Alexandra Watkins makes a career out of creative naming

Alexandra Watkins is a Southern California native with a knack for fun names and words. Watkins founded her own fun business-branding company, Eat My Words, in San Francisco six years ago. She has worked on projects for companies such as Del Monte and Clorox and has helped several local small businesses come up with creative and unforgettable names.

How did Eat My Words get started?

I was an advertising copywriter for a very long time and every once in a while I would get thrown a bone and get to name something. I loved it and I was very good at it. Eight years ago, I discovered that naming was actually a profession. And I had no idea. So I changed course and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I started Eat My Words about six years ago. I kept getting more and more naming projects, and that was when I was like “Yeah, this is what I really, really want to do.” I just kept evolving it to the point where I said we should name everything from robots to racehorses.

Can you tell us how you broke into the industry?

We were going to a party where I was going to meet some of my date’s friends. He mentioned that one of them, Anthony, worked at a major branding firm and was “the head of naming or something.” Ding-ding-ding! … So I spent the first hour eavesdropping on every conversation until I found him. I weaseled my way into the conversation and he asked, “Alexandra, what do you do?” After I told him, he said those three magic words: “Got a card?” A few weeks later, I was freelancing for his firm.

How important is it for a business to have a catchy name?

It’s important because a lot of people don’t have any money for marketing, advertising and PR. But if you have a great name like Spoon Me, you will get word of mouth and you can monetize your name by slapping it on a T-shirt, a button or a bumper sticker. And people will pay you to advertise your brand. You can’t get any better than that … you’re golden.

What are some of your favorite names that you’ve come up with?

Some local businesses that have great names … obviously the nail salon in the Castro named Hand Job. Hopefully you can print that. There’s a woman who has a container gardening service, and we named her The Pot Lady. We did a bunch of names for the Hotel Vitale’s wedding services. The rehearsal dinner is now called Meet the Parents and their post-wedding brunch is called Bloody Married.

Did you always have a knack for this?

I was born to name things. It is a natural talent and it’s easy for me. Some people are really good at playing a musical instrument and some people are naturally gifted at cooking, neither of which I can do. For me, it’s just words and wordplay.

What’s your philosophy behind naming?

Our whole philosophy is that a name should make you smile instead of scratch your head, and that a name should be easy to spell and pronounce. What I discovered was that everybody has these really serious names that are almost scientific and uncreative.

How has Eat My Words kept up with the struggling economy?

We’re doing well because we’ve reinvented ourselves. A lot of people are starting businesses because they’re either getting laid off or they see the writing on the wall. Unless you’re a funded startup, you don’t have a lot of money. We created a new service called Snack. It’s for people starting businesses that are on a shoestring, they’re not funded, and that’s a very affordable way to get a name for your company.


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