Tuesday, January 28, 2014

UNCF needs a name

Recently, over the course of two days, I heard an analyst discuss Juniper Networks, listened to a radio ad for a service called Vivent, passed a truck marked Protection1 Security Services, and squirted soap on my hands from a container branded TopCare.

Ah, the brand names we encounter. Juniper, Vivent, TopCare — these names were carefully chosen—and we can see why, and we can sympathize. It’s a world in which finding a good, legally available name for a company or product is hellishly difficult. Pick a plant… smash together top and care. Whatever works.

Also during this spell, I heard a radio ad mentioning colleges and families… with a deep-voiced announcer asking for support for “UNCF” — UNCF? — which meant nothing to me. Then he added, “Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Oh right. United Negro College Fund. Everyone knows their slogan, which is one of the most famous ever written.

I must have been asleep when the United Negro College Fund (founded in 1944) changed its name to UNCF.  We can understand why they did it—the word “negro” is passé and might be considered offensive to some.

But to reduce a respected old name to four letters? That's a surrender to mediocrity.

Brandsinger says: Find a new name. Smash two words together. Modify an existing word. Use a word with a number. Pick a plant — anything is better than four letters.

Or this: use the famous tagline itself—“Mail your checks to us, A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste.”

Call the organization A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste. Make people say your entire eight-word name. Make the world read your story every time they see your business card, write you a letter or send you money. 

The world already loves your rallying cry. Make it your name.



Anonymous said...

UNCF. Simply terrible. It makes it seem like a subsidiary of UNICEF (which at least has some vowels to make it rather word-like). Or, perhaps, a foundation associated with UNC down in Carolina. To be fair, NAACP doesn't roll off the tongue either. Yet this is probably the model they used for this renaming fiasco. Better to invent an entirely new name, as you say. Or leave it be.

brandsinger said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Your examples are instructive.


Foreign Earned Income Tax Credit said...

^ I completely agree. UNCF quickly made me think of UNICEF haha. Brilliant analysis.

brandsinger said...

Thank you so much, Foreign Earned Income Tax Credit.

Yes, UNCF needs a new name. You, however, have a great names. Sounds reassuringly anti-fashionable.


Mo Ramtor said...

Out of curiosity, why not modernize and change the organizations to "United African American College Fund" and "National Association for the Advancement of African Americans"...?

They are very descriptive, they aren't unwieldy, and it would actually be a relatively easy process to associate the organizations with the new names.

brandsinger said...

Thanks, Mo Ramtor.
Yes, time to consider a new name along the lines you suggest. "African American College Fund" is one up-to-date sounding possibility.

Is "United" an important component of the organization's purpose? Lots to consider in making the change. I hope the organization takes our challenge seriously.