“Awesome” … With Four Plus Reasons Why

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promo_03Awesome” is not a word to be used lightly, especially as part of a book title …

Fortunately, in this case, it fits quite nicely, as does “Interesting”, “Honest”, “Focused” and “Helpful”.

 

Alexandra Watkins is all about naming things, but not in the cutesy way that has given us some of the oddest brand and company names I can imagine.  Alexandra is strategic and all-business, although she skewers our preoccupations and clumsy attempts with wit, grace, and a dose of whimsy.   I would guess  that collaborating with her would be both energizing and exhausting .

“Hello, My Name is Awesome” is not a long or heavy book.  It’s deceptively short, light, and about an airplane flight’s worth of reading … the first time.   You might grab this book, thinking “Great … something quick and easy to kill some time” … but you would be so wrong. 

We have become somewhat insulated as we are repeatedly confronted with names that are not helpful in understanding what a company or product is about, or even how to spell or pronounce the name.   She is laying bare one of the larger mysteries of our current business environment:  Why we put up with naming protocols that do not make sense.

The book itself has several well-organized main sections, each of which brings distinct value to our table.  First, Alexandra lays out her “Do’s and Do Not’s” in three well-written and enjoyable sections, even as she hits uncomfortably close to home for many of us:

SMILE:  Five qualities of a “Super-sticky” name

SCRATCH:  Seven deadly sins of naming things

DOMAINS:  Should be required reading for anyone who has a business identity or may ever have one

You will have no doubt of Watkin’s approach after reading these sections.  She starts with full energy and candor and does not slow down.  Her words are forceful, intentional, and loaded with practical wisdom about business today. 

Watkins then proceeds to tell us exactly how to follow her system for creating memorable and useful names in three more well-crafted and engaging chapters:

CREATIVE BRIEF:   The single most useful part of this very useful book.   I like strategic thinking and you have to engage in that when you complete one of these very valuable forms.  

Designed to help you think it out before you act it out, this section is worth doing, even if you love your current company name and do not ever plan on changing it.  Just stick it in your briefcase or keep it handy to remind you of what you want to be about.

The thinking and discernment that is required to complete the creative brief will force you to think more clearly and deeply about who you are, your customers, and what you are about.  Alexandra calls this an “ingredients list” and if you follow the directions, you will be cooking up a real treat for yourself.

BRAINSTORMING:  Again using the creative brief outline, Alexandra gives us some useful tools to spark our creativity in very original and engaging ways.  She makes brainstorming sound like fun again.

NAME REVIEWTwelve rules for tackling the real-world issues around getting everyone to agree on a name.  She is honest and pulls no punches.  One quick example:  “Do not use focus groups.” – naming your company or product is something you should own, because you know what you are trying to do better than your customers.

NAME  CHANGES – PROS AND CONS:  Finally, a candid discussion around some necessary considerations before we launch into creative renaming.

If you care about your business, your products and services, and want to thoughtfully and strategically plan into a better future, you will find much of value in this book.  I am willing to bet you will refer toAwesomeoften, both for the business advice and because Alexandra is so darn entertaining as she teaches you how to think clearly and usefully about who your are and what words you use. 

Back to those four words I mentioned at the first: 

INTERESTING:  If you are a marketing wonk, you will love this book.  If you are a branding “guru”, you may feel a little uncomfortable, because Alexandra pulls no punches as she skewers some very popular current naming practices.  Even if you have absolutely no interest in any business applications, you will still find the information in this book interesting, because it speak to communication … and we all communicate every single day, even when we do not say a word. 

HONEST:  Early in the book, Alexandra warns us she is “not afraid to name names.” (p. 2).   She goes on to prove this point time and again, by using numerous examples of current names for companies and products, fearlessly highlighting the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.   I found myself tremendously entertained by her banter, except for the times she skewered some products I use (i.e. Grammerly).    Fortunately, she also lauds some companies I enjoy patronizing (i.e. Amazon)

FOCUSED:  This book is about one thing:  What we name our business.  Alexandra has an immense amount of practical experience doing that for organizations and products and she obviously loves what she does.  Focus always requires passion and such is well in evidence here.

HELPFUL:  The Resources section at the end is a veritable bonanza of advice and websites connected to the topic.  Like the content in each of the sections mentioned above, every page of this book seems to have some relevant, clear, and useful information.

share_05BONUS POINT:  The woman has attitude and gets her point across with a dash of humor.  How many authors do you know who would use the graphic to the left to help sell their book. 

This is not your everyday business marketing book… and I like it.

Loving this Awesomebook and looking forward to a long shelf-life with it in the Heartland ….

John

promo_01ABOUT ALEXANDRA WATKINS

Alexandra Watkins is the founder of Eat My Words, a San Francisco naming firm that specializes in creating names that make people smile instead of scratch their heads. Some of her successes include the robotic vacuum Neato, frozen yogurt franchise  Spoon Me, and the Church of Cupcakes. Her clients include Disney, Microsoft, Wrigley, Frito-Lay, and Fujitsu.

Ever since eighth grade, Alexandra knew she wanted to be in advertising, like her TV hero, Darrin Stevens, on Bewitched. She skipped college and talked her way into an internship with an ad agency, eventually becoming a senior copywriter with Ogilvy & Mather. When she discovered her talent for naming things, Alexandra switched gears to become a professional namer. She got her first big break, freelancing for branding powerhouse Landor, through a Match.com date. (The entire experience was rated-G.) That was 10-years ago and she’s never looked back. Learn more about Alexandra and Eat My Words here.

DISCLAIMER:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  No apologies … one of the best gifts ever in terms of business usefulness and enjoyable writing.

The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered | Fast Company | Business + Innovation


MorgueFile tabletThis morning’s inbox includes a well-written article via Fast Company, which reinforces something I have noted before about the difference between being familiar with an environment and understanding the strategic realities of that environment.

Digital natives may know how to do something easily and quickly online, but that does not mean they are doing the right thing.  

For some painfully instructive examples, just watch the flow of Facebook posts or Twitter streams from young professionals who ought to know better how to add value. 

Leaders who do not understand this will continue to wonder why they are not getting full value from the social media arena.

This all speaks to two things near and dear to my heart:

1)  The growing awareness in business that older professionals may have much to offer in a strategic sense in our current business environment.  

For example, we may not know how to create and publish a six-second Vine, but we may just understand how to influence customers positively through online interactions.

The tools and environments may change, but the ability to think strategically and create workable actions to execute that strategy tends to stay a constant.

2)  Social media is not just a toy or a way to kill time, and not work or study.  Rather, social media is becoming HOW we work and study.  

Whether you enjoy spending time in social online environments is simply not the point anymore and those who insist on treating social media like hula hoops or other short-lived fads may be very sad going into the future.

Yes, I am talking to my peers who continue to perpetuate the myths around the inability to use of social media and other technology by anyone older than a certain age.  If you look around, you will see people of all ages accomplishing impressive things, while living and working fully in today’s environments.

Read more about all this here:  The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

I will continue to sip my coffee and enjoy the shrinking awareness gap in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Morguefile.com

Four Thoughts on a Green and Wet Day …


Green and Wet Day

Carl Jung recently challenged me, as he so often does … “What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes?”             

He adds “Therein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.”

My initial reaction to the second line was “Yeah, right …” (intoned with a light veneer of grown-up sarcasm.  After all, most of the specific things I do now were not in existence when I was a child.  No Internet, no video games, darned little real variety on television, and not much to do on a small farm in Northeast Missouri.

Yes, sometimes I give in to nostalgia and wish I were back on the farm, where life was relatively simple and predictable, if also containing a fair amount of hard work in sometimes very uncomfortable environments (think heat, cold, wind, rain, and lack of sleep).  The adult me understands that we truly cannot go home again, that was then and this is now, and all the other trite but accurate things we say about things nostalgic.

So what’s left?  The stuff that transcends popular culture, the environment of the minute, and technology …

 After a little more thinking, here’s what I remember from then that still moves me now …

1)  I DREAM …

My favorite childhood memory:  Lying on the un-mown lawn of my grandmother’s house, just down the road, on a warm and breezy summer day, gazing up at the clouds, the birds, the treetops, and the occasional plane.  Sometimes thinking about the shapes or the sensations, but sometimes just letting my thoughts go wherever they would go.

I have not laid on that hallowed ground for many years, but I still like to stretch out, breath deep, and look up …

2) I LEARN …

I loved school as a young boy.  This may come as a shock to some of my teachers and to all the principals who knew me, but I still enjoy the thrill of learning a new thing.  Most of my adult life has been spent either as a student or a teacher/facilitator/coach, so learning environments are comfortable ground for me.

Curiosity is possibly the most valuable asset I possess …

3) I READ …

My earliest adult “friends” were the librarians in our small town.  They knew me well, guided me with a loving hand, and allowed me to experience the treasures of reading at levels beyond my chronological and psychological age.  I was exposed to that much richer world at an early age and have never stopped absorbing the written word.  

When I walk into a book store or a library, I am in Heaven …

4) I WRITE …

This one surprised me, because I tend to focus on my role as a consumer of written things, not as a creator.  However, the evidence is clear that through the years, I have found much pleasure in writing, whether the purpose has been to instruct, inform, entertain, or simply for my own enjoyment.

Whether I write for accuracy, entertainment, or engagement, I am happiest when my fingers are moving on the keyboard …

Well, that’s my best shot at how to respond to the challenge of Jung’s words. 

WHAT DID YOU DO AS A CHILD?  

WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING?

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Remembering past hot and sunny summer days on this wet and rainy day in the Heartland ….

John

“Should You Click on Those Hacked Nude Celeb Photos?” A Mashable Flowchart


 

Nude ImageSome things are too complicated for snap decisions … others should be a little more obvious …

If anyone is still pondering the Question of The Day on social media, there’s a definitive decision-tree below to help guide your conscience, via those helpful folks at Mashable:

Should You Click on Those Hacked Nude Celeb Photos? A Flowchart.

No need to thank us for the help …

Resisting the urge to do it in the Heartland ….

John