“Awesome” 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 REVIEW: Twelve 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 to “Awesome” often, 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.
This is not your everyday business marketing book… and I like it.
Loving this “Awesome” book and looking forward to a long shelf-life with it in the Heartland ….
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.