The biblical significance of naming for brands

Umberto Eco was a man of enormous brain: novelist, critic, philosopher, semiotician.

He died in February, leaving us a lifetime’s worth of reading.

In one book, he talks about the essential role of naming.

It’s tough, but good, reading for anyone who wants to create a brand: Founder, Brand Director or CMO. (Or Prime Minster – we’ll come to that bit in a minute.)

If you’d like to read more, here’s the link. Or you can find a lengthy extract at the end of this blog.

According to Eco, it’s naming which calls things into being.

His inspiration in this case was the Bible. In particular, Genesis and how the creations of the very first things wasn’t complete until they had been given names.

How could something be anything until it was a definite ‘something’?

This is what he says,

“Genesis 2, 10, 11

Our story has an advantage over many others: it can begin at the Beginning.

God spoke before all things, and said, “Let there be light.” In this way, he created both heaven and earth; for with the utterance of the divine word, “there was light” (Genesis 1:3-4).

Thus Creation itself arose through an act of speech; it is only by giving things their names that he created them and gave them ontological status: “And God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night . . . And God called the firmament Heaven” (1:5, 8).

His point is that naming, of a thing or a brand, helps you to fold your ideas into a structure – to categorise them, to identify their associations, and to establish their relationships to other things.

The fact is, a brand name plays a vital role in how your products, services and ideas are perceived by your audience.

It helps people to categorise your brand in their own mind, to associate things with it and to establish your brand’s relationship to other things in their world. Without those things, your brand doesn’t exist.

And what about the relevance for Prime Ministers?

The extract is from Eco’s book, ‘The search for the perfect language.’ He talks about the unbreakable link between language and identity.

And how nuance in one language is lost in another.

It’s a short hop from there to say that there can be no unity of thinking until there is a unity of language.

We’ve recently remained steadfastly neutral in creating a campaign to encourage people to register to vote for the EU referendum.

If you’d like to chat about how language can most biasedly create your brand identity and brand positioning, or how it defines your brand’s strategy through mission statements and vision statements, please email Chris.



From Umberto Eco, ‘The search for the perfect language:

In Genesis 2:16-17, the Lord speaks to man for the first time, putting at his disposal all the goods in the earthly paradise, commanding him, however, not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We are not told in what language God spoke to Adam. Tradition has pictured it as a sort of language of interior illumination, in which God, as in other episodes of the Bible, expresses himself by thunderclaps and lightening.

If we are to understand it this way, we must think of a language which, although it is not translatable into any known idiom, is still, through a special grace or dispensation, comprehensible to its hearer.

It is at this point, and only at this point (2:19ff), that “out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.”

The interpretation of this passage is an extremely delicate matter. Clearly we are here in the presence of a motif, common in other religions and mythologies–that of the nomothete, the name-giver, the creator of language.

Yet it is not at all clear on what basis Adam actually chose the names he gave to the animals. The version in the Vulgate, the source for European culture’s understanding of the passage, does little to resolve this mystery.

The Vulgate has Adam calling the various animals “nominibus sui,” which we can only translate, “by their own names.” The King James version does not help us any more: “Whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”

But Adam might have called the animals “by their own names” in two senses. Either he gave them the names that, by some extra-linguistic right, were already due to them, or he gave them those names we still use on the basis of a convention initiated by Adam.

In other words, the names that Adam gave the animals are either the names that each animal intrinsically ought to have been given, or simply the names that the nomothete arbitrarily and ad placitum decided to give to them.