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I knew creating engaging and compelling brand names was hard — there’s no sugarcoating it. But what I didn’t realize was exactly how hard it was to name something until my team decided to go through with our rebranding. Before we accepted the name Sidecar, idea after idea was thrown around, without anything feeling right.

Through trial and error, many discussions, loads of inspiration and teamwork, my team was able to choose a brand to be proud of. And guess what? The methods that work to cut through the madness of naming our company are the exact same for naming publications, events and products, which membership organizations have to do all of the time.

Recently, we hosted “How to create names that get noticed,” a workshop with Alexandra Watkins, a leading and outspoken authority on brand names with buzz. Since 2005, she and her naming firm, Eat My Words, have created love-at-first sight brand names for clients including Amazon, Coca-Cola, Disney, Google, and Twitter. Her breakthrough creativity book, Hello, My Name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, was named a Top 10 Marketing Book by Inc. Magazine.

She shared best practices, real-life examples and extensive insight on creating compelling names that stand the test of time. In fact, we even used some of her outlines to create Sidecar! Your organization can also benefit from learning her tips to create a name for your next event or publication that can  take it farther than ever.

As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine and the basis of her book, here are 5 qualities that make a name great and 7 that are deadly dealbreakers:


According to Alexandra, a great brand name is one that has SMILE qualities:

S - Suggestive. 

M - Memorable

I - Imagery

L - Legs

E - Emotional

The best name is one that is suggestive of what your organization is about, memorable and catchy, has interesting or useful imagery, contains the ability to branch off into legs and form other brand opportunities, and has an emotional attachment to the user. For example, think of  the difference between just chicken soup and Grandma’s Chicken Soup.

A perfect example of SMILE, Grandma’s Chicken Soup suggests exactly what it is … chicken soup. It’s memorable, emotional, creates an image of you sitting at your own grandmother’s house sipping a bowl of soup, and has the opportunity to expand on the brand with products like their “Get Well Mac ‘N Cheese” gift basket. 


When creating your new name, it is so important to keep in mind these 7 qualities bound for failure:

S - Spelling-challenged

C - Copycat

R - Restrictive

A - Annoying

T - Tame

C - Curse of Knowledge

H - Hard to pronounce

As Alexandra said during her workshop, “If it makes you scratch your head, scratch it off the list.” 

Having a unique name is a blessing and a curse. While memorable, sometimes organizations can take it too far. Whether difficult to say or purposefully wrong spelling, plagiarizing another organization, too narrowly focused, too bland, or too exclusive to outsiders, having any of these qualities reduces the likelihood of successfully branding your next project.

Whatever name you decide for your next event, keeping these 12 qualities in mind will assist you in planning and drive more engagement as members immediately connect with your event. Hopefully these tips will help simplify an already complicated process. Afterall, a name should make you smile instead of scratch your head.

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
February 3, 2021
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.