4 Reasons We Should Label Each Other
You may have heard the following phrases before: You shouldn't label me. Don't stereotype. Stop putting me in that group or Don't judge me. All these phrases may stem from the innate desire of an individual to be seen as, well, an individual. We don't like to be put into a collective, we want to praise our individuality and celebrate our uniqueness. Except when it comes to being fans of Betty White, we all love her. How can anyone not love that woman?
However this desire to stand apart flies in the other innate desires we humans have. To organize, categorize, and classify everything. For an example of this we need look no further than a simple but elegant plant, the rose. If you happen to live close to St. Cloud, Minnesota I encourage you to take a trip to visit Monsignor gardens and stroll through the rose beds there. Notice all the different varieties? That's only about a hundred of them. Worldwide there are over 13,000 varieties of roses and more than 100 different species. They all have names, and attributes associated with them. Each one has been separated and is distinct in its own way, even if sharing many similarities.
1. Labels help us differentiate
So if we love to classify things why are we so afraid of labels? Objectively labels can do some amazing things. Like fulfilling those needs to organize and classify. Many of us can instantly recognize our labels. Don't believe me? Then try this little game. If you did I'll bet you recognized many of those logos. And what's more, each one likely reminded you of your experiences, or at least impressions of the company they're associated with.
That's great. You say But I'm not a company trying to sell something. Well in a way you kind of are. Let's try a brief experiment I'm going to give you list of words and you tell me which ones you would like to be associated with. Not which ones necessarily define you, but the ones that you want or at least have a desire to be definitive of you.
- Hard Working
These are all labels. If attributed to you, I have no doubt you'd love to claim them. I propose that if we do have negative feelings about ˜labels' it's more like we have an aversion to negative, or misattributed labels. Maybe there is something in the label that betrays a personal weakness that is hard for us to admit. Maybe the label is completely false. Whatever the case, it's not the label that's to blame.
2. Labels help us communicate
Now think about your favorite personal care product. What do you like about it? What makes it different or of better value than other choices? Do you associate certain things with that brand? Just as labels in life are important, labels for your product are just as critical. What your product represents and strives for is what you should have on your label.
Labels wither on bottles or in life, communicate the most vital information in the fastest way possible. Let's look at the difference between these two labels and make a quick mental list of what characteristics you might associate with each label.
Let's start with the one on the left, Endur. What came to mind? Would you describe it in any of the following words? Exercise, Energy, or Intense workout.
What about the one on the right, Edwin Gray Co? What were your first impressions? Classic, Apothecary, Elegant?
Maybe you didn't think that at all maybe you though that Edwin Gray was boring, and tired, too mellow. Perhaps you felt Endur is trying too hard, or you assume it has a flavor you don't care for. I don't think your impressions would be wrong about any of those labels. My point here is that labels can mean different things to different people. What you think about the labels you give says more about you and your preferences then the product itself. Labels should reflect our own attitudes and biases.
3. We label all the time and don't even know it.
It doesn't matter how hard you try, how much you may hate the thought, you and I make snap judgments all the time. This may seem cold but there is a reason. Think about how much information your brain has to process in a very limited amount of time. Not only does it juggle your breathing, eye movement, hearing, taste, touch, balance, etc. It's also going through everything around you the temperature, air currents, environment, noises, and more. It's important that we have these snap judgments so it doesn't take us 3 minutes to react to that Nerf ball that person is about to throw at the back of your head.
Trust me they’re waiting so whatever you do, don’t look now.
The good news about all this is that what others read or see on your labels is largely under your control. If you don't like your label change it. If you need help contact us. There is no second chance at a first impression.
4. Labels help us choose
I believe that something we should cherish is the ability to choose. The fact that we have choice is not only a heavy responsibility; it is the greatest feature of our existence. And I hope we are constantly looking for ways to help us choose better and more promptly. As you probably already guessed based on our theme, we do this through labels. They communicate to us exactly what we're looking for. Want a refreshing drink for your parched throat? Which label do you pursue?
Want a moisturizing lotion for your chapped hands? Which label do you choose?
How about which product will give you the great hairstyle you're looking for? Just based on the labels you see, which one do you choose?
I'd like to suggest we stop seeing labels as a bad thing. Labels can definitely help us in our decision making and communication. And if we have the wrong labels, let's get them right. Whether its changing the label on that amazing cleaning product of yours, or perhaps it goes deeper and you need to work hard to alter a label that maybe you feel has been given you, or even one you've given to someone else.
The point is you have the power to change, and the ability to do it. So go ahead, work on your labels, literal or metaphorical. We'll be here to help you with the literal design and you can work on improving the deeper personal and metaphorical ones.