WTF is gravitas?

By Ben Weis
October 17, 2023
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Filed under Naming

The nature of naming work is subjective. Names are liked or disliked for all kinds of reasons, some gut feel, some logical, some not so much. As such, we’ve engineered parts of our process to remove some subjectivity, because when we’re being more objective we can agree on success or failure. 

One request has come my way several times recently: make sure the names have gravitas. We understand why we’re asked to include gravitas as a characteristic of names presented. Generally it’s because people want to be taken seriously and don’t want to come across as silly, trendy, or flip. But can a name have gravitas? Or is it more a function of the experience someone has with the complete brand? Or the people behind the brand?

Some names clearly don’t have gravitas when you first see them, however it’s tough to get a group of people to agree when a name does have it. A name like Big Ass Fans, on the face of it, doesn’t have gravitas as it’s not serious or solemn—it’s a little crass. However, the brand has gravitas because they’re a legit operation, they make quality products, and sign some big deals. So, at the level at which we interact with a name—as a part of a much larger brand and experience—Big Ass Fans has, at least some, gravitas. 

I’m so serious, give me scritches plz. Photo by TS Sergey on Unsplash

On the flipside, it’s much harder to get a group of people to all point at a name and agree it has gravitas. Here, we’re entering the land of the subjective where names get kicked, poked, and prodded for less-than-ideal reasons. So, I’ll happily agree to avoid sharing names that clearly don’t have gravitas, like FCUK or Butthole Surfers—but I find the opposite charge much slipperier. Success or failure should be more cut and dry. 

So, it’s pretty obvious when a name, and just the name, doesn’t have gravitas but it’s harder and more subjective to clearly identify if a name does, for sure, have it. At that point it’s more about the brand and the people behind it.