Developing Smile-Inducing Brand Names with Alexandra Watkins

alexandra watkins on brand

“You don’t want your brand name to be tame. You can’t afford to be tame!” As the verbal identity expert behind names for brands ranging from frozen yogurt to Burger King, Alexandra Watkins knows how to develop names that make people smile—and we talk about that a lot on the On Brand podcast. She’s also the author of the newly revised Hello, My Name is Awesome. We discussed all of this and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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Alexandra Watkins

Alexandra Watkins is a recognized expert on brand names with buzz. She the founder and Chief Executive Boss Lady of Eat My Words, a boutique firm that specializes in creating brand names that make people smile instead of scratch their heads. Her name hall of fame includes Burger King’s Mac ‘n Cheetos, the Neato Robotic Vacuum, Spoon Me frozen yogurt, the Church of Cupcakes, a Spanish language school named Gringo Lingo, and a San Francisco nail salon named Hand Job.

Alexandra is the author of the newly revised creativity book, Hello, My Name is Awesome: How To Create Brand Names That Stick. Awesome was named a Top 10 Marketing Book by Inc. and most recently, a Top 10 Branding Book by The Branding Journal. This week her book was shortlisted for a 2019 OWL (Outstanding Works of Literature) Award in the Sales & Marketing Category.

Alexandra lives in San Diego in a pink Barbie Dream House. She has commandeered the pool house as her office and can often be found chained to her desk, which is shaped like a purple Easter egg.

Episode Highlights

Alexandra’s SMILE acronym helps people develop sticky brand names. Your brand name should be … “Suggestive–evokes something about your brand. Memorable–makes an association with the familiar. Imagery–aids memory through evocative visuals. Legs–lends itself to a theme for extended mileage. Emotional–moves people. If your name captures all five of these qualities, you’re ahead of the curve.”

Likewise, her SCRATCH acronym describes the seven deadly sins in naming a company or product. What should you avoid in your brand naming? “Spelling challenged–looks like a typo. Copycat–resembles competitors’ names. Restrictive–limits future growth. Annoying–seems forced, frustrates customers. Tame–feels flat, descriptive, uninspired. Curse of knowledge–speaks only to insiders. Hard to pronounce–confuses and distances customers. An easy way to think about it is, if it makes people scratch their heads, you should scratch it off the list.”

5 Awesome Company Names

  • Pinterest — clever mashup, easy to understand, spell and pronounce
  • 23andMe — a fun nod to DNA, personal connection
  • Tesla – a nod to inventor Nicola Tesla, works for every business they are in
  • Amazon — strong metaphor, everything they do fits under it
  • DoorDash — descriptive yet fun, nice alliteration

5 Bad Company Names

  • Flickr — I’d like to buy a vowel please
  • Trivago — forced mashup (trip + vacation + go)
  • Rakuten — says nothing about “cash back” (there are even TV ads devoted to mispronunciation of the name)
  • Postmates — “post” implies mail as opposed to fast door-to-door delivery
  • Casper — disconnect with mattress comfort and sleep

What brand has made Alexandra smile recently? Alexandra pointed to Jimmy Buffet’s Latitude Margaritaville as an example of a retirement community with an immersive, engaging brand naming system.

To learn more, go to to find an interactive SMILE and SCRATCH test for your brand name. You can also connect with Alexandra on LinkedIn.

As We Wrap …

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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