What’s in a name?

Well, plenty, if you’re into that kind of thing.

“Branding” has become big business, so much so that it’s featured in Wikipedia, which defines it as “a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company or products from competitors, aiming to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.”

I won’t deny names have importance and huge value. I’m sure the folks at Kimberly-Clark love it that I, and countless others, call every type of tissue “Kleenex.” (Sorry, Puffs, or any others). I will still often say “Xerox machine” when I’m talking about a copier, or “Thermos” for any type of container that is supposed to keep drinks hot or cold. I also refer to any carbonated beverage as “Coke.”

Those names and brands were long ago ingrained into my psyche, and I’m going around giving the
owners of same all kinds of free product placement advertising that I sure wish I could charge them for.

Companies pay marketing firms huge amounts of money to accomplish what these companies have. And if their names are not going to be ubiquitous, their little songs and jingles might be.

The Cook’s Pest Control song is an ear worm that forever stays with me (“Looky, looky, looky, here
comes Cookie”) and to this day I can sing the complete Oscar Mayer song (“My baloney has a first name, it’s O-S- C-A- R . . . ”).

Heck, I’m old enough to know the tune to “Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should” and I still think of “Miller Time” (“If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer”) as synonymous with happy hour.

Of course political correctness has a big role in branding today. Last week the Boy Scout organization
announced a branding change. They will now be called “Scouts,” taking “Boy” out of the title. I won’t comment for now, other than to say, simply, Please.

Churches have gotten in on the action too, taking their denominational affiliation out of their names. I first became aware of this when I moved here nearly 21 years ago and learned that “The People’s
Church” in Franklin was Baptist and “Christ Community Church” was Presbyterian. There are plenty of other examples and I’m not certain why they do it, but my theory is they are trying to prevent stereotypes or preconceived notions from affecting someone looking for a church. Maybe there are other reasons, but it obviously has something to do with the idea of branding.

Getting more into the insides of a church, the terminology I grew up with is long gone. You don’t have youth groups anymore but, rather, you have “student ministries.” Sunday Schools are called “learning centers.”

I’m not going to object to any of that (much) because I’m sure people much smarter than I have come
up with good reasons for the renaming, and if that works in getting people to church, that’s fine with

There is one term, however, that apparently is no longer politically correct in the church, and for the life of me I don’t understand why. It’s the word “single.”

Maybe they are out there, but in my cursory search, I have not been able to find one singles group in a church.

When I got out of college and moved to a new city to go to law school, I was a young single person. I had always been a church member so one of the first things I did after I moved was to look for one. And because I was single, I was interested in one with a singles group or singles Sunday School class.
Almost any church of any size had one. If not, they had something for both young marrieds and singles, like “pairs and spares,” a name I’m sure would not fly today either.

Eventually I found a church with a singles ministry that was right for me, and it is no exaggeration to say it was life changing. Not only did the church provide the soul nourishment I sought, but the singles group gave me the opportunity to meet a number of people near my age. I’m not saying I became the closest of friends with all of them, but I did make some good friends, some of them lifelong. And one of them I married.

Today some of our closest friends are couples who, like us, met each other in our church singles group in Little Rock. Even though we don’t all live around each other anymore, we are still very close, having shared life experiences for 30 some-odd years. We have one official yearly weekend gathering, and there are more unofficial ones here and there as we attend weddings of our children and other special occasions.

Of course we are all getting a bit longer in the tooth, but like many who have been friends a long time, we have a hard time not thinking of ourselves as 20- or 30-somethings when we get together.
It all started when we were single, the way everyone begins life and the way some even remain. If there is some stigma attached to that so that we’re hesitant to say the word anymore, I don’t know what it is.

The singles branding strategy seemed to work for me.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in- law and grandfather. Email him at

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