Who are the least creative people on the planet? Some would say accountants. I would argue it is 16th and 17th century explorers. Why? Just look at the list of names that have come and gone for the land that is now known as New York City.
The people who originally settled in the Big Apple were the Native Americans. I don’t know what they called it but they definitely didn’t call it the “Big Apple.” Eventually, it was settled by Europeans who turned out to be terribly uncreative, but ambitious.
The first person to name the region was a Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in the year 1524 (it’s always the Florentines, am I right?). He named it New Angoulême, after Angoulême, France.¹ Not a great name, but he did have the ambition to trek out into the New World. So we’ll give him slack for being first. Maybe he was just nervous.
Then came Henry Hudson in 1609, an explorer who worked on behalf of the Dutch East India Trading Company. The Dutch East India Trading Company, with a modern net worth of $7.4 trillion, is considered to be the largest company in history.² But as rich as they were, they seemed unable to afford an effective marketing agency. Just look at their branding. Their logo was uninspired, their copywriting was weak, and their brand image just did not seem to fit in with the overall vision for the company. Advertising is supposed to inspire. The Dutch East India Trading Company did not. They were a Dutch company that traded in the East Indies…so, like any engineer or accountant, they thought it would be appropriate to just name their company the Dutch East India Trading Company. That’d be like changing the name of Hershey’s Chocolate to “Confectionary Sugars and Treats.” No demographic, let alone the fur trader demographic, is going to like that.
Anyway, Henry Hudson further explored and mapped out this region, leading to further colonization by Dutch fur traders. And those Dutch just named it New Amsterdam.³ Soon afterward, the Dutch opened up a chain of state legal, but federally illegal marijuana dispensaries.
You get the trend. In 1664, English troops won the second Anglo-Dutch War and laid claim to Dutch land in the New World. The English would then rename New Amsterdam to New York. They would also name the region to the south of it “New Jersey.”⁴ But it would be years before New Jersey became an endless land of suburbs and jug-handles, so it is not completely the English’s fault.
Overall, when you look back on the New York region, it just seems like a missed opportunity. It’s just a shame that these explorers did not make use of any viral marketing or implement any growth hacking to draw appeals to the New World. With the proper naval media campaigns, they could have strongly influenced consumers to their market. Why would anyone in Europe be compelled to trek out across the ocean if Old Amsterdam, Old York, or Old Angoulême were so close by. It just seems that it was a classic case of technical expertise paired with a poor creative strategy. Now, New Jersey and New York both rank worst in the nation when examining which states are being fled from the most.⁵ I’m pretty sure we know why.
Thank you for reading!