Influencing Actions

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, project, 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;

Nike – Just Do It;

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’
  • ‘Getting It Right’ or ‘Avoiding Mistakes’
  • ‘Online to Win’ or ‘ 2017 – Less Downtime’

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 – to get people to attend an event or a meeting that only speaks to their pain is far less attractive.  Talk about the outcome, name it something interesting or compelling.

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

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



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Kay White

Savvy & Influential Communication for Ambitious Women in Business,