hat’s in a name? This age-old question posed by William Shakespeare’s Romeo seems to suggest that our monikers don’t contain much meaning. However, after my experience working with Alexandra Watkins, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer for Eat My Words, it turns out the answer to the star-crossed lover’s question is: a whole heck of a lot.
Our friend and Joe Produce Founder Rex Lawrence came to Alexandra and Eat My Words with the challenge of finding the perfect name for his new mission: developing a parent company for all his current projects and those to come. These include some familiar names, such as Joe Produce Search, the executive recruiting division; Joe Pro Resumes, a resume writing service; and Joe Food Safety, the online job center for food safety and quality jobs across all of food and beverage.
“Hiring Alexandra and Eat My Words was easy,” Rex shared with me as we discussed what drew him to approach the naming experts with the task. “They have a great portfolio of names and companies, and their imaginations are limited only by the parameters that we placed on them. In this case, I know we made their job more challenging and narrow with some fairly tight criteria; namely, pun intended, that we wanted ‘Joe’ in our name.”
So, what gives Alexandra her knack for nuanced naming and set her up to take on Rex’s request?
“I first caught the naming bug when I was hired by Gap to create cheeky names for their first line of body care products,” Alexandra laughs, explaining what exactly drew her into the delightfully wacky career path. Not much time later, she broke into the business by talking her way into branding powerhouse Landor, a top brand consulting firm, via a Match.com date (which she assured me was “rated G”). Alexandra quickly became a go-to resource for countless branding and naming firms around the country. Having soon-after founded Eat My Words, Alexandra has used her tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and unconventional approach to branding to generate thousands of name ideas for food-focused firms and beyond. She’s worked on naming everything from potato chips to microchips.
Those who read her book, Hello, My Name is Awesome… How to Create Brand Names That Stick, or who got the chance to catch Alexandra speak at this past year’s United Fresh BrandStorm Conference, might be familiar with “SMILE and SCRATCH”—essentially the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of brand naming.
With these tips in mind, Alexandra presented Rex with the task of filling out an Eat My Words creative brief. As she puts it in her book, creativity can’t occur in a vacuum. This is the document in which the company assesses the hopes and dreams behind the branding endeavor. With questions like “What is your brand in a nutshell?”; “What is the tone and personality of your brand?”; and “What are the creative directions you’d like to avoid?”; Alexandra seeks to dig down deep into the very essence of the brand in order to provide a name that is not only catchy and fun, but also emotionally connects with its legacy and target audience.
Obviously, for Rex and his brand, “Joe” is the common theme. Though the process, everyone involved kept an open mind, but when it came down to it, the brand at its essence is “Joe.”
“The name ‘Joe’ is a light-hearted name,” Rex shared with Alexandra and I, and noted in his brief. “We take our jobs seriously and professionally, but not like ‘banker stiff’ professionals. We are friendly, accessible professionals, who find joy in helping connect people with employers…and we get paid for it! Beyond that, we knew that we wanted our name to be fun, but not too fun, and to stick with Eat My Words’ criteria that they have developed over the years.”
So, now what? We have a mission: To find a name for Rex Lawrence’s “Joe” family of companies. We have SMILE and SCRATCH and we have Rex’s filled-out creative brief—packed with notes on the company’s personality, likes, and dislikes.
Here’s where the heavy lifting comes in: It’s really all about brainstorming, and nobody can do it quite like Alexandra. In any given job, Alexandra has been known to create upwards of 300 names over two rounds of her process.
How will Rex wade through the sea of options to find the company’s one true moniker? Stay tuned for our next issue, where we explore the final stages.