The Difference A Good Name Makes

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It’s often the difference between success and failure, or ‘yes please’ and ‘no thanks’ – naming a product, naming a project, naming a team, naming whatever.  Giving something a name which is compelling, inviting, something that people either want, want to aim for or find interesting.

Advertisers and marketing specialists are constantly looking for, and listening for, words that compel, persuade, attract and interest us.  You only have to think about how ads draw us in, give us the ‘why?’ and the ‘what’s in it for us?’ as they persuade us to buy:

  • Coca Cola – the real thing;
  • Adidas – right here, right now;
  • Levis – Freedom to move

Multi-billion pound industries thrive on finding exactly the words to motivate us into action.

Think about it.  Which projects in your business would you rather be a part of?
  • ‘Maximising Our Income’ or ‘Cutting Spending and Costs’
  • ‘OnLine to Win’ or ‘ 2014 – Less Downtime’
  • ‘Getting It Right’ or ‘Avoiding Mistakes’

I’m pretty sure you, like me, would want to be part of the first ones – the first ones are all “towards” driven.  They give us the suggestion, the hint of what the outcome is, what we’re going or aiming for.

The second ones in each case are all “away froms”, things to avoid or things to fear.  Whilst “away froms” are great influencers – we all want to avoid pain in whatever form it takes – directing your invitation only to people’s pain is far less attractive.  Talk about the outcome, name it something interesting or compelling.  Hook attention.

It reminds me of when I heard the name a client’s company had given to a special, brand-new project, designed to bring teams together at lunchtime with in-house experts sharing their knowledge over a sandwich.  They called it HELL.  Yes, really.

Loads of time and energy had gone into creating a special Educational Lunchtime Learning project and the company’s name began with H so apparently the boss said ‘let’s have a bit of a laugh’ and they called it Project HELL.  “Who’s going to HELL at lunchtime?” or “I can’t make it today, I’m going to HELL”.

The point here is that after the initial giggle or smirk it brought, no one wanted to go to such a meeting.  Attracting people to become involved or be a contributor to a HELL lunch was a struggle from the word go.  The project ultimately flopped within a few weeks and was scrapped.  It could just as easily been called “Listen, Lunch and Learn” or “Meet and Eat” – both more enticing, hooky and interesting whilst everyone knows that the essence is still the same, the actual names of things are so critical to their success.  They have to attract us.

Just as we need to carefully consider how influential and attractive the language is we use to write emails, send out proposals, leave voicemails and all the myriad of ways we’re communicating everyday – we also must have our radar tuned to the actual name we give to things – it makes the difference between HELL – and Heaven.

Snowy, my husband, was encouraging his 4-year old godson to ‘come and see this old, dead tree’ and I knew an ‘old, dead tree’ was far less enticing than ‘an amazing magical tree’.  Which one do you think he went for?  Hey presto.

About the Author

Kay White is our Show Up & Sparkle blogger. Known as the Savvy & Influential Communication Expert for Women in Business, Kay shows professional women how to be seen, heard and valued at work.  You can connect and find out more from Kay at

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