work life
November 3, 2022

The Power of Labeling

Labeling is a powerful concept that I wish I remembered more often and mastered better.

There are many interpretations of the term labeling across many disciplines. At its very core, the idea of labeling is that of giving things a name. When we give an idea a name we make it tangible in people’s minds.

That is why legislators use catchy names. Patriot Act. Affordable Care Act. Freedom Bill. Same for all the acronym bills.

“There’s basically just more competition in Congress,” Jones said. “Legislators are fighting for media attention, attention from constituents. If they use evocative language as opposed to technical language, it’s more likely that constituents would pay attention to it.”

What’s the strategy behind those catchy legislation titles?

A label acts as an anchor. Once you establish what the name refers to, you can use the label as the shortcut for that idea. Instead of repeating a complicated concept over time, you can label it “X”, and then get away by just saying “X”.


But the magic of labels is not just that they are a time-saving shortcut. Labels also carry authority. We are biased to believe that concepts with a proper name are more likely to be reputable and valuable.

And the last thing about labels is that labels make ideas easier to become memes. If well chosen, a label is easy to remember (eg. a catchy name, a play of words, acronyms, etc).

The black-hat interpretation of labeling is using it to influence others to buy into your ideas.

The white-hat approach is to label initiatives to help materialized them.

November 3, 2022 · #work life


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