Let's play a game. You've probably done this before. I'll say a company name, you tell me what that company stands for. IBM. Microsoft. BMW. Coca-Cola. Verizon?

Got you on that last one, didn't I?

If you haven't already heard about this - the press release came out Monday April 3 - you may be surprised to hear ‘Verizon' was selected from among 8,500 candidates in a lengthy and expensive process. In addition, more than $300 million will be spent on marketing to support the new name.

Verizon, pronounced ‘vurr-EYE-zon', is derived from the clever combination of ‘veritas', which means truth in Latin, and ‘horizon'. SONY has a similar heritage, being derived from the latin word ‘sonus' back in the days when everything that company did dealt with sound.

Does this imply that Verizon deals with truth? Of course not. It's the phone company, or at least a phone company. More specifically, Verizon is what you have after Bell Atlantic buys GTE. I know what Bell Atlantic and GTE are. I understand the logic behind Arch Communications, Lucent, Nextel, Nortel, Teligent, Omnipoint, Qualcomm and Sprint. Even Wildfire makes sense in its own way.

But what's a Verizon? Other than to evade geography and escape the Ma Bell connection, what is the added value? If those, admittedly good reasons, were all, why didn't the decision-makers simply stick with GTE, the more inclusive name of the company being acquired? AlliedSignal morphing into the new Honeywell, Norwest into Wells Fargo, and NationsBank into Bank of America all went that route, taking advantage of the brand equity we must assume was part of the purchase price.

These questions are especially important because Verizon must reach out and connect with the masses, not simply a select group which essentially guides the masses as is the case with the merger-happy drug companies. This means that when Vodafone Airtouch merges its wireless operations with that of the combined Bell Atlantic / GTE, the newly named Verizon Wireless will go head-to-head with AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS, Nextel Communications and Voicestream, as well as the wireless combination of SBC and BellSouth announced April 5.

Let's start with the fundamentals and imagine why names matter. Why does your name matter? Well, your name represents who you are for people that know you, or at least know of you. As people get to know you, or hear about you, they associate certain emotions and images with the collection of phonetic sounds that make up your name. That's why your name could mean different things to different people - and probably does. Your name is also one of the first things you tell strangers if you have any interest in interacting with them.

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