While in HEC Paris, one day I went to my friend Vineeta’s room (She used to make amazing chai :p). But she refused to make chai that day. Why? She was putting on nail polish. She is a rich girl. Nothing less than Louboutin or Dior would work for her. Inquisitive me bombarded her with loads of questions. What is the history of nail polish? Why did you choose this brand? Why this color? The MAIN question: How do you think companies decide the name of the color of their nail polish?

Vineeta got irritated and asked me to leave. And advised me to get myself educated (with a smug face though). I left but this question stayed in my mind for a long time. So I did some research and found that why nail polish color names are like Flirty Pink, Bermuda Shorts, Queen, or a sassy name like Bikini So Teeny. Why can’t just cosmetic companies put names like orange, blue, purple, pink? Why do they have to make lives (especially men’s) so complicated? Btw here are the top 10 craziest names.

Before I move to the theoretical part on strategies behind these exotic color names I will let you enjoy the Shade parade by CHANEL. It’s a Nail Cabaret!! Building a legacy: Chanel’s Luxury Marketing Strategy

Nails are inch wide but they are canvases for women

Women Celebrities from all functions, Bollywood or Hollywood have made nail art more popular than ever. Katy Perry went the extra when she adorned her husband’s image on her nails. Not only just celebrities but women from all walks of life are paying more and more attention to nails. As a matter of fact, as per a report, The global nail care market is projected to reach a value of US$ 20,940.2 Mn by 2027, expanding at an average growth rate of 8.4% 

So what is the history behind nail polish?

It becomes important to understand the history behind nail polish. Nail polish as we know it today came into existence in the 20th century only. Thanks to the automotive industry. Not long after 1920 when automotive paint was invented, French manicurist Michelle Manard adapted the formula to create opaque nail polish. She used to work for a company called Charles Revson, which you know today as Revlon. Revlon soon became the cosmetics industry leader. You can read the entire history of Nail Polish here.

Till the 1980s Nail Polish names were simple like Super Platinum, Almost Red, Rosewine, Pebble Pink, etc along with its shades in numbers like Red No. 4 or Pink No. 2. Quite simple.. no? But then why after the 1980s companies have started to make weird yet intriguing names for their nail polish?

This style of naming was started by Essie Weingarten when she started her own Nail Polish brand “Essie”. FYI: Essie is still a number 1 brand in the Nail Polish market but is now owned by L’Oréal. Even Queen of England Her Majesty wears only one color “Ballet Slippers“. And this color is by Essie. Such royalty.

When we started in the nail business 30 years ago, the shades were named by number. It was very impersonal and boring. Essie was first to add the clever shade names to polish, and we made it fun! Women everywhere loved it and remembered us. It set Essie apart.

Essie Weingarten in an interview to Fashionista

Now almost every cosmetic brand uses this strategy in its own way to name its Nail Polish color

  • Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI executive vice president and artistic director, says that her team names Nail Polish after destinations. OPI is well known for its sassy and wacky names. OPI team takes inspirational trips and collect the names of food or anything from that destination that inspires. A team of 6 then regroup to decide the name.

When I create colors and when I think of colors, it’s a huge way to self-express. So I really consider everything. I look at music, food, how society is trending, and of course, what the hot shades are for a specific season.

Suzi Weiss-Fischmann in an interview to Elite Daily
  • Butter London, a firm that designs toxic-free nail lacquer, names nail polish after British Slangs. It has a nail polish called “Jaffa” which is the name of a seedless orange but which also means infertile man in British slang.

  • Deborah Lippman, another top nail polish maker and a celebrity manicurist, names them after songs. Why? Before Deborah ventured into nails, she was studying opera and performing as a jazz singer. The songs are chosen by a small group of people who spend an evening with a little wine and a lot of iTunes perusing.

In the Nail Polish business, color names can make or break the product.

Women will buy that color only if its name resonates with their mood and personality. Hence the brands are trying their level best to keep names trendy, distinctive, and engaging. The name should also resonate with the theme of the brand. Marketers very well understand that name of the nail polish is as important as nail polish color itself. Naming has the power to elicit emotions.

So now you know the history behind nail polish and how are they named. If you are a guy reading this, show off your newly acquired knowledge about nail polish to your woman and impress them :P. Can’t guarantee it!! But women do admire men who take a genuine interest in learning about their stuff. :). Do tell me how did it go?

Interested in reading more General Strategy Stories? Check out our collection.


Also, check out our most loved stories below

Why did Michelin, a tire company, decide to rate restaurants?

Is ‘Michelin Star’ by the same Michelin that sells tires, yes, it is! But Why? How a tire company evaluations became most coveted in the culinary industry?

Johnnie Walker – The legend that keeps walking!

Johnnie Walker is a 200 years old brand but it is still going strong with its marketing strategies and bold attitude to challenge the conventional norms.

Starbucks prices products on value not cost. Why?

In value-based pricing, products are price based on the perceived value instead of cost. Starbucks has mastered the art of value-based pricing. How?

Illuminated Nike shoes doing brand marketing

Nike doesn’t sell shoes. It sells an idea!!

Nike has built one of the most powerful brands in the world through its benefit-based marketing strategy. What is this strategy and how Nike has used it?

Domino's pizza slice separated from pizza

Domino’s is not a pizza delivery company. What is it then?

How one step towards digital transformation completely changed the brand perception of Domino’s from a pizza delivery company to a technology company?

BlackRock, the story of the world’s largest shadow bank

BlackRock has $7.9 trillion worth of Asset Under Management which is equal to 91 sovereign wealth funds managed. What made it unknown but a massive banker?

Why does Tesla’s Zero Dollar Budget Marketing Strategy work?

Touted as the most valuable car company in the world, Tesla firmly sticks to its zero dollar marketing. Then what is Tesla’s marketing strategy?

The Nokia Saga – Rise, Fall and Return

Nokia is a perfect case study of a business that once invincible but failed to maintain leadership as it did not innovate as fast as its competitors did!

Yahoo! The story of strategic mistakes

Yahoo’s story or case study is full of strategic mistakes. From wrong to missed acquisitions, wrong CEOs, the list is endless. No matter how great the product was!!

Apple – A Unique Take on Social Media Strategy

Apple’s social media strategy is extremely unusual. In this piece, we connect Apple’s unique and successful take on social media to its core values.



A passionate writer and a business enthusiast having 6 years of industry experience in a variety of industries and functions. I just love telling stories and share my learning. Connect with me on LinkedIn. Let's chat...

Write A Comment