What “The”?

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I recently saw the movie The Social Network. I learned that Facebook was originally called TheFacebook. It seems that Sean Parker advised Mark Zuckerberg to change it because Facebook would be shorter and punchier. It would become more accessible and memorable in terms of the user’s brand experience.

This became of particular interest to me as I had recently read that DC Comics’ Superman character was originally named The Superman, and Batman was originally The Batman.

So, I decided to give some more thought to the article “The.” Does it just get in the way? These days, digital accessibility has created the zeal for short names. Longish online names aren’t cool. Why bother typing in the extra letters? And what about the awkward lack of spacing between the words?

But sometimes the “The” does work. In many situations, it does help the rhythm of the name (mellifluous is the funny word we use for this, which means sweet and musical; or pleasant sounding to the ear).

For instance, “The” can make heroes seem more heroic. Like The Lone Ranger, or The Incredible Hulk.

“The” makes for powerful introductions. Ladies and gentlemen… The Rolling Stones.

“The,” or in this case, “Da,” creates loyalty. “Da Bears!“—need we say more?

“The” can make places seem more exotic—from The Sahara to The North Pole.

Maybe it’s just that we get used to hearing names in a certain way.

Another interesting phenomenon is how some insurance companies have taken on the “The” Like The Hartford or The Principal.

By adding “The” to their names, they have in effect, created a powerful short-hand that’s more memorable for consumers, rather than without the article. However, Prudential Financial seems to have moved away from calling itself The Prudential.

“The” does have its place with many brands, and our current digital age has not quite wiped out this trusted style of communication.

So maybe we should be The Siegel+Gale? What do you think, Alan?

Jeff Lapatine is the group director, naming and brand architecture, for the Siegel+Gale New York office.

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