“…what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”, so suggested the great Bard. But as a marketer I can tell you that a name means a great deal. As I was watching the morning news this morning while eating my breakfast, I saw an ad for the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” By what percentage do you suppose its viewership would drop if its title were changed to “The Old and the Listless”? Compare the appeal of “The Bold and the Beautiful” to that of “The Timid and the Ugly.” But the phenomenon is not limited to soap operas. The granite quarries we operate tend to be named for the color of the stone produced, their location or the name of the founder. For example, we quarry Barre gray granite in Barre, Vermont, and we quarry Salisbury pink granite in Salisbury, North Carolina. At one time during my tenure here, Rock of Ages quarried a site in Canada that yielded a stone that quarriers referred to as “Beaver Brown”. However, the stone sold more favorably in our retail shops as “Sable”. After all, who’d want to admit to burying dear Aunt Maud under beaver brown granite?

And names alone are not the only shallow pretence by which we make superficial judgments. If you have features valued by your culture as “handsome” or “beautiful”, you are at a distinct advantage for many varied and repeated psychological studies have proven that people considered attractive are also assumed to be more intelligent, more competent and more honest than their less physically attractive peers. I believe that we are all aware that in the real world that physical attractiveness, intelligence and character do not necessarily correlate. Nonetheless, attractive people are presumed to possess other positive traits, which assumption gives attractive people a distinct advantage.

For many of us, this is the holiday season—our religious beliefs and cultural traditions dictate an exchange of cards and presents, family gatherings and extravagant meals. Each of these things in and of itself is fine. But if you are like me, you may find yourself so involved in the hectic pace of buying the right presents and cooking that Rockwell-esque holiday meal, that you loose sight of the deeper meaning. No gift is as important as the sentiment it is intended to convey. No meal need be picture perfect. I’m determined to look deeper this season, to look past the trappings and expectations, to find meaning in the presence of family and friends. I wish you the same this holiday season.