In the book of Genesis, the very first responsibility that Adam is given by his creator is the naming of the animals. He could have been given the task of cleaning the garden, or picking weeds, or building a bird feeder. But no, the Creator wanted him to first and foremost name the beasts.
Naming is one of my favorite activities. It is a powerful practice to name something. It’s formative and terribly permanent. It requires both science and art, a keen sense of context, a great ear, and a discerning eye.
In the current issue of Wired, there’s a great article called, “We name other planets’ moons, so why haven’t we named our own?” What a great point. But the author neglects to include the other glaring omission in our civilization’s obsession with naming: the Sun.
When we started calling the Sun “the Sun”, we didn’t know that our galaxy alone contained billions of suns, and that the Universe had billions of such galaxies. (I hear the voice of Carl Sagan in my head: “Beelions and beelions!”)
So if we were to name the sun, how would we go about doing it? Well, as with any naming project, we should make sure that the brand has a positioning before we name it. And positioning is all about vantage point and meaning.
From the vantage point of us on the Earth (thank god we don’t call it “Planet”), the Sun is the center of our universe, the giver of life, and eventually, the destroyer of worlds. So our positioning would correspond to that. And the name recommendations that would come out of that could include such options as:
But if we were to enlarge our perspective to include the many civilizations that might populate our galaxy, then our sun is a medium-sized, stable yellow star in a suburb of the Milky Way: reliable, pleasant and stable. Our positioning statement would say something like, “For those seeking respite from the explosive regions of the galaxy, this sun is an elegant oasis of clock-work calm.” And the names that result might sound something like:
Once we had hundreds of options, we would start to winnow them down by not only applying the positioning as a filter, but also by checking galactic intellectual property sites for trademarks.
But in my opinion, the most important filter is the semiotic one: What culturally determined associations does the name trigger in the audiences and stakeholders we care about? A name might appear to be ‘on strategy’ and ownable, but trigger entirely the wrong associations.
In the next post, we’ll explore what happens when names that seem logical do not work because of cultural and psychological ‘tone deafness.’