WHAT'S in a name?
Apparently, a lot!
In the United Kingdom today, for example, the IN thing to have is what is called a double-barrelled name, or the hyphenated (or sometimes non-hyphenated) combination of one’s maiden and married names (or for males, their maternal and parental surnames or even grandmaternal and grandpaternal surnames, if the name has extended to more than one generation).
Thus, you have people like Anthony Worral-Thompson, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter standing out from the rest of their crowds, their names adding cachet to their already celebrity standing.
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Names count for a lot, too, even in the Philippines.
In my generation, it was American names for babies that were fashionable. Thus, many of my contemporaries have names like Randy, Leslie, Joy and Florence.
In my grandfather’s generation, their names tended to be Spanish-sounding ones, such as Juanito, Fernando, Vidala and Elena. Today, in the generation after us, Spanish names have become fashionable once more, usually given as combinations like Juan-Emmanuel. Likewise, “old-sounding”
English names have come back into vogue, like Jacob Anthony or Joshua Thomas.
Corporates, too, have their own favorites as far as names are concerned.
In the early part of the last century, the IN thing to have was long and rather formal sounding corporate names, just like the double-barrelled English surnames in our example. Jardine Davies, The Imperial Chemical Company, Patons & Baldwins, Procter & Gamble—these were just some of the organizations that were famous during that era, with some surviving and being even more famous today.
Organizations established in more contemporary times had shorter, and in some instances, “weirder” names than those founded before them. Sprint, Verizon, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle are probably good examples of these.
And yet for all the generational nuances, once established, names are likely to be kept for a long time by the organizations that have them. Today, for example, the turn-of-the-century Jardine organizations and Procter & Gamble stand shoulder to shoulder with more recently established ones, like Amazon and Google. Different generations with different norms on the form and structure of their company names. And yet, all of them are powerful brands, with name recognition very high among their target customers.
What this seems to show, then, is that it is not the names as such, but the positive associations that come with the name. Be they the long versions of a hundred years ago, or the abbreviated ones from the turn of the millennium, so long as the names themselves have earned the credibility and respect from their customers, the name is a winner.
But what happens to those with long-established corporate identities, that now suddenly find themselves out of favor in the name recall game?
The global financial crisis has forced this question into the open, with erstwhile “famous” names like Citicorp (Citibank), Merrill Lynch, The Royal Bank of Scotland, AIG and many others having had theirs tarnished—and some would even argue—beyond repair.
What is to be done with them?
More next week.
(http://asbb-foreignexchange. blogspot.com & http://twitter. com/asbbatuhan)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 18, 2009.