What’s in a name?

Just before I went on holiday, a couple of weeks ago, an innocent looking email landed in my inbox at work.  A colleague was looking for some suggestions for names for some new products the company plans to launch.  At the same time I had asked one of our Advertising Agency partners to look at names for a new mobile App we are planning on launching.   And … I had just been tweeting about how much I liked the creative work from Santander.  The 123 account.  They are doing some interesting marketing using a number of cues to suggest 123 – not least the podium imagery from their sponsorship activity in Formula 1.  They are using a considered naming strategy quite cleverly in my opinion.

The feedback from my colleague, when I responded very quickly with a number of options and potential strategies, as well as names, was that I clearly enjoyed thinking about the names.  She was right, I had.  I am a fan of the old “Ronseal quick drying wood varnish” school of advertising, certainly in financial services terms.  If a customer struggles to understand what you are talking about, almost instantly, they will move on.  This is especially true in such a connected world where the next Google search is only a click away.

I thought little about this exchange until the first day of my holiday when I visited, the rather lovely, old, Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal.

I had been planning the visit for a while, as there was an exhibition on by an artist I have long admired: Hughie O’Donoghue.  The exhibition was showing some new works that I was keen to see.

I have always thought that O’Donoghue has a knack for naming his work in such a way as to invite you in.  By that I mean, some of the works I love of his, like “Last Poems” have always prompted a story in my head.  “Last Poems” always speaks to me of the war poets … the imagery is actually of a stack of Beetroots but its atmospheric lighting always suggests something more sinister to me.  O’ Donoghue named this work, knowingly, to resonate not only with the book the title it is taken from but also to give a cue to the tragedy of war … something that has influenced his work throughout his career.

So to the newer work … it was as translucent and inviting as always, difficult sometimes, but rewarding.  The most impressive for me was “The Changing face of Moo Cow Farm” a composition of ten related drawings, with a gentle wash, shown together, given space to breathe.  I had not seen these before.  The name intrigued me, but whilst I saw this was visibly of a farm I struggled with the language, almost childlike I thought, and I wondered what would make the artist use such a childish name for such peaceful, almost brooding series of paintings – they show a stillness not common in his work in my view, they are really ‘quiet’.

Art differs from my day job – I was trying to be too simplistic, too literal, I needed to think about what this was showing, differently.  I could see it was a peaceful rural view of a farm in differing conditions… but why?

The answer lies again in O’Donoghues references to war and destruction.  These paintings are a commentary on war.  Mouquet (Moo Cow) farm is one mile north of Pozieres in France.  It was the scene in 1916 of a battle, part of the battle of the Somme, my grandfather fought in that Battle.  He may have fought at Mouquet farm, I don’t know.  I do know that the battle lasted from August 5th 1916 until September 26th 1916.  I do know the Battle of the Somme was horrendous; my Grandfather never spoke of his experiences, even to my Father.

Does knowing this change my appreciation of the painting?  Yes … and no … is the unhelpful answer.

No, in that I still enjoy the superficial painting, it is a wonderful gentle series of images, and that is enhanced by what the artist seems, in my opinion to want to show; that despite past atrocities, change for the good, does sometimes come along.

Yes, it enhances my understanding of what the paintings are about – the act of thinking more deeply improves my appreciation of the paintings.  It adds something new, and personal, for me.

So is there a lesson for me as a Marketer about being too simplistic, maybe?  Is there a lesson for me as a Marketer to think about naming strategies with a bit more care and less speed? Yes, I think there is.

The exhibition and this work made me realise it may be too simple to think that ‘it does what it says on the tin’ is the only answer.  In addition it suggests that looking beyond the superficial is, if nothing else, a darned good idea!

The exhibition is on until the 22nd December 2012, I might go again… it’s a lovely gallery space and there is a very interesting exhibition of the work of Kurt Schwitters (who is my favourite artist) in the next room as well.  Oh, and importantly, they do a very nice cup of tea and a cake!  Visit if you can, I recommend it and O’Donoghue as an artist to look at.


25 November 2012

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Anna says:

    Interesting blog, looks like a trip to Kendal is required!

    • Thanks for the nice feedback ! I would recommend a trip its an interesting gallery – loads of parking next to it too … If you walk into town don’t be put off by the first bit if you walk from the gallery, the town centre is rather nice but is a few mins away. Paul

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