A building by any other name

What’s in a name?

Would Huckleberry Finn be the great American Novel if it’s titular character were named Milhouse van Houten? Would Luke Skywalker be the same pensive Jedi if he were called Stuart Bupkus?

To that same point is the Sears Tower the same building now that it is called the Willis Tower? Put aside the cheap jokes for a moment. (ie, “What’chu talking about Willis?”, “Bruce 'Don’t Call Me' Willis” or the Anglophilic “Big Willy”) Let’s also put aside the fact that every cab driver in Chicago still calls it the Sears Tower and it will be another year or two before the name takes a proper foothold in our collective vocabulary.

Is it the same building?

From a material standpoint, of course. From a branding standpoint, not at all. Words in general but names in particular have incredible weight and significance. Generating a name for a new company is one of the most daunting tasks we perform for our clients. The name is rightly one of great personal significance to the client, akin to naming one’s firstborn. Whatever resonance the Sears brand has lost in the past decade, the name still conjures up an era and allure within the context of the building.

Big. Durable. Enduring. Sleek. Hardworking. No B.S. In short, Chicago.

Willis Tower conjures up an empty thought balloon, vacuous and void of meaning. You can rename it what you will but to a large segment of Chicago, Sears Tower will always be Sears Tower. It’s no different than that ballpark on the South Side that will still be called Comiskey Park long after U.S. Cellular Field has sold naming rights to the next brand on the block.

So what does your company name say about you and your brand?