Naming Things

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Oct 07

The Elves Did It

In LOTR, JRR Tolkien had the elves in ancient middle earth running around naming everything. They thought it was important. The elves (and Tolkien) were right.


Arwen Undomiel and Co

When you name something, you give it a life of its own. When we were campaigning to BRING BACK THE SENATORS,  we named their home arena “The Palladium” long before it was built. It helped capture the imagination of the city as well as garner marvelous and early fan and sponsor support not to mention the City of Ottawa which voted at regional council unanimously to support the development. Even the City’s official plan calls MCFs (Major Community Facilities) “Palladiums” so it has become synonymous with large projects much like “Kodak” in its day was used interchangeably with “camera” and “Kleenex” is substituted for “tissue”.

So naming a project, a building, a subdivision, a new company, a new product, a new organization, a road, a new service, a baby, is important!

Think, “Netflix” and maybe you recall good feelings about choice/budget/no adverts. Think, “Qwikster” and you think avarice, rip off and lousy PR.

(Netlfix CEO Reed Hastings announced less than a month after deciding to split Netflix into two separate companies (Netflix and Qwikster), the latter was dead.)


A lot of thought can and should go into names, slogans, tag lines and so forth. Creativity is more of an act of discovery in my view. Advertising and marketing guru George Lois (in his handy booklet, Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!), Phaidon Press, 2012) affirms this,

“I’ve always maintained that I never ‘create’ an idea. Getting a Big Idea is not an act of inspiration, but rather one of discovery.”

Look at the amazing work he did turning a street address (20 Times Square no less) into an incredible logo—


George is the same person who created an entirely new food category by inventing a brand name (Lean Cuisine) for Stouffers; it conjures up healthy, nutritious, tasty diet meals.Did he come up with the name in a team meeting? No. He discovered it on his own.

Here’s an email exchange between me and some folks about naming a minor road in Ottawa. Person names have been changed.


John would like to name the right-of-way off March Road, “Bruce M Firestone Parkway”. JUST KIDDING!

Nope, he wants to call it, “Aquatopia Way”. I like it because it pays tribute to Tim Clarke who used to own the property and wanted to create Water Safari Park long before Calypso opened.

It also goes well with John’s company, Pond Clinic and it reminds me of “Appian Way”, one of the most important roads of antiquity.

What do you guys think?



You see, you need buy-in from stakeholders (Bill and Tariq own separate parcels on the new, as yet unnamed road as does John) and it needs tie-ins to things that are (metaphysically-speaking) important to the project/site/people… I’m sure Tolkien’s elves would agree.


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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.