What’s In A Name? Plenty!

The NARP Board of Directors’ meeting here in Evanston, Illinois, ended yesterday after a very interesting and productive two-day retreat that included our scheduled July meeting.
For non-regular readers, NARP is the National Association of Railroad Passengers and one of the interesting tasks that will be coming up shortly is referred to in the world of advertising/marketing as “rebranding”. It’s something that NARP has needed to address for quite a while and it’s not going to happen without some controversy. People don’t like change and that’s what rebranding is all about.
The name of a company or an organization says a lot about who and what it’s all about. And, over the years, every company or organization develops an “image” that may or may not be accurate.
In NARP’s case, the perception of our collective membership is “a bunch of old white guys who love trains”. Truthfully, that was an accurate description of a bulk of our membership perhaps 10 years ago. And it has become a problem that needs changing if we’re going to attract increasing numbers of younger members who have a much broader focus. That’s already been happening, but we need to accelerate that whole trend.
But if NARP is going to do that, then the image … the public perception … of the organization needs changing. Starting with the name.
The obvious problem is that it’s cumbersome … fourteen syllables, for heaven’s sake! That, of course, is the reason for the acronym “NARP”.
But for the younger generations, the very people we want and need to advance the transportation goals we are advocating, the acronym also a problem. For these younger adults NARP is an acronym for Non-Athletic Regular Person. And–trust me on this–it’s not a compliment.
It’s going to take a while, because it’s a complicated process involving a new name and a new look. And because when you undertake something like this, you had damn well better get it right. To the extent I am able to do so, I will keep everyone posted.


  1. Glad NARP has acknowledged this marketing image that some of us have identified a while ago. Although I had joined in 1967 when NARP was initially created in Chicago, I understand according to that song, “the times are a changing.”

    I would suggest “NARP” currently connotes a small band of “current” railroad passengers (a haven for buffs and foamers); says nothing about”potential” rail passengers. Therefore, you need a wider net for the vast potential market out there that is defined by that characteristic, rather than just age or race.

    Perhaps “Americans for Modern Passenger Rail Service” (Accessible, Acceptable, and Affordable).

  2. I dont consider myself old at 52….but I am a member. To attract millennials we need to help them understand our cause and how rail uses so much less fuel/puts out less carbon. MADBCR = Make A Difference By Choosing Rail

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