Names are important and we hold them close to our hearts. If you’re a marketing agency making a living by helping people brand and position themselves and their companies, then there’s all the more reason that your name should probably stand for something meaningful.
When founding Bedlam Creative, I can assure you, I didn’t just wake up one day with the name in my head. And I certainly didn’t poll my friends and family – I still get those tilted heads and squinted eyes before getting asked, “So what’s with the name Bedlam anyway?” Why is it that names matter so much to us? I’m not sure, but I know that they’ve done so across cultures and for generations.
Shakespeare Was Wrong, Names Do Matter
There is a famous story in the Old Testament where Moses is talking with God before being sent to Pharaoh to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and he asks God, “If I go to them and say the God of their fathers sent me and they ask, ‘What is his name?’, what shall I say?” And God responds by saying, “I am who I am…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’…This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Who can compete with that? God chooses a name that means He is the answer to every question or need that His people will ever face.
Parents do this as well for their children. In Africa for example, Nigerian children are given two sets of names: an oruku and an oriki. The oruku is a name that describes the circumstances of their birth. It’s given at the time of their birth. But they wait a while to get to know the child and experience the joy of him or her in their lives before deciding on the oriki. It is a name that describes praise for the child and points all who hear it towards hope for the future.
My mother once told me about a tradition that our family followed years ago where the first born son would take on the mother’s maiden name as his given name. This allowed the maternal namesake to carry on for an additional generation since the mother’s family name would have been replaced when she took on her husband’s at marriage. That means, had they continued the tradition, you would know me as McClain instead of Brian. No offense to any McClains out there, but I’m glad they made the switch before I came along.
Calm Down. It’s Just Business, Baby.
It’s not all that difficult for us to understand why naming a person, or for that matter the Deity, is a pretty important thing and should be done with a certain level of care and intention, but what about a business? It’s just something that we call a company. It doesn’t change the products or services that it offers. Why does it even matter?
According to Mitt Romney, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Well, corporations are not people (despite what the SCOTUS rules or Romney thinks); however, they are run by and for people and all people have meaningful beliefs, values, and priorities about the world in which they live. And because of that, all businesses practice an expression of those inner views that influence them (through founders, shareholders, managers, employees, customers, etc…). Neutrality is a myth – even in business.
Now, I can’t speak to made up words like Google or Nike because I have no idea what either of them mean (other than when I need an answer, I google it, and when I want something done, I “just do it”). But for the non-global-megacorps of us that don’t scale large enough to define new words with our names it is a privileged outlet for expressing our inner views and values of the businesses that we start, own, manage, sweat in, lose sleep for, work at, etc… Why wouldn’t you make something like that meaningful?
So, Back to Bedlam. That’s Crazy Talk, Right?
Being an entrepreneur has changed the course of my life. My daily routines are different. Where I spend my money, my time, my energy – all are influenced by the ebb and flow of the business I’m in. For those who have never experienced the joys and pains of owning and running a business, it’s hard to relate, but for any of you who have, you know exactly how deep the life of your company buries itself into you (and your family, and your friends, and your [you name it]).
After devoting the better part of 3 years to a logistics startup in the energy sector and transitioning away from that to spend more time with my then new bride, I spent a lot of time in prayer and in thought before jumping into the next adventure. When I surveyed the places that my passions seemed to repeatedly flare up and overlaid those with the talents that I was either born with or had developed, I realized that my heart and mind and abilities were near perfectly aligned to the encouragement and empowerment of small businesses through strategic planning and creative marketing.
Having experienced the craziness of a new venture multiple times and learned how to not drown while drinking through the water hose that is startup life, I now find great joy and satisfaction in helping others manage those tasks and organize their working life so as to give them a healthier business, greater influence, and fuller overall life. I like to think of it as bringing order to the chaos of small business marketing. And that is where the name Bedlam Creative comes from.
A Little History and Some Wordsmithery
The word BEDLAM is only a few hundred years old. What started as an outreach for the poor, Bethlam Hospital, born out of the Order of St. Mary of Bethlehem, developed a niche for serving not just the poor in pocket and health, but also the poor in mind and spirit. Over time the population shifted to having a majority who suffered from mental illness and through the accompanying chaos of caring for that lot a colloquialism of the name was formed and the hospital became commonly known as Bedlam – possibly the most famous insane asylum of all time. From that point on on the word bedlam carried with it the connotation of lunacy, uproar, and chaos.
The word CREATIVE has a much deeper history and a much more positive message. The concept of creation is something that has historically been attributed only to God wherein to create is to bring something out of nothing. Since humanity has long lived under the limitation that ex nihilo, nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”), we leave pure creation to God who is beyond us and participate in what Tolkien referred to as sub-creation wherein humans can mimic God’s creative works as an act of worship to Him. So, to create (little “c”) is to bring order out of chaos and something useful and whole out of
nothing disparate and previously unconnected parts.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the late Charles Mingus, American Jazz musician and composer, who famously said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
And that’s exactly what my hope is for Bedlam Creative. As a firm, our goal is to bring order to the chaos of small business marketing. It’s our litmus test for whether or not we’re doing a good job. It’s the fulcrum by which we leverage our knowledge base and collective skill sets to provide value for our clients, small business owners and professionals, to help them wade through the muck and mire of not knowing where or how to begin with promoting their companies in the modern marketplace of too many signals and not enough time.
So what about you? What’s the story behind your company name? Maybe you’re a founder and you had the privilege of naming what is now your business “baby.” Maybe you bought the company after it’s start and adopted the name that was already there. In either case, it’s yours and it’s up to you to create a story around it that will both express what matters to you and engage what’s meaningful for your customers. If you’d like some help with that, we’re here for you. Contact us anytime, we’d love to hear from you.