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.   



  1. Nadine says

    You make quite an interesting point regarding the importance of naming conventions in the marketing and advertising industry.

    A clear example of the trend of including the personal, “first” name only approach can be found on LinkedIn. As a frequent user of this great social networking tool, I appreciate how each member is addressed by their first name. This can be seen when you as the user are looking to make connections and increase the span of your network. As you are searching for new “connections”, you can select the option that states “Add “(_____)” to your Network”. This blank space is filled by the first name of the person you are attempting to connect with. This simple tactic instantly leads me to believe that I have an already developed relationship with my prospective LinkedIn connection.

    I’ve also seen this happen in a variety of direct marketing emails that make their way to my inbox; these emails range from the Barack for America campaign to Coach email newsletters informing me of new merchandise debuting each season. I’ve also received emails from charitable organizations such as the American Cancer Society who truly use this personalized approach to move people so deeply that they become active members in events such as the Relay For Life.

    This individualistic approach to marketing is definitely a captivating method as it allows the recipient of the message to feel instantly connected with the topic at hand.

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