Tuesday, 8 November 2016


I discovered that Donald Trump’s father had an extraordinary middle name - Frederick Christ Trump. It makes my own - Martin - seem rather drab in comparison although being in the company of Scorsese, Amis and Luther King is a consolation. I recall once running a seminar for some Unilever Management Trainees. When it ended their leader said: “Will Jesus say a few words of thanks to Richard”. And up stood this Colombian…perhaps Trump Senior wasn’t so abnormal.

When I was younger I had an irrational urge to own a dog and call it “bollocks” so I could go down the street calling its name as it playfully ran ahead of me. The acid question regarding names is this - would the You Tube video of a stout man trying desperately to get his dog under control in Richmond Park have gone viral if it hadn’t been called Fenton?

Certainly the Beckhams think names matter. Here’s what they call their children: Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper Seven. Harper Seven? What a great name for a Special Agent - a male version of Modesty Blaise or the hero of my as yet unwritten thriller - Armitage Shanks.

In marketing the experts were dismissive of two brands that emerged in the late 1980s. Werthers and Mueller, the first a caramel flavoured cream candy and the second a range of yoghurts. The general view was the Brits wouldn’t put up with German names … well ”Vorsprung durch Technik” to all those experts.

Similarly when Mars decided in a policy of global alignment (those words bring the Brexiteer out in marketing people) to rename Marathon Bars Snickers and Opal Fruits Starburst, Catastrophe was foretold - the marketing book of revelations was quoted

and they gnawed their tongues for pain ….and repented not of their deeds.

Actually Mars seemed a bit penitent themselves and the apologia they issued by way of a press statement must go in history as the definitive piece of corporate squeamishness:
We know that changes of brand name do not happen on the whim of a brand manager, without reference to the people who really matter, in this case Opal Fruits’ consumers.  Presented with the rationale for the name change and the reassurance that it is only the name that is changing, research shows (as one would expect) opinions ranging from the very positive to the very neutral.

The “very neutral” is my favourite expression of all time.

But the best thing ever said about name changes was by Alexei Sayle in the 1980s

"You know what they're going to call the replacement for the Cortina? They're going to call it the bloody Sierra. Sierra don't mean nothing to a working man like me, does it? Not like Cortina..."

Alexei Sayle - strange name! Is Brains a great name for a beer or Helena Rubinstein a great name for perfume? We get used to names and even the oddest like Sweaty Betty become household names in time.

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