Bag of Tricks: 4 Tips for Shameless Naming Manipulation

Names don’t matter much. Or do they?


From Baby names (good luck with that, Baby Hashtag) to multi-million dollar branding campaigns (New Coke anyone?), names can immediately evoke a reaction.

So maybe words, and what you call things do matter? In my Bag of Tricks this week, I encourage you to think about the:

    • Everyday “naming of things” 

Something I recently read reminded me of the importance of naming things. In a great article in Harvard Business Review, “How to Innovate with an Executive Sponsor”, by Maxwell Wessel, he talks about calling small innovation experiments, “mini-tests”. Not pilots, not prototypes… mini-tests. Here’s his explanation:

“By changing the jargon, Brian changed people’s preconceived notions about the test. By mini-testing and not prototyping, releasing betas, or piloting, people didn’t know what to expect.”

So, whether you want to change up expectations about a program, or just hold people’s interest beyond the subject line of your memo, when you’re naming that next activity, or program, etc. take a few minutes to think about the following:

  1. Emotion: Does it evoke an emotional response? Does it give your project a “personality”?
  2. Inspiration: Does it inspire someone to do something? Does it sound like something people want to help with? Does it sound (gulp) fun?
  3. Purpose: Does it describe what you’re doing? Or are you being purposely vague to draw interest?
  4. Audience: Who are you trying to reach with this name? Are you targeting a particular audience group?

In the famous quote from Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare says,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

But of course we know how that ended. The name of Montague got them in a lot of trouble. Names and branding do matter. Spend a little extra time to come up with one that will help you achieve your goals with that activity or program before you just call it Lessons Learned (again) or Program Communications Plan.

Until next time … wishing you business readiness success!

Kirsten Jordan is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @Kirstenkbdb. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.