[Cache – #39]
I once heard Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, the first NATO commander in the former Yugoslavia, say that a leader should never give an order he can’t enforce. And so it is with our federal government in renaming the Canadian Navy and Air Force with the “Royal” prefix.
Despite the government’s best hopes, the vast majority of Canadians will continue to refer to these institutions as simply “the Navy” and “the Air Force.” Not necessarily because they have anything against the celebration of monarchy in an independent country – although many do – but because “Royal Canadian Air Force”, for example, is simply too long to say, and people call things whatever they want to.
On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we have another example of this phenomenon – “name nullification”, if you will – at Ground Zero in New York. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has said publicly that it is time to move out from the shadow of September 11th and stop using the term “Ground Zero” to describe the primary site of the tragedy:
“We will never forget the devastation of the area that came to be known as ground zero. Never. But the time has come to call those 16 acres what they are: The World Trade Center and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.”
But we know that for many, the intense emotions attached to the site means that “Ground Zero” will forever stick.
Through the grapevine I have heard that the renowned St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto went through an exhaustive renaming process a few years back. If you see their website now, they refer to themselves as “St. Michael’s”. But what do the vast majority of people call the institution? Simply “St. Mike’s”.
The lesson for brands? There is value to be had in not severing the emotional relationship people have with you.