What’s In a Name?

More than 70 years ago, the legendary, iconic motivational speaker and self-improvement guru, Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), wrote in his phenomenally popular book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”…

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  

Included in his list of “six ways to make people like you,” this timeless, classic axiom on the importance of a person’s name has been long embraced by sales people and marketers as a tactic to command attention and make constituents feel important.  And today such a personal, individualized approach to merchandising is more prevalent – and effective – than ever. 

For instance, in its emails to me, the Obama for America campaign takes the colloquial route in addressing me by my first name only and signing simply (and seemingly sincerely), “Barack.” 

Makes me feel like I know the Democratic presidential candidate…personally. 

Whenever I visit its online store, Amazon enthusiastically greets me by my full name – “Hello, Bob Cargill” – and recommends a selection of good books just for me.  

Now that’s what I call a warm welcome.   

L.L. Bean offers embroidered monogramming on its products to make them “uniquely your own.” 

And, sure, to make you feel important.     

After taking my order, the barista at Starbucks tags my name on my cup with a Sharpie before preparing my tall toffee nut latte. 

Flattery will get them, well, maybe a nice compliment – and repeat business – from a customer like me.  

And, finally, as just one more example of a more personal, individualized customer experience, the New England Patriots organization is now providing ProShop customers with their own personalized shopping bags. 

According to an article written by Jenn Abelson in The Boston Globe (September 22, 2008)…

For months, executives worked on the bag’s details – selecting the perfect shade of blue so it would resemble an authentic Patriots jersey, picking the proper red cord handles, and figuring out a way to print customers’ last names on cards that could be attached to the bags. 

“We spent more time designing this bag than we spent designing the items we will sell to put in it,” said Brian Bilello, strategic initiatives and retail operations director for Kraft Sports Group, which owns the Patriots. 

“It’s a lot more expensive than just your average bag, but we think this will generate a lot of buzz and will be worth it, from a marketing perspective.  People will want to show their friends, and it will get a lot of attention when people are shopping around Patriot Place” in Foxborough. 

So you see, in this newfangled marketing day and age, perhaps some communications tactics aren’t so sophisticated after all.  Whether you’re online or in stores, how to win friends – and customers, too – may just be as simple as knowing what’s in a name.   

To read “The Bag is the Product” by Jenn Abelson (The Boston Globe, September 22, 2008) in its entirety, click here.   


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