What’s NOT in a Name

“It is salutary to be careful in choosing names that identify with the great saints who have gone before us. The first pope to change his name upon election was John II in 533. He did so because his father had named him for the pagan god Mercury. The more pagan a culture becomes, the more it lapses into pagan and even downright silly names.”

George William Rutler

In the paradise that was the Garden of Eden, Adam was assigned two essential tasks:

  1. Procreate the human species
  2. Name what he saw around him

Adam obviously exceeded expectations on the first item.

The second? Well, that’s the reason for this blog.

Today, naming is at least a multi-million-dollar industry. At the same time, naming a child is something every parent wrestles with.

Entrepreneurs with a small or start-up business, for instance, might invest anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 for a name and logo created by a reputable branding agency.

What about the big drug companies that throw at you catchy names like Zyprexa, Xarelto and Prostaglandin?

A drug has three names as it’s brought to market:

  1. The “New Chemical Entity” name based on the compound's chemical structure
  2. A “Generic” name to identify the drug during its clinical lifetime
  3. And its “Brand” trademark, to identify the drug during the 17 years the manufacturer has exclusive rights to make and sell it

According to Aswath Damodaran of NYU's Stern School of Business, a brand's value fuels its ability to sell at the highest price. He cites brand as “the most sustainable competitive advantage known to business.”

In Coca-Cola's case, branding accounts for 80% of its value.

"You can put whatever you want on the outside of the can, but there is really no difference between a cola and another cola,” Damodaran says. “Taste is irrelevant. Brand is the illusion.”

Example: In1985 Coca-Cola rolled out “New Coke,” based on consumer research showing that the new formula tasted better.

Coca-Cola learned the hard way that it wasn't about the taste. It was about the intangible emotional connection consumers felt toward the brand. The original formula was returned to the marketplace, branded as "Coca-Cola Classic."

In light of all this, what’s a parent to do?

Baby name expert Laura Wattenberg has tracked and tallied almost 1,500 viewpoints of Internet postings abut baby names and published The Most-Hated Baby Names in America.

Her conclusion?

The "audience" for a baby name is shifting from the inward-facing target of your own family and community to an outward-facing focus on the way the name will be perceived during the child's “life marketplace.”

People said, for instance, that the name Hunter, "should only be a last name" and is "too violent."

The names we choose for our children send signals that are received loud and clear. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio demonstrated this when he chose Francis as his papal name.

Ms. Wattenberg:

"It's a stark illustration of the power of names: the ability to express an entire philosophy of faith and leadership in a single word.”

The question for new parents? When you choose a name you believe will make your child stand out, are you naming -- or branding?

In my next blog, “Un-Maintenance Men”

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  • Peter Yaremko
    published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 10:35:55 -0400