BRAND BUILDING: Creative naming lead, Jason Hall, on navigating the decision-making process

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BRAND BUILDING is a blog feature in which our experts present an in-depth POV on topics ranging from branding to design to experience, all through the lens of simplicity. Here creative naming lead Jason Hall discusses the best way to navigate the decision making process when naming a new product or service. 

Make a damn decision

People often think that generating and executing fresh ideas are the major challenges in naming a new product or service. This is true, but lately we’ve found the biggest hurdle is…decision-making.

It doesn’t matter how good your name is, making a wrong decision, or worse, not making a decision at all, can derail the entire project. If you think it’s expensive to hire an agency to solve a problem, consider how expensive indecision is. Indecision often leads to redoing projects or not doing them at all, after months of work. Not only are you investing in the actual naming process, you are also paying for the participation of your staff, their time/value missed on other projects, and the long-term ramifications of making a poor branding decision.

One of the biggest mysteries around decision-making is knowing that it’s even a problem. And it’s a problem because, well, it’s hard.

Therefore, we decided to put together some information based on recent research in the field. Here is your guide to navigating the world of decision-making.

Educate people on why decision-making is hard, but necessary

There are many reasons why decision-making is difficult, including fear of making a mistake, financial and personal impact, no established process, etc. As humans, we’re bound to behave in certain ways, but having this awareness leads us to making better decisions.

In general, we learned…

So how do we make decision-making easier?

Establish how the decision will be made and who will make it

Process is sometimes the enemy of creativity and innovation, but in this case, it’s crucial. A clear process establishes that this is a rule, not a choice, and it keeps the momentum going.

From the very beginning of the naming process, clients must establish when decisions need to be made and by whom. If we know this up front, people are less likely to feel dismissed or that their opinion doesn’t matter. Input from relevant team members is essential, but it must be clear who makes the final decision. Two of the biggest mistakes in naming are…

  • Someone below the decision maker dismissing ideas that work
  • Not getting the right decision makers on board at the appropriate times

Ok, we have a process, great. But, HOW do you make decisions?

Take it all in, but don’t decide just yet

It is critical to use rational filters to take in information, but do not use them to make final decisions. There are going to be many data inputs during the process, e.g., does the name support the strategy and is it an easy jump to your story, does it work within context of the offering, did it pass trademark, did it perform well in research, etc., etc. It’s great to “examine” these items, but they are just data points that filter into the final decision making process. Names grow on people. Your opinion changes. It’s essential to evaluate names at several stages of the process, but not make final decisions until it’s time.

Now that we understand “rational filters,” let’s discuss “emotional filters” and how to make that final decision.

Go with your gut

So, we have all the data. It’s simmering in our brains. Now, let’s use emotion to make the decision. Recent research found that emotions and intuition are critical in making complex decisions, and in most cases, will lead to the right answers. It seems counterintuitive, but we recommend you “feel” names by letting your mind defy logic and see the potential in words. We also need to “feel” if this is the right decision based on everything we know up to this point. Think of that great scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Dr. Keating tears up the metrics for a poem. A name, like a poem, cannot be quantified effectively. You must “know it’s right.”

If that doesn’t work, take a leap of faith

“Know when it’s right?” “Feel the names?” Get the hell out of here. This can feel uneasy, but we can take comfort in knowing that we’ve done everything right up to this point. We know all the data. We have weighed the pros/cons and we have inclinations, but maybe we still aren’t 100% sure. This is ok. This is reality. And to this special scenario we advise…just go for it.

Author, Chuck Klosterman says, “The history of ideas is the history of being wrong.” We aren’t dismissing the logic of the decision-making process, but once we have taken all the proper steps, it is now up to fate to see if our idea soars. Reassure your teams throughout this process that making the “right” decision is hard, and frankly, impossible, so let’s just go for it and make the best possible decision we can.

This isn’t a surefire solution, but understanding the nuances of decision-making can only lead to better outcomes.

Jason Hall is a creative naming lead at Siegel+Gale.

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