When it comes to creating brand names that really pack a punch, Alexandra Watkins has built a track record that's hard to beat. Some of the particularly memorable names she has created (by way of her San Francisco-based firm, Eat My Words) include: Spoon Me (a frozen yogurt business), Eat My Dust (a janitorial service), Power Supply (paleo meals for Crossfit gyms), Jazzed (a dating website), and Bloom (an energy drink). Unfortunately, due to confidentiality agreements, some of Alexandra's best names (including a nationally recognized bacon cheeseburger) must remain nameless.

While the importance of creating brand names with buzz might seem obvious to most businesspeople, there are plenty of bad ones around. That makes sense when you consider the fact that each and every year, 6 million new companies--and more than 100,000 new retail products--are launched in the US. That makes it particularly challenging to come up with great names. Regardless, the importance of having a great name that sticks can't be underestimated.

Says Alexandra, "A name will last longer than any other investment you make in your business. Whether people see it on your storefront, read it on your badge at a tradeshow, or see it on their caller ID, your brand name makes a critical first impression--even more than your shoes."

And there are plenty of bad ones out there. The biggest problems occur when names aren't spelled the way they sound, when they cause problems for journalists and their word processing spell checkers, and when names are meaningful to company founders, but not to customers. Included in Alexandra's Bad Brand Name Hall of Fame are Squrl, Ipiit, Mogad, Loud3r, SmolkSignal, Xboni, and Tcho.

So what can you do to create great brand names with buzz (or to rename a brand that just isn't doing the trick)? In her book Hello My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, Alexandra reveals the 5 qualities of a super-sticky name:

Suggestive. Evokes a positive brand experience. When Jeff Bezos decided to call his new online retailer Amazon, he knew that the name was synonymous with enormous. And, that is indeed what the retailer has become. Examples include Brawny paper towels and Leaf electric car.

Meaningful. Your customers "get it." A name must resonate with potential customers no matter when and where they encounter it--chances are, you won't be around to explain it to them. Examples include Kryptonite bike locks and Repel insect repellent.

Imagery. Visually evocative to aid in memory. It's much easier for your customers to remember a name that conjures up a memorable image in their minds than one that is tied to a random acronym or unfamiliar name. Examples include Irish Spring soap and Range Rover SUVs.

Legs. Lends itself to a theme for extended mileage. These names provide lots of potential for wordplay and verbal branding opportunities. Examples include Get a Grip tea (Republic of Tea) and Chunky Monkey ice cream (Ben & Jerry's).

Emotional. Moves people, and makes an emotional connection. Examples include Obsession fragrance and Snuggle fabric softener.

But wait--there's more! Alexandra has a list of the 7 Deadly Sins of picking a brand name. However, to learn those, you'll need to check out her book.

Published on: Oct 11, 2014