Mike Toth and the art of branding

PHotos (above and top right) by Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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In the 1980s, a company called Popular Club Plan hired a young marketer named Mike Toth to remake the stolid image of its men’s and women’s clothing line. For three weeks, Toth worked 12 hours a day with the company’s owner crafting a new identity and name for the catalogue business.

It was a time of buttoned-down, pressed clothes, and Toth shook things up. “We roughed it all up and let the wrinkles and the dirt add to the patina and real nature of the clothing,” he says.

Now they needed a name. “What about Crew?” Toth suggested. He loved the quick, hard sound of the name and what it connoted: a sport that “was aspirational in an Ivy League, Oxford, Thames-y kind of way.” The company owner added the initial J. because he was a fan of J. Press clothing.

J. Crew took off, and so did Mike Toth’s career.

Thirty years later, Toth + Co. is a top lifestyle branding company that has created marketing strategies for dozens of companies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Wrangler, Coach, Nautica and L.L. Bean, making them household names.

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