yields an unintended, unfavorable meaning. Take the above luxury skin care brand owned by La Mer Technology, one of the Estee Lauder companies.

Honestly, I’m not sure how, but a few weeks ago, I came across Felicia Sullivan’s blog post "Covet Fall’s Top 10 Beauty Indulgences" on The Huffington Post, featuring the above product image. I took a double take at the brand name, laughed out loud (initially thinking it was a spoof product), and after realizing it wasn’t, I knew I couldn’t resist writing about it.

Part of my due diligence involved questioning my wife about it, she being far more experienced in these kinds of matters. I was "kindly" informed that "anybody who is anyone" knows La Mer is a coveted luxury skin care brand. Since being educated, I now introduce my wife as anyone, and myself as no one. Ironically, you might say I fit at least one slang definition of "lamer" — "a person who is out of touch with modern fads or trends, esp. one who is unsophisticated." There are other meanings too, that I suspect don’t implicate the target market for $130 an ounce skin care products, or value-priced 16.5 ounce containers at $1,390. Just so you know, I also have come to know that anyone who knows anything about the French language knows La Mer means "the sea".

My youthful (I prefer that term to juvenile) amusement in the brand name was triggered by initially seeing LAMER on the label, not LA MER (well, excuse me), and imagining it on a department store shelf in a SNL skit correctly positioned as a mid-grade skin care brand right between LAME on the left, and LAMEST on the right.

More seriously, attempting to put myself in the position of the La Mer brand guardians, I couldn’t help but think how careful they must be in measuring the millimeters of open space between LA and MER on their various product labels and advertisements. I wouldn’t be surprised if the trademark style guide for this brand is equipped with a pair of calipers to ensure proper and precise spacing.

Let’s just say that LA MER is not a brand well-suited for the trend of many marketers to compress a multi-word brand name into a compound or telescoped brand and trademark. HomeGoods is one safe example, can you think of others, maybe some not so safe? Any internet domain names?

Yet, La Mer seems to understand the tendency for and risk of brand compression and actually pays for internet keywords without the essential spacing between La and Mer. Not only for sponsored listings on Google, but on Dictionary.com too, as shown in the above linked definition for "lamer".

It is curious to me, given the variety of unintended and unflattering meanings of "LAMER," that the style guide for this brand doesn’t require use of lower case "a" and lower case "er" to clearly yield La Mer, but then again, I fully admit to not being part of the target market for this coveted luxury skin care brand. Presumably, those who are in the market for La Mer brand bathroom fixtures, namely lavatories (as opposed to eau de toilette), aren’t either.

  • Randall Hull

    OK, this made me chuckle.
    If it were to appear it an SNL skit, wouldn’t the item to its left be Lam√©. After all, it is French!
    The Body Cr√®me described by Ms. Sullivan as a “seaweed wrap in a jar” reminds me more of canned sushi products available in finer grocery stores than a beauty aid. But what do I know, I’m a guy who grew up wearing Old Spice.

  • James Mahoney

    While not exactly parallel to the LA MER situation, I always chuckle at the memory of an airline ad from a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which airline it was now (or, for the sake of the airline, it’s probably fortunate that I can’t recall the name). They ran a TV ad with up-tempo music and “nice” cuts of airline activity designed to announce that they were making a renewed effort to be a great airline.
    The memorable part was the line, “There’s a new attitude at XXX Airline…” The visual was of a hand turning over a luggage destination tag. The unintended (I’m sure) effect was achieved by the tag being for Los Angeles. So, when you heard, “There’s a new attitude…” you saw the tag flip over to show LAX.
    Oh, I remember now who the ad was for: Laid Back Air.