A Hong Kong private equity firm

Sir Hardy Amies was a self-admitted social climber. To him, the words people used were markers of social status as obvious as any label. He never needed help with his own verbal identity.

Then he died.

When the company was bought by a Hong Kong private equity firm, we were asked to work alongside the designers to produce a new distinctive verbal identity for the brand.

We did the verbal brand audit. We identified where brand language could add value (with a limited retail footprint, getting the website copy right and crafting a brand story that could easily be passed on were essential). Then we hit a bump: how does a brand use language to be playful, testy, self-aware and aspirational, without becoming ‘snide’?

Our own Founder, Chris West, took an evening off thinking about verbal strategy to go and hear Stephen Sondheim at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. Two interesting things from that evening:

1. Yes, the man who wrote West Side Story is still alive.

2. He pointed out the subtle difference between Noël Coward and Cole Porter: both were verbally playful and both were obsessed with teasing high society, but Cole Porter was born into that world and wrote affectionately of it (take a song about a great party: “Well, Did You Evah!”) whereas Noel Coward was an outsider and couldn’t help himself from mocking it (take a song about a great party: “I Went to a Marvellous Party”).

Inspired, we realised the Hardy Amies voice should be droll, but never bitchy. Hardy Amies needed to act as though it was confidant in Society, rather than standing outside throwing stones at the windows.

Every part of the brand’s communication needs to be written with as deep an appreciation of the consumer’s world as the consumer has himself.

The brand relaunched successfully, with a clear positioning , a well-visited website and is now distributed through a number of premium retailers.

Finally, we knew the brand’s new voice was a success when one of the world’s best raconteurs, the other greatest living Stephen, became a fan: