Naming Is Persuading: The Commercial and Political Power of Brand Names

Today’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an interesting article on naming laws and statutes. This is an area I have covered a time or two from a branding perspective. Naming anything is actually an act of persuasion–your name says something about your company, product or idea for a new law or policy. It’s no wonder that politicians and companies pay special attention to naming their pet initiatives and products to make them as palatable as possible to the public.

Naming as a descriptive exercise has fallen away in favor of naming that seeks to persuade. Yet, in choosing persuasive names, politicians sacrifice clarity. The WJS blog quotes an expert at legislation naming Brian Christopher Jones as saying, “For a long time, bill titles and the United States Code fended this [affliction] off, and you could have a reasonable short title that could inform a legislator or a member of the public as to what the bill is in reference to. Nowadays, you could read the title and have absolutely no idea what the bill is about.”

Beyond sacrificing clarity, crafty naming can also sacrifice integrity. I’ve covered doublespeak in previous posts, both as a political tool and a commercial tool.  A few examples:

Toyota spins “recalls: into “special service campaigns”

When “reconciliation” becomes a new way to fight–political doublespeak

In the hands of government regulators “neutrality” is anything but

In an ideal world, language, even marketing language is honest, clear and persuasive. Sadly, the trend is in the other direction. Still, brands and politicians both should think twice before pulling something clever. Trust is hard to earn and easy to destroy.

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