From the September 2008 issue of Startups

After creating catchy names for everything from energy drinks to sportswear, Alexandra Watkins knows what goes into a good business name. In 2005, the former advertising copywriter founded Eat My Words, a boutique naming firm in San Francisco with 2008 sales projected in the six figures. The firm's Smile & Scratch Test, available at eatmywords.com, evaluates names "based on our philosophy that a name should make you smile instead of scratch your head," says Watkins. Here are some tips to ensure your name gets people grinning:

  • Make an emotional connection. Eat My Words creates company names that entertain and engage the consumer, including Spoon Me for a frozen yogurt chain and Neato for a home cleaning robot. "If you have a name like Spoon Me, and you're making that [emotional] connection, you're instantly building an affinity for your brand, because people like it," says Watkins, 44.
  • Stand out. With Pinkberry's success came a wave of name imitators. But jumping on the bandwagon is the wrong way to go. "People try to be copycats," says Watkins, "but the only way you're ever going to get noticed and stand out is if you do something unexpected and different."
  • Don't ask others for ideas. Try to test your name against an objective set of criteria rather than asking for opinions. "People make the mistake of asking their friends and family what they think," says Watkins. "That's the worst possible thing you can do; it really waters down your name."
  • Keep it clear. Names like Flickr and Xobni might be unique, but they can be confusing and hard to pronounce for consumers. Names in different languages or that hide the meaning from the consumer should also be avoided.