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What’s in a name?

A case for confirmation bias

When I was 15 years old, at one of the many post-dinner conversations at home, my dad expounded this piece of wisdom about people and names, “Every person has to live up to their name, so parents need to be careful when naming their kids.” About 20 years down, with a business of my own, this is one of those beliefs that have stayed with me ever since. Hence, I trust “Chaitanya”, and “Roshni”, and “Divya” implicitly, and christened a longish but accurate name for my first start-up, “Content Conspiracy” (CC).

In the first month of starting CC back in 2018, we worked on a Government of India flyer. A couple of private advisors were supervising its creation. While the “client” paying for it coordinated feedback and production, the person guiding copy for the collateral was the director of an agency. Nothing objectionable so far, you’d say. Except, the aforementioned agency (whose director advised us) was named after an ancient Greek mathematician - only, the C was replaced with a K (no personal biases, I promise!).

Who am I to judge a book by its cover? But this gentleman neither knew oxford commas, nor the spelling of “occasion” (he wanted an extra S added in the spelling).

A couple of weeks ago, Chaitanya pointed me in the direction of an agency website named after its proprietor. The name sounded uncannily like “print it”. Uncommon, I thought, but a glimpse at the proprietor’s LinkedIn profile would crack you up with its tacky early-2000s display and banner pictures. I’m getting ahead of myself — the website is where I began my journey of understanding this distinguished entrepreneur.

The website URL carried the proprietor’s first name. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but it’s got to have context of some sort. This one means nothing in context of the services the agency provides (SOCIAL MEDIA M., PAY PER CLICK ADS, CONTENT MARKETING, ONLNE REPUTATION M., BRAND BUILDING, PRINKIT.IN SURVEYS) or the brand value of the person in question. The website copy was replete with spelling, tense, spacing, and usage errors. It was no surprise that among all the services he provided, Copy and Content were conspicuous in their absence. In short, they could do with some Content Conspiracy.

I went about sending my standard personalised invite note, “I’m connecting here to start a conversation about adding content capability on a dedicated-project basis for your agency. Please share your email id so I can send a brief introduction about my agency, Content Conspiracy.” In the past, I’ve sent this message to heads of some of the biggest agencies, heads of communication departments of large multinationals, and even CEOs of up-and-coming start-ups among others. More often than not, there isn’t a response at all. Gracious leaders like Nikhil Dey (Congratulations on the Adfactors PR appointment, Nikhil!) will promptly give you their professional email id and a ‘thanks’ to go with it. If you reach out to meet to thank him personally for the opportunity, there will be more than a one-liner in reply. But I digress.

The response I received from the onomatopoeic equivalent of “print it” sounded, among other things, cocky, self-congratulatory and outright dismissive. “<email id>” / “no spamming”. It took me these past couple of weeks to merely compose myself to respond to the curtness. The over-thinker that I am, I decided to actually look up the name first - voila! The name was equated with ‘thought, intuition, intent and wisdom’ on one random “names” website. In which language, it wasn’t mentioned. It’s definitely not a word in either Sanskrit, Gujarati, or Hindi (I checked with a senior scholar whose expertise cuts across all three languages; call me obsessive but I honestly didn’t want to sound misinformed).

I was livid. Here is an entrepreneur unwilling to acknowledge his own shortcomings. The entire start-up community will vouch for professionalism and empathy, no matter how many duds they confront en route. The un-called-for curtness in communication was the ultimate deal-breaker.

From the brief, distasteful interaction I’ve had, I’m happy to dismiss them altogether as someone not worth my skills, experience, and time in so far as aiding their ambition. However, as we move forward in this world, considering just how much attention-seeking noise is out there, the spotlight will always belong to those who are able to offer at least a polite first experience - especially without any untoward provocation. We may be the product of all our experiences, but it is upon us to be greater than the sum of those parts.

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