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What’s in a mononym?


Star-cross’d Juliet asked almost the same question. The answer is everything

Unlike her parents, Juliet couldn’t care less about her intended’s surname. Names, as far as she was concerned, were just artificial constructs. Better consider the person than their name, she declared.

Poor soon-to-die-tragically Juliet was wrong. She couldn’t escape the conventions of her time.

Yet ironically, where Juliet was referring to Romeo’s surname, Montague, it’s their Christian names which have bestowed immortality upon them. Mononymically speaking.

In connected 21st-century Britain, and even abroad, names are so much more than names. They’re brands. We connect with them in milliseconds.

How did it come to this?

How did it come to this?

Being known by your first name alone is the very pinnacle of instant, connected success: Jesus, Elvis, Bono, Moses, Banksy, Donovan, Ella, Maggie, Pele, Napoleon, Michelangelo, Galileo, Superman/woman. Whoever. Add your own.

None of these needs further explanation. We fuse with them automatically. Like Mars, Twix, Facebook, Lego, Sony, Apple, Persil, Google, Disney, Coke, They are iconic. Effortlessly recognisable, understandable, meaningful, reference-able. All culturally valid in their own right.

You could say the same for surnames: Bowie, Cameron, Ogilvy, Houdini, Hitler, Stalin…you could go on.

Ditto ‘triple’ names: Alexander Graham Bell, John Logie Baird, Martha Lane Fox, Joan of Arc, Boutros Boutros Ghali (who?), Leonardo da Vinci, Ivan the Terrible, Mao Tse Tung…brands, all of them. Indeed, we’d add Views not News. But enough!

Here’s the point: it’s the missing, most obvious name from the list of Christian names above. And it’s probably the most important missing first name of the moment.

Yep, you guessed it: Boris. Bumbling, buffoon-like, blond-never-beige, biking, mop-headed Boris. Or BoJo. Makes the front page of newspapers (yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph) or this week’s Private Eye. Just one first name that everyone knows.

And if you’re a buffoon-believer, barking Tory voter, who argues bonkers Boris should be PM because of all his ‘great qualities’…well now you understand why The Donald is not getting laughed out of the Republican nominations race, either.

Career-seeking The Donald and Boris both know what matters to customers: an easy-to-understand brand. And preferably one that comes with some jokey, easy on the eye, attention-grabbing, populist guff.

Customers – supporters – then seem happy to post-rationalise it. Seriously. Yep…beats me too.

And talking about personal brands and views…

Campaign’s ‘Private View’, a couple of weeks’ back, saw big exec creative director and even bigger networked agency chairman and group ceo both air their views on some ads of the moment.

For ecd person it was another opportunity to burnish the personal brand: big look-at-me splash intro about a mad week of furious worldwide, I’m-so-important jet-hopping; handily-plucked quote from some obscure philosopher (and virtual unknown to mere mortals) thrown in to make ecd appear as widely-read as travelled; then wacky, non-light shedding, instantly-forgettable cool-speak commentary on the ads. Pure self-indulgence.

Compare and contrast the thoughtful scene-setting, analytical, clearly-signposted and analytical approach submitted by chairman and ceo person.

Arguing that insightful journalism is about adopting a fresh stance towards news stories which can reveal new truths to audiences, so this private view sought to establish whether the reviewed ads in question offered new angles and meaningful values to audiences. Who would then buy stuff.

Only one word for the latter review: incomparable. Like mononymic Boris. So what’s in a name…?

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