To Name a Crisis

Posted by on 01/13/10 in America, Creativity, Debt, History, Stewardship

In the fine movie “Shakespeare in Love” a fictional Will Shakespeare struggles to name his new play. His working title is “Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.” Fortunately, his friend and fellow actor suggests that he go with something like “Romeo and Juliet.” And thus is born the sophomore English curriculum.

Recognizing that a name comes to define the event or object, what then should we call this economic crisis that began in the summer of 2007?

Economists, pundits, and commentators have wrestled with whether to call this cataclysm a Recession, a Credit Crisis, or even a Depression. These past few weeks, we have seen some refer to it as “The Great Recession,” apparently in an effort to acknowledge how bad things have been without diminishing the pain and suffering of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Too simplistic we think. We need a better moniker. After all, we live in the media age and this economic crisis is deserving of a name with drama, flair, and the ability to be merchandised.

When our team met to name our firm, brand consultant Hank Fisher ran us through a series of exercises meant to draw out our values, services, and target market while defining how we intended to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. He explained that using actual words or names would lead to a trademark nightmare and brand confusion particularly in the financial services field; besides, the hedge funds had already taken all of the Greek and Roman gods, not to mention most of the Egyptian and Norse ones as well.

Thus, in the spirit of crafting new names to define a new event, we would like to propose a few titles (and their brief definitions) for your generous consideration.

“The Stimulatastrophe” — (Blending “Stimulus” and “Catastrophe”)
The “stimulus” could apply to overleveraging of the housing market, irresponsible behavior by the banks, consumers over-stimulating their lifestyles, or excess government spending, leaving room for anyone to be blamed or exonerated depending on one’s biases. And even “catastrophe” allows for personal interpretation of what has gone wrong. Thus, whether one is concerned about the demise of American greatness, the propping up of irresponsible banks (and bankers), persistent unemployment, or the sale of Hummer to China, the name can help one be in touch with one’s emotional angst.

“The Regulasession” — (Blending of “Regulation” and “Depression” or “Recession”)
Some blame regulation for causing this mess (e.g. repeal of Glass-Steagall, Fair Housing Act, mission creep of the Federal Reserve, etc.) while some expect regulation to fix it once and for all (or at least once). Still others might argue that enforcing current regulations would be helpful. Frankly, whether it is a Depression or a Recession will not be known for years, and one’s interpretation of those terms varies somewhat depending on your geographic location, education level, housing situation, and whether or not you consider yourself unemployed, underemployed, unhappily employed, or well-employed.

“The Deleverus” — blending of “Deleveraging” and “Bonus”
We like the creative tension of this one, placing a word that represents a return to common sense financial conditions and prudent application of credit in juxtaposition to a word that embodies excess, greed, failure to perform, and borrowing against our children’s futures. We are not particularly supportive of government interference in corporate compensation, yet we also expect corporate leaders to exercise restraint and discretion—thus, it is hard to imagine creating a term for this crisis that does not at least tip a hat to the bankers and executives whose allegedly irreplaceable talent helped bring us to this point. (Note that any allusion to the terms “deliver us” or “delever us” is purely coincidental).

Enough fun for this week. Please let us know what you think about our proposed names for the crisis at hand and feel free to suggest your own. We intend to raise capital from a private equity firm (covenant light, of course) to finance a big media buy so that we can spin off some accessories and even a reality TV show all built around the name. We’re looking for 3x returns within five years—easy, right? Some would call that reversion to the mean. We’re not sure how we feel about reversion or the mean, but that’s another topic for another day.

Should the names above fail to capture the intense drama of these events, then feel free to put the word “Great” in front of them (e.g. “The Great Delverus”). Doing so sent shivers up our spines; we’re sure it will do the same for you.