The message you convey when naming a company, a campaign or an issue can be the difference between success or failure. Let me share a few examples – and excuse me if some are political.

In Arizona this November, voters will decide if recreational marijuana should be legal in the state (similar to Colorado). The campaign committee in favor calls itself: The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

The campaign’s name does an excellent job re-positioning the argument beyond the traditional drug debate. If all voters begin referring to the issue as a vote on whether marijuana should be regulated like alcohol, my bet is it’s likely to pass.

Here’s another example – the long-running political debate over abortion. The issue of abortion in this country is divided and has been for years, but I would argue that part of the reason it’s so divisive is the wording we use. “Pro-choice” is a positive impression and self-description. So is “pro-life”. It’s not like a debate between “pro-choice” versus “pro-dictating what others can’t do”. It’s not “pro-life” versus “pro-death”. Based on the self-descriptions, there’s no winner or loser between “pro-life” and “pro-choice”.

By comparison, a couple decades ago when “pro-choice” supporters began using and repeating the language “Partial Birth Abortion” during debates and conversations with others, that issue was for the most part politically lost.  Leading to a wave of states passing laws forbidding abortions after a certain number of weeks which is still a resulting issue today thanks to the original language.

Finally, let’s share an example of something as simple as a company name – like the name of my company, 10 to 1 Public Relations. Coming up with a company or product name is a lot harder than most people realize. One reason is that most names are already taken and finding something with a good URL domain is tough. 10 to 1 by itself isn’t memorable, but in context it is unforgettable.  10 to 1 is named after the notion that it takes 10 good things to be said about your company to make up for 1 bad. Since it’s inevitable that a negative story (legitimate or false) will occur, it’s essential to build up a “good will bank” to protect your image.  As soon as I tell anyone the meaning they understand and can recall our approach.

The lesson:  Descriptive wording matters. When you or your company is trying to consolidate support on a divisive issue, or to demonstrate how your product helps solve a problem, you have a much better chance of success if all parties use your chosen words to discuss it.

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