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What’s In a Name? by Jim Stovall

William Shakespeare, through his character Romeo, offered us the thought-provoking idea, “…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While I agree with The Bard that a rose would smell as good regardless of what you call it, it probably wouldn’t sell as well. We can become so familiar with the way we refer to ourselves or things around us that we neglect to take a step back and consider how that verbiage or reference impacts other people.


Recently, I read a biography of the iconic designer Ralph Lauren. His name has become synonymous with the very best of style and fashion around the world. However, Ralph Lauren was not his birth name. He was born Ralph Lifshitz. He might have worked just as hard and been just as creative, but it is likely the millions of people who proudly purchase and use products that bear the name Ralph Lauren might be hesitant to wear a garment displaying the name Ralph Lifshitz.


The heroic actor John Wayne, who graced movie screens as the quintessential cowboy and soldier, was born Marion Morrison. It’s hard to imagine the characters John Wayne portrayed being brought to the screen by someone named Marion.


I love to eat Chilean sea bass. It is probably my most favorite seafood, but it almost became a victim of a bad name as well as a good name. For many years, the fish we now call a Chilean sea bass was marketed as an Antarctic toothfish. Seafood wholesalers, distributors, and restaurant owners avoided the fish assuming no one would want to eat something called an Antarctic toothfish. Eventually, a South American distributor got the rights to market the fish under the name Chilean sea bass. Over the next few years, it became so wildly popular that the fish was in danger of becoming extinct. Now, thankfully, the population of the Chilean sea bass has replenished to the point that it is a stable item on many finer restaurant menus.


Changing nothing more than the name propelled the sea bass from obscurity to near extinction. As the author of more than 50 books, despite advice to the contrary, people do, indeed, judge books by their covers, and people judge book covers based on titles. We have countless choices in books and movies, and a great title can capture attention and build momentum.


Before you title a book, launch a product, or name a child, it’s a great idea to consider what that name will say to the world, now and in the future. You never have a second chance to make a good first impression. You, your products, and your company are all known by name; make sure that name says what you want it to say.


As you go through your day today, reconsider what’s in a name.


Today’s the day!

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