A group of Wake Forest University staff members of varying professions, ages and backgrounds gathered over lunch on Monday, February 28, 2017, to discuss the power of names.

We began a group discussion about how naming or labeling a concept can change perception or create unintended meaning. One particular example resonated with our group: the negative association of the informal name “Obamacare” juxtaposed with positive associations around the formal name of the “Affordable Care Act.”

We applied this discussion to brand development and management and connected it to our group’s work at Wake Forest University by attempting to digest why some brands, projects or initiatives resonated more with Wake Forest’s audiences than others. This exchange naturally lead to a conversation about nationally known brand names and what has made those successful – is it their names or the quality of their products? After a lengthy discussion, we dove even deeper: How does the evolution of our language and culture drive how and what we name things?

The conversation concluded with each of us sharing what we would take away from the conversation. Some clear themes emerged:

  • Conversation is a powerful tool that connects us to one another.
  • Respect of others’ opinions and experiences is a dignity we all deserve as human beings.
  • Names are indeed powerful.