Thursday, May 30, 2013

People Branding

I'm not talking about branding people, like cattle. I'm talking about the brand of a people group. The Masai (or Maasai) of Kenya are suing several companies for using their tribal name, generic likenesses and symbols. I understand the need to protect their dignity, but I'm not sure it has precedence. I'm sure their lawyers think so or they wouldn't have filed the suit.

Does this mean Quaker Oats will need to pay royalties to the Society of Friends? How about 3M paying descendants of Scotland for all their Scotch brand products? Or Toyota every time they sell a Highlander?Do we have to pay France for the offensive terms 'French fries' and 'French horn' meant to be derogatory in their creation, which were briefly renamed 'freedom fries' and 'freedom horns' when the French were 'on the outs' with the US a few years ago?

Perhaps red-haired people can get a licensing fee from the Cincinnati Reds, since they are often nicknamed 'Red'.

Any time we 'take' a name, we need to bring honor to it. Whether it's from a people group, or it's our adopted corporate affiliation ("I work for XYZ Inc.; I'm a XYZ'er"), we need to make sure our behavior and our decisions reflect well on that affiliation. We dare not bring dishonor or shame on our team, or any others whose name we've adopted.

Too often in the corporate world, poor ethical decisions have tainted the names (Enron, WorldCom, etc.). Let's not have our corporations drag down the image of a people. Thank goodness, when Toyota was having its image problems with the Camry, that the car's name didn't refer to anybody.

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