You may be tempted to think selecting a title or label for a program is easy and of no real significance. Yet stop and think about your own behavior when you glance through a recreation program brochure, skim an advertisement, or scan a Web site. Most people allocate only a few seconds when looking for program information. They are searching for things of interest to them. If a title catches their attention, they’ll read more thoroughly (McCarville, 2002). So, your task in naming programs is to select titles that not only describe the program but also catch interest and attention (see the box on this page for an example).
Names represent dominant cues to customers. Thus, a program’s name may be one of the most important pieces of information you can offer to prospective patrons. Names represent "the hook that hangs the brand on the product" (Ries & Trout, 1986, p. 71). Consider the name Exercise Center. What happens to your interest when the name is changed to Weight and Stress Control Center? The program is no longer about exerting physical energy; it is about getting body weight and stress under control. Now the "brand" is wellness rather than effort.
Another example is the leisure service agency that renamed an adult swim program for novices. The new title? Swimming for the Absolutely Terrified. The new choice was not only more descriptive but also more memorable. As a result, the program increased in popularity, and the agency has expanded the "absolutely terrified" naming theme to include programs on learning to ski, using computers and the Internet, and high school diploma exam preparation (McCarville, 2002).
From a communication perspective, naming a program focuses on developing "the hook"-something that gains attention. The most successful hooks focus on benefits (McCarville, 2002). The logic is simple: Programs that are named according to what the patrons want will attract more patron attention. Useful program names tell what the service will do and make it easy for patrons to visualize the benefits (Burton & Purvis, 1996).
Here is some specific advice on naming programs. Essentially, in order to be effective communication tools, names should pass four basic tests (Berry & Parasuraman, 1991). The first test is distinctiveness. The program name must clearly distinguish itself from other programs. The term aerobics class, for example, is descriptive but doesn’t distinguish one fitness program from another. Instead, why not name this program Latin Explosion, Cardio Studio, or Fitness Jumpstart (Division of Recreational Sports, 2004)?
The second naming test is relevance. The program name needs to provide an image that is meaningful to the target constituency. The name must also be an honest representation of the program itself. For example, the titles Lifeguard Instructor Training and Water Safety Instructor Training provide a meaningful message about the differences in the two programs (Division of Recreational Sports, 2006). Memorability is the third test. Memorability refers to how easily the name is understood and remembered. This requires that the name be creatively interesting and to the point. Clutter and dullness are not memorable. For example, Owl Prowl, Classy Casting, and Rip Roaring Rapids are easy to remember because of the rhyming and alliteration (Bloomington Parks & Recreation, 2004).
For the fourth test, the name must be flexible enough to allow easy changes in program content or format over time. For instance, a program titled Yoga or Pilates Sampler enables programmers to alternate which fitness activity is offered from season to season without having to change the program’s name (Division of Recreational Sports, 2006).