Hello, My Name Is Awesome
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Hello, My Name Is Awesome

How to Create Brand Names That Stick

Alexandra Watkins

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📖 eBook - ePub

Hello, My Name Is Awesome

How to Create Brand Names That Stick

Alexandra Watkins

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About This Book

One of Inc. Magazine 's "Top 10 Marketing Books" The "must-read" guide to naming products and businesses, updated with new stories and resources (Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable ). Too many new companies and products have names that look like the results of a drunken Scrabble game (Xobni, Svbtle, Doostang). In this entertaining and engaging book, ace naming consultant Alexandra Watkins explains how anyone—even noncreative types—can create memorable and effective brand names. No degree in linguistics required. Watkins lays out in detail the elements of names that suit your target market and make people stop in their tracks and smile—and those that just make them scratch their heads and keep walking. In witty prose and with numerous examples, she reveals how entrepreneurs and businesses can come up with brand names that are evocative and memorable while also leaving room for long-term growth and larger possibilities, and avoid those that leave potential customers cold and are quickly forgotten. This extensively revised second edition has double the number of brainstorming tools and techniques, even more secrets and strategies to nab an available domain name, a brand-new chapter on how companies are using creative names around the office to add personality to everything from cafeterias to conference rooms, and new stories(of both hits and flops). Named a "Top 10 Branding Book" by Branding Journal, Hello, My Name is Awesome is the ultimate guide to naming your product or business. "Jam-packed with sound advice." — Publishers Weekly

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Information

Year
2019
ISBN
9781523084890
Subtopic
Advertising

CHAPTER 1

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The 5 Qualities of a Super-Sticky Name

Think of five brand names that made you smile the first time you heard them. My fab five:
Chubby Hubby (ice cream flavor)
Scrub Daddy (sponge)
Nerdwax (eyeglass adhesive)
Bed Head (hair care products)
Super Evil Megacorp (video games)
We appreciate it when names surprise us, entertain us, and give us a happy little jolt of dopamine. Names that make us smile are infectious. They are the ones we talk about, tweet, and repeat. Why? We enjoy making others smile too.
I relish the grin on someone’s face when they ask the name of my own company, Eat My Words, or about the names I’ve created over the years. It’s impossible not to smile when someone says Gringo Lingo (a Spanish-language school in Colombia), Church of Cupcakes, or Thank God It’s Coffee.
In case you skipped the Introduction, the SMILE & SCRATCH name evaluation test is based on my philosophy: A name should make you smile instead of scratch your head.
SMILE is an acronym for the 5 qualities of a great name. (SCRATCH is the flipside, which I cover in the next chapter.)

SMILE: The 5 Qualities of a Super-Sticky Name

Suggestive
Memorable
Imagery
Legs
Emotional

Suggestive Evokes Something about Your Brand

A name can’t be expected to say everything, but it can suggest something about your brand. Not in an overly obvious way but in a way that activates the imagination. Have you heard of the Impossible Burger? Fans swear the plant-based Frankenmeat, made in a lab, tastes like the real thing. As my friend Tim heard a waitress exclaim at the Atlanta airport, “Vegetarians be trippin’!” The company name, Impossible Foods, is far more appetizing than say, Meat Lab. (Meat Farmers, a twist on Beet Farmers, would have also been clever, but since the product isn’t technically meat, the name could be confusing.) The Impossible Burger is available on menus nationwide. Try one at a White Castle or the Slutty Vegan.
One of my favorite suggestive names is that of a California cannabis confections company that creates products for sophisticated women of a certain age. I named it Garden Society.
A terrific way to use “the power of suggestion” is with a symbolic word or metaphor that implies comparison. One master of the metaphor was Frank Zamboni, inventor of the renowned ice-resurfacing machine of the same name. Two of the metaphorical names he created were Grasshopper, a machine to roll up artificial turf, and the Black Widow, a machine to fill in dirt on top of cemetery vaults.
Car companies have nailed metaphoric names. SUV names are great examples. Explorer, Expedition, Yukon, Denali, and Wrangler all suggest rugged outdoor adventure. Fragrance companies are also masters of metaphorical names. Desire, Euphoria, Passion, Rapture, and Escape all evoke experiences women find desirable. (Coincidentally, Escape is the name of an SUV, too. Imagine cars designed by Calvin Klein. I’m not as excited about the thought of Ford manufacturing cologne.)
Want a name that conveys that your business is well established? Try words that symbolize strength, power, or longevity. For instance, companies named Oaktree, Life Force, and Ironwood sound rock solid. This technique also works for conveying trust. But having the word trust in your name can sound suspect or disingenuous. (Would you buy a used car from Trusty Sid?)

Suggestive Coined Names

Cleverly coined (invented) names can be beautifully suggestive, but the trick is, you don’t want your name to sound forced or unnatural. For a name to be awesome, it must embody a tricky trifecta. It must (1) feel like a real word, (2) be intuitive to pronounce, and (3) be intuitive to spell. Lightly coined names are a good place to start. For instance Optima or Speedo. Another strategy is to combine a dictionary word with an interesting suffix. This technique is effective for suggesting your brand personality. Samsonite sounds unbreakable. Sugarfina sounds elegant. Sodalicious sounds bubbly.
The highest form of coining a name is a well-executed mash-up, formally called a portmanteau. This technique combines the sounds or meanings of two words to form a new word. (Think: mathlete, labradoodle, and gaydar.) A favorite portmanteau that I created is a beer-on-tap growler station named Chuggernaut, which marries the words chug and juggernaut. Other standout examples are Carbonite, Groupon, Pinterest, and the Baconator. One of the greatest academic achievements in name coinage is America’s first cannabis college: Oaksterdam University. This bastion of “higher learning” is a sublime blend of Amsterdam, the cannabis capital of the world, and Oakland, California, where the school is located. (I can sometimes catch a whiff of it from the nearby office of my publisher. Just sayin’.)
Other terrific coined names suggestive of an enjoyable brand experience include Jamba Juice, Zumba, Zappos, Twizzlers, and Razzles. Those names are especially fun to say, as is the classic peanut butter–infused taffy confection, Abba-Zaba. The name and the candy bar are equally irresistible.
Compound coined names such as LinkedIn, Face-book or PayPal work well, although those particular company names aren’t especially exciting unless you were an early-stage investor.

Other Suggestive Names

Under Armor (athletic apparel)
Airbus (aircraft)
Alert (caffeine gum)
Cotton Candy (grapes) Hollywood Hair (hair extensions)

Provocative Names

There are suggestive names and then there are those other suggestive names. You know, the risqué kind that you don’t want your kids to ask you to explain.
Trigger warning: if you’re easily offended, you may want to skip ahead to the next section.
A provocative business with a sign that’s photographed more than the Golden Gate Bridge is a nail salon in San Francisco’s historic “gayborhood.” Ten years ago I named it, ahem, Hand Job. I actually presented the name as a joke, but my client Bao loved it and went nuts. (An embarrassing moment: one of my employees asked me to pick up some Hand Job underwear for him, and I had to ask what size briefs he wore.)
Names with the “wink, wink factor” can work for the right audience. They can be especially effective at easing discomfort.
Nothing is more awkward for a teenage girl than talking about ovulation, pregnancy, and STDs. My client Olivia Richman created a YouTube channel to make the topic seem less squeamish. I named it Glamour-Puss, M.D.
While I don’t recommend bathroom humor for names, you can get away with it if your business specializes in “doing your business.” For more than a decade, Poo-Pourri toilet spray has introduced products with cheeky names, including Master Crapsman, Royal Flush, and Trap-A-Crap. Several years ago my team worked with the company and named Poo-tonium, Sitting Pretty, and the less tasteful version, Sh*ttin’ Pretty.
Anytime you have a provocative name, you must prepare to be persecuted. One whose faith was tested is the Toronto-based soft-serve ice cream chain known as Sweet Jesus. These extreme fun-damentalists poke a flaming pitchfork at religion. Their attempt to expand into the United States was met with what the New York Post described as “a Christian holy war.”
A petition called for Sweet Jesus’s parent (not Mary or Joseph but a company named Monarch & Misfits) to change the Sweet Jesus name and issue a public apology for misusing “Our Lord Jesus Christ.” They were also petitioned to change their branding. (A holiday ad featured a nativity scene where Baby Jesus was replaced with an ice cream cone. Good Lord, these devilish worshippers are going straight to hell.) The founders of Sweet Jesus dug in their cloven hooves, fueling more cries of outrage and calls for boycotts of the “demonic” ice cream company. As of this writing, they have a store in Mall of America.

Memorable Makes an Association with the Familiar

According to the latest research in cognitive psychology, we remember things that can easily be merged into our existing knowledge base. One of the basic mechanisms of memory is association. The stickiest names are associated with words and concepts that are already familiar to us.
Consider the company LeapFrog. Most of us played the childhood game of leapfrog. Because we have a connection to it, the name LeapFrog is easy to remember. Case in point: at a networking event if you meet “Lucinda from LeapFrog,” you may forget her name three seconds after she introduces herself. You have a far better chance of remembering the name LeapFrog because you have an existing association with the name. If you don’t have an immediate connection to the name Lucinda, it’s easily forgotten. During your conversation with “Whatshername,” she tells you LeapFrog makes educational toys. She doesn’t have to explain that they help children leap ahead. You get it.
When we can associate a name with a word, phrase, or song we already know, it’s much easier for us to recall it later from our brain’s dusty filing cabinet. But when we try to remember a new name without anything familiar as a reference point, it’s much more difficult for us to connect it and therefore remember it.
How many of the 10 company names below will you remember one week from now? What about 24 hours from now?
Aladtec
Xoyondo
Perfony
Younility
Favro
Quinyx
Priverus
Vonigi
Amidship
How can we remember any of these? Most of us have the attention span of a squirrel monkey.* Because we are rarely there in person to explain our names to potential customers, I didn’t tell you what these companies do. They make scheduling software. How would anyone know?
If you do invent a name, make sure it still feels somewhat familiar. When I first saw a billboard for Intel’s chip Pentium, my immediate thought was, “I don’t remember Pentium being on the periodic table of elements.” If you’re going to rearrange the molecular structure of a word to form a new one, make sure it gets a positive reaction.

A Memorable Long Name Is Better Than a Forgettable Short Name

Last spring I helped my better half, Glenn, load his truck with the spoils of an online auction, specifically an unwieldy tiki bar for our tropical backyard. As I steadied the teetering tiki, I scanned the crowd to see who had won the other eclectic treasures. In the distance I spotted a heavily tattooed biker wheeling away a life-size ostrich. (I know it was life size only because in South Africa I rode one bareback.) Even more hilarious than an ostrich on wheels was the marginally offensive slogan on the tatted guy’s T-shirt. When I shouted a compliment to him, he hollered back, “Thanks, I got it online at Better Than Pants.” I had no free hand to jot down the name. How could I remember it? How could I not?! It’s stickier than a spilled piña colada. I know because nearly a year later I’m still able to recall it.
Super Evil Megacorp is another long name that no one ever forgets. This video game company is majorly funded and majorly fun. Business cards say, “This certifies that you had a genuine encounter with Super Evil Megacorp and that no anti-matter weapons were used on you. This time.” You can buy a T-shirt in the Super Evil Megastore.
Other long names that people find easy to remember include We Buy Ugly Houses, Two Men and a Truck, Hell or High Watermelon (wheat beer), and This Blueberry Walks into a Bar (cereal bars).

Honestly, How Memorable Is Your Personal Name?

Your first and last name say absolutely nothing about your business, expertise, or brand personality. Plus, your name may be hard to spell, pronounce, or remember. Why...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Hello, My Name Is AwesomeHow to cite Hello, My Name Is Awesome for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Watkins, A. (2019). Hello, My Name Is Awesome ([edition unavailable]). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1236015/hello-my-name-is-awesome-how-to-create-brand-names-that-stick-pdf (Original work published 2019)
Chicago Citation
Watkins, Alexandra. (2019) 2019. Hello, My Name Is Awesome. [Edition unavailable]. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. https://www.perlego.com/book/1236015/hello-my-name-is-awesome-how-to-create-brand-names-that-stick-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Watkins, A. (2019) Hello, My Name Is Awesome. [edition unavailable]. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1236015/hello-my-name-is-awesome-how-to-create-brand-names-that-stick-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Watkins, Alexandra. Hello, My Name Is Awesome. [edition unavailable]. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.