In which Jill explains why a rose by any other name could actually mean more project funding. We know that’s a mixed metaphor, but read on.
I’ve always been fascinated by how managers brand their business initiatives. I’ve lost track of the number of companies where I’ve worked on a “Voice of the Customer” or “One [Company Name]” program. I once had four clients in a single year who’d launched a “Project Genesis,” all, of course, with vastly different objectives. Forget funding. These days getting your project noticed is its own challenge.
A well-crafted project name can draw attention to a business initiative that would otherwise be lost among so many activities competing for executive attention and budget. It resonates. It’s meaningful. It evokes the effort’s intent. It fosters community, instilling a sense of purpose. And it can get you noticed.
Some project names are so popular they become cliché (“Project Phoenix,” anyone?). In his book What Clients Love, author Harry Beckwith emphasizes the importance of names in business, citing one company, internet.com, whose name change actually raised its stock price. “Names are golden,” he writes. It turns out naming a project is both art and science.
Managers increasingly shy away from using standard industry terms or acronyms for projects, particularly when the program goes south, as many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) projects did several years ago. My firm at the time was routinely asked to help re-brand moribund CRM efforts. “We can’t call it CRM anymore,” a V.P. of Marketing whispered, unwittingly representing her peers across industries and market segments. “It has too many bad connotations.” Irrespective of how hot the trend, no one wants their project linked with a failure statistic.
Thus many CRM projects have been recast as “Enterprise Customer Focus” (ECF) or “Know Thy Customer” initiatives. Likewise, “Web 2.0,” “enterprise data warehouse,” and even the classically-revered “process reengineering” are meeting similar fates. At best, these projects are re-named with softer-sounding synonyms—witness the rise of “Enterprise Information Management” as the de rigueur replacement for “data governance.” They’re often considered gimmicks by cynical business people. At worst otherwise-worthwhile projects risk being, in a word, “de-scoped.”
The best project names reflect the company’s brand AND the project goals themselves. They’re compelling, implying action. An automobile company’s “Customer-Driven!” project team created posters featuring the image of a laughing driver inside a late-model hybrid, her scarf trailing out the window. It not only illustrated the project’s desired outcome—a happy customer experience—it conveyed forward movement.
But the name is only one piece of the brand. An entertainment company in Los Angeles recently launched a corporate privacy program. The Chief Privacy Officer retained the services of the in-house cartoonists, who created superhero characters called “Captain Security” and “Privacy Man,” complete with unitards and chest logos. To roll out privacy guidelines, the studio hired actors and shot a commercial that was broadcast at employee events and on an internal website. Word about the privacy superheroes traveled around the studio faster than, well, a speeding bullet.
The CPO had recognized the need to fit in with the company’s culture in order to convince the studio’s employees that privacy was everyone’s issue. The superhero characters, and the narrative that accompanied them, were fresh and funny, reflecting the corporate Zeitgeist. As a result, privacy compliance has become embedded in the company’s business processes.
The fact is that if your project has clear objectives, realistic measurements, and valuable business outcomes, you can call it “Big-Budget Cluster du Jour,” for all anyone cares. Or simply go to the Project Name Generator at onlinegenerator.com. It’s way more fun than crafting something catchy that never sees the light of day.