Is this the most cringe-worthy brand launch event ever? It’s Siemens 120-year-old healthcare division’s rebranding to Siemens Healthineers. Brand and company names get attention because they signal what’s inside. That leads to the fallacious logic that if you change the name, what’s inside will change too. Sometimes it doesn’t work out well. Like when Royal Mail became Consignia. Or when PwC’s consulting division became Monday. That lasted until Tuesday, when they were swallowed up by IBM Global Services.

Companies and brands try hard to have distinctive names. Job titles tend to follow a standard formula. Many people have the same job titles, even inside the same business. So what? Because job titles matter. They can helpfully inform or wilfully mislead the customer, not to mention employees themselves, as described here. Now an academic study described in the Harvard Business Review (May 2016) has shown how they can also motivate people and inspire creativity. You’ll know that Disney engineers are “imagineers” and their theme park workers are called “cast members” – simultaneously flattering them and keeping them in line. But this approach is not just for creative industries. It’s being tried in conventional businesses, to re-focus and re-energise people. The new job title can replace the old one; that works where everyone doing that job agrees on a new name. Or people can choose a new secondary title. An infectious disease specialist in a hospital has decided she is a “germ slayer” – I bet that feels good. People may even create unique, individual titles that reflect their informal role as well as their formal one. The finance director of a charity became “the minister of dollars and sense”, while the office manager is now “the keeper of keys”, from Harry Potter.

What’s really going on here is the creation of propositions. Job titles that say, “this is what I do”, and even, “this is what I do for you?”. They’re active. They’re goal-driven. They’re shaped by a purpose and a desired outcome, and unbounded by functional limits. That’s a pretty good starting point for anyone who wants to feel good about what they do, and it provides the stimulus and freedom to take a fresh approach to familiar, well-defined jobs. It should be possible for everyone inside to have a job title that contributes towards the overall aims of the organisation. At the very least, everyone should have a job title that feels like they are doing something worthwhile.

Contrast this approach with one that focuses on superficial things like dress code, or “appearance guidelines which ensure customer-facing staff are consistently well presented and positively represent a client’s brand and image” – as the man from Portico put it. In the recent receptionist high heels row, the implication was that the job of receptionists was to look nice. But they’re not part of the décor, they’re people who welcome and direct visitors. An active job title might have focused a few minds. Also, it is harder to smile sincerely if your feet are killing you.

A senior marketer told me recently, you have to be careful when you create a role in your team. Because as soon as you give people a job title and an area of responsibility, they’ll find things to do. This study should give her encouragement. If the job title defines the role in an output-focused way, with the name providing a constant reminder of its purpose, then people stay focused on the why and not the what of their job. They’re more likely to evolve what they do, rather than sinking into a rut of familiar activities. I hesitate to call this rebranding your people, but in a way it is – without the spandex song-and-dance routine, or the big spend. The study showed that it can release energy and creativity, directed towards the aims of the business. If chosen with care, those aims will align with serving customers better. So here you have an effective marketing tool, and it’s free.

There are a few brilliant people who never lose sight of the main goal. But for the rest of us, a purposeful job title might be quite helpful on a rainy Monday.