Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Junior Past Grand Master Rick Boyles is always one to provoke thought. Brother Rick offers a slightly tongue-in-cheek (and cheeky) suggestion to modernize our name and image. Enjoy.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
A Note on Branding
A friend of mine in my line of work is a lawyer who sponsors one of the biggest book fairs of its type in the world. For the last few years because of my involvement with the Oddfellows (misspelled on purpose), I kept telling him that I was unable to display my books at his fair due to my schedule as a Grand Lodge elective officer. He kept asking me what The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was and I did my best to describe our group but it has never registered with him. Then I told him that it is a fraternal group like the Masons or Elks or other groups, and he always complained that our name is too long. I have to agree. Let me give a few examples.
Branding is now the latest thing. Branding, to define it simply, is the way to create a catchy word or small phrase that would be instantly recognizable, unique to its subject, and impossible to forget. One of the first words used in the age of branding was “Camaro” created by GM for their now legendary line of sports cars. The word was created out of a desire to make it both phonetically and visually pleasing. Google the term and car enthusiasts talk about the myriad of reasons for its creation. Many other groups, and now entertainment personalities, do their best to create their own brand. Madonna, Beyonce, Rhianna, and many others are now known only by their first names. Apple Computer is actually now known only as Apple. Many more examples exist. Sports figure become icons by virtue of delineating their names down to one or two syllables; A-Rod, Buster, Tiger, many others.
Better yet, look at the still active fraternal and social groups and it will serve to illustrate my point even further: The Masons, Elks, Moose, Lions, Rotary, and many others. Is it an accident that those which have become forgotten are those with the most cumbersome names (and, further, more intricate ritual work)? Even the Clampers which now number 10 times our membership have a much more impenetrable real name that they don’t seem to trumpet too publicly – E. Clampus Vitus. If we truly want new members, we don’t have to change our name but simply make it more pleasing to the ear and easier to remember. As early a philosopher as Marshall McLuhan in the sixties pointed out the easier accessibility in a name that makes for a substantial advantage, and political groups now seek out both recognizable and simply named candidates to support. Bush, Ford, Carter, Clinton, even Obama, are short and phonetically pleasing names. Look at some who lost and you would see more phonetically problematical names. Several magazines and modern columnists have pointed out the pitfalls of being Reagan versus Mondale (Reagan won of course), George Bush Senior versus Michael Dukakis (Bush won of course), and so on. Playboy Magazine also interestingly enough ran an intriguing article about the better looking candidate generally being on the winning side as well. You might say Nixon was no Cary Grant, but he ran against Hubert Humphrey who would never be mistook for Clark Gable.
So, then, the larger point to branding is how can we make changes to allow ourselves to seem more attractive to the public, without diluting our essence? I submit rather than constantly weighing down the public with the term “THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS” that we just be Oddfellows. After all, the other fraternal groups also go by much longer names in their formal stance. A response the reader may have is that we can call ourselves whatever we want, but we don’t. Every brochure, handout, handbook, and announcement we release uses the whole elongated phrase. I understand that there is already thinking along these lines and it would be the natural progression.
Anyway, this is my humble contribution advancing us one step towards modernization. For those who are determined to fight progress, perhaps we can make our name even longer, say, the Independent and Ever-Wonderful Order of Formally Dressed Odd Fellows, and Their Antiquated Long-Skirted Companions, the Rebekahs (all dressed in sartorial splendor rarely available in modern clothing shops). For you traditionalists who seek little or no change and see anything modern as a dilution of our beginnings, (although in reality, 160 years ago few could read or write) the longer the better.
In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles