What is in a name?

Perhaps you heard the news? Merideth, a media conglomerate sold Sports Illustrated (which they acquired from Time Warner in 2018) for $110 Billion to Authentic Brands Group. The new company is not interested in the magazine for any literary or informational purposes. Rather, Authentic Brands is only interested in the intellectual properties of the magazine: branding, marketing and interest that the name Sports Illustrated promotes. [As I write that sentence it makes me smile- “intellectual” properties from the magazine that became well known for its annual swimsuit edition. Obviously people bought SI for the articles.] As it was reported on NPR, “Authentic Brands also controls the rights to a wide array of brands, including such pop cultural figures as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley; such sports figures as Julius Erving and Shaquille O'Neill; and such fashion lines as Juicy Couture.”

In essence the company exists and promotes, not any substance or content or character but rather how people feel about the name: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Shaquille O”Neill, Juicy Couture, etc. In a world where appearances are everything, it is no surprise. It is all about shallow thinking-how do I feel rather than what does this person’s character say and represent?

Yet, in looking into the idea of “branding” I came across some interesting tidbits. Branding has its origins in livestock branding- putting a mark on one’s sheep to denote ownership. Eventually it became a guide for quality as well as ownership. In the ancient world, brands or seals were used to describe quality of ceramics, textiles, food. Partly, as a necessity to the illiterate society, a brand contained pictures of the item and the manufacturer. The idea that a consistent representation would let the consumer know the quality and consistency of the product. So, it is no surprise that the over the last thousand years, brands have morphed into brand identification, awareness and loyalty. Brands consist of four types of meaning: attributes; benefits; values and personality. The way it is described, the brand has taken over the person. Which is certainly the case in what the Authentic Brand Group has done with the various actors and sports figures it acquired. Having purchased one’s name, the group can use it for anything they want. Personally, I would find that upsetting.

Just recently I was in my favorite art gallery (actually, to clarify it is the only art gallery that I have ever patronized) to see about my favorite artist (The ninety-six-year old artist who painted my “Petunia in an Onion Patch” painting.) I chatted with the gallery owner and she gave me an update on the health of Vivian Oswell. She saw paint on the back of my hands and asked if I was a painter too?

“Well, I actually am house painting at the moment..” I said, “But years ago I did paint some primitive type items and sold them in a small shop in town. I am sure that the purchasers have given those items to a Goodwill somewhere.”

That prompted her to tell me about another local artist who would peruse the paper for estate, garage and yard sales. He would go around and repurchase his work- especially if it had not been properly cared for, example the print was fading, etc. He did not want people to see a half done work or ones that did not show his craft in the optimum light. When she mentioned his name, I recalled that we had a print of one of his paintings that I got at a local thrift shop. I purchased the picture, not necessarily for the print but for the frame. However, I did use the print in another frame and have it hanging in our bathroom. She showed me his work hanging in the gallery and I found the original of my print.


What I found interesting was that for this artist, his name on the picture meant everything to him. It was more than just what the picture represented, it was the representative quality of his work, his integrity and in essence, his character. Yes, his work is a “brand” but it was so much more than that to him and to those who admire his work. For him, if his work was sullied, so too would he be sullied. He could not separate his “brand” with what and who he was.

What about you? What is your brand? Is it separate from the essence of who you are? How do you go about keeping your character, your integrity or your name? Have you ever lost your “brand”? How do you go about getting it back? Can you?

I was reminded of the Proverb (22:1) “A good name is more desirable than riches.” When you think about it, our name is all we have. Our character, integrity and essence are the only things that can transcend time and are certainly the things people remember about us.

What’s in your name?