How to Create Brand Names That Stick

A Great Name is a Must

Whether you are launching a new company, a new product, or refreshing a brand, you need to have a great name.  Some companies have a name that just fits while others see massive marketing campaigns fail because of a poor name.  Still others have names that are limiting future growth.  For instance, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com says that Zappos.com started out as ShoeSite.com.

Alexandra Watkins is a nationally recognized naming expert and founder of Eat My Words. She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. and Entreprenuer.  Her clients range from Disney to Fujitsu.  She recently wrote the small, but powerful book Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

 

“Your brand name makes a critical first impression. Even more than your shoes.” Alexandra Watkins

 

 

For those not in the field of marketing and branding, why is picking the right brand name so critically important? 

Your name will last longer than any investment you make in your business.  Think about that for a minute…will you have the same tablet, mobile phone, printer, and office furniture twenty years from now?  Not likely.  But you will have the same brand name.  That’s why it’s important for you spend the time to get it right.

 

Qualities of a Perfect Brand Name

What are the qualities of a perfect name? How do you know you’ve landed on the right choice?

A helpful and purely objective checklist for the qualities of a perfect name is my SMILE & SCRATCH Test, a 12-step name evaluation method based on my philosophy, “A name should make you smile, instead of scratch your head.” If your name passes the test (and clears trademarking and international linguistic checks), you can be assured you have a winner.

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SMILE: The 5 Qualities of a Super Sticky Name – the perfect name has all of these characteristics:

Suggestive – evokes something about your brand

Meaningful – resonates with your audience

Imagery – is visually evocative to aid in memory

Legs – lends itself to a theme for extended mileage

Emotional – moves people

Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success

The New Rules

You’ve heard the advice, but maybe you are uncomfortable:

Why standing out is more important than ever

The importance of personal branding

How to get noticed in a crowded world

More than ever, your career opportunities are dependent on your reputation.  The good news is that there are more tools than ever to help you get started.

Dan Schawbel is a columnist at Time and Forbes.  He is the managing partner of Millennial Branding.  If you haven’t read his many articles and blog posts, you may have heard or seen him in the media.  As I was reading his latest book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, I happened to catch an interview with him on National Public Radio.  He is an expert on personal branding and understanding and reaching the Millennial generation.

 

“In today’s knowledge-based economy, what you earn depends on what you learn.” –Bill Clinton

 

Why Personal Branding Is Important

What are the top 5 reasons that personal branding so important?

  1. You will be found in search engines when either a recruiter is looking to hire for a specific position or a prospect is looking to hire a consultant.
  2. You will gain confidence in yourself because you’ll know who you are and how your expertise fits into the business world.
  3. You will be able to communicate who you are and what you do at networking events without being stressed out.
  4. Your personal brand will give your company more credibility and make it easier to promote your company in the media.
  5. Your brand will help you both attract the right opportunities and repel the ones that aren’t a good fit, saving both you and others time in the research process.

 

“Think of your career as a series of experiences.” -Lenny Mendonca

 

“If everyone has to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing. Malcolm Gladwell

 

What do you say to critics who say that personal branding is self-centered and egotistical?

I really don’t think it’s possible to build a strong brand without the support of those around you.  I also don’t think that being selfish is necessarily a bad thing, especially in a tough economy like this.  Being selfish, in some regard, is a way of saying “I’m investing in myself so I can become more valuable and in doing so help others.”  As long as your intention is to help others today or in a year, everyone benefits from you being selfish.  Those that have built strong brands have empowered others to build their own and promoted their work.

 

“Become the expert your company can’t live without” is powerful advice. What steps do you recommend to make this a reality?

Promote Yourself CoverIn Promote Yourself I talk about how you need to become an expert in your field.  65% of managers are looking to hire and promote experts, not generalists. You need to align your strengths to areas in your company that need improvement.  Back when I worked at a Fortune 200 company, I was the only social media resource.  If a department wanted to learn social media or use the tools for their own purposes, they almost had to contact me.  This truly makes you valuable to your group and to your company, while at the same time giving you visibility which creates opportunities.

 

65 percent of managers are looking to hire and promote experts, not generalists.

 

Use Social Media as a Career Tool

You talk about the importance of social media. Why is it critical for leaders to understand and leverage social media?

Social media is the fabric of our society at this time.  I started using it in 2006 because I realized that it puts everyone on the same plane, regardless of job title.  Through social media you can easily connect with people in your company, profession or industry, which creates opportunities.  Another aspect of social media is that the customer now has a voice, and people, in general, are moved by experts and influencers.  Leaders need to understand social media because it’s a channel that people will use to follow them if they have something interesting or important to say.

 

“Social media is the fabric of our society at this time.” -Dan Schawbel

 

 

How did you use social media to propel your career?

Why Standing Out is More Important than Ever

 

Your Personal Buzz

Recently, I shared my observations about all things honey.  A honey festival demonstrated that it’s possible to differentiate almost anything—at least from my uninitiated view of the product.

 

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” –Dr. Seuss

 

Differentiate YOU

That amazing array of honey products got me thinking about personal brand.  We are all at a fair of sorts.  Whether the marketplace or in your social circles, there are many others competing for time, for opportunity.  How do YOU differentiate YOU?

Most of us don’t think about a conscious plan for standing out.  We have learned to blend in.  But great leaders stand out.  Work that is extraordinary captures our attention.  If you fail to stand out, you will be passed over at promotion time.  Overlooked in the marketplace.  Ignored for the most important opportunities.

 

“Great leaders stand out.” –Skip Prichard

 

Some work stands out so much that it generates that viral buzz that the media savors.  If it makes you uncomfortable just thinking about that type of attention, I have good news.  It often is tiny differences that make the big difference.  Success often happens at the margin.  If your work is only slightly better, you have an enormous advantage.  Often we look with interest at the shocking or spectacular, but settle for purchasing or consuming something closer to our version of normal.  The choice we make, however, is usually one that is just ahead of the competition.

Are you a leader?  Leaders do not blend in.  They don’t hide their unique qualities.

 

“Be the one to stand out in the crowd.” –Joel Osteen

 

Are you a blogger? More than the look and feel of your blog is the personal touch, the sharing, the authentic voice.

Do you have an upcoming speech?  Share a personal story or do something that no one else would do.

5 Tips to Avoid a Branding Collision

 

A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of a traffic jam.  Not the slow moving type, but the “get comfortable you’re going nowhere type” that shouts, “You missed your morning meeting!”  Realizing that a traffic accident could be to blame, I decided to practice gratitude.

“I am thankful that I am in a comfortable car, safe and sound.  God, if someone is in an accident up ahead, please be with them and provide comfort.”

A short time later, the traffic began to move.  It’s a good thing because I can only meditate for so long before I feel trapped.  I’m sure I was there for at least an hour practicing mindfulness and gratitude, which means I was stopped for about 27 seconds.

 

Accident Ahead

As we moved up, sure enough, I could see what was causing the delay:  an accident.  I did what you would do.  I steeled my eyes on the road ahead and drove without so much as glancing.  Yeah, sure you do.  Trying to keep moving, I glanced ever so quickly to note the vehicles, the emergency responders, and a fleeting view of the injured.  I try not to look—I’ve read that rubberneckers cause numerous secondary accidents—but I’ve also read that looking may be good for you.  Eric G. Wilson, the author of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away, argues that it helps us understand life’s deeper meaning.

At the very least, we can tell ourselves that studying wrecks helps us learn from others’ mistakes.

As with accidents, I watch corporate disasters the same way.  Several memorable disasters including Bridgestone’s tire recall, JetBlue’s trapping passengers onboard as categorized by Business Insider.  Anything from the Paula Deen meltdown to Target’s PR nightmare qualifies.

This past week, I witnessed a different type of branding wreckage.  Sure, it may not be as noteworthy as the mistakes above.  It doesn’t involve a consumer brand name, and it doesn’t endanger anyone’s health nor involve racist or offensive remarks.

Still, it provides lessons that are worth exploring.

 

“If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.” –Philip Kotler

 

Platform Confusion

Last week, the National Speakers Association (NSA) announced it was jettisoning its venerable brand in favor of a new name.  That name is Platform.  Though I was not in attendance, I almost immediately was made aware of the announcement via emails, texts and tweets. (See also Rory Vaden‘s excellent post on this subject).

Platform?

It was almost as if I could hear the tires screeching, the glass shattering, the metal twisting.  This was a branding collision, and the onlookers would be gathering to watch.  Why?

First two disclosures:

 

DISCLOSURE #1

One of my close friends is Michael Hyatt.  He is the NYT Bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.  He runs a conference called the Platform Conference and has an online community that will make your head spin at Platform University.  He was the driving force encouraging me to blog.  On the book jacket, you will see my endorsement:

“Michael Hyatt, one of the pioneers of social networking and blogging, shares his successful blueprint for raising your visibility. Learn from his experience and save yourself time, money and frustration by following his step-by-step advice.”