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Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business [Paperback]

Alex Frankel
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 22 2005
In Wordcraft, Alex Frankel, a business writer who once briefly worked as a namer, tells the story of how five major brands got their names: BlackBerry, Accenture, Viagra, the Porsche Cayenne, and IBM’s “e-business.” Behind each name is an account of how words and language infuse the products we use every day with meaning, and how great words actually succeed in changing people’s behavior. The book is filled with stories about words that come from every corner of our world: technology, health, sports, food, business, and more.

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Product Description

From Booklist

Frankel has managed to crack open the world of professional namers, a highly guarded group of specialists who focus exclusively on coining brand names. A winning name is crucial to the success of any product, and large companies may spend half a million dollars or more for a cadre of wordsmiths to craft just the right one. A successful name--think of Viagra or FedEx--will leap beyond mere brand recognition to enter the public lexicon. Professional namers don't just sell a name, they craft a complete story to go with it, one that companies will expand on when marketing to the public. Frankel explores the details of the creation of five brand names: BlackBerry, Accenture, Viagra, the Porsche Cayenne, and IBM's e-business, revealing industry-level insight into the characteristics of a good name, and the difficulties involved in finding one that is catchy yet functional. Frankel, a business writer for magazines such as Forbes, Wired, and the New York Times Magazine, briefly worked as a namer himself. A mind-opening examination of image, perception, marketing, and manipulation. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Enlightening, engaging, and entertaining.” —Newsweek

“A thoughtful and engaging exploration of how companies and products get their names nowadays, as well as the function of brands in a global culture . . . Hilarious and revealing.” —Wall Street Journal

“Words always matter, but they really matter to a corporation trying to make its brand the one we remember out of the thousands we see daily. That’s why the stories behind the creation of names like Viagra or Accenture are so surprisingly rich. With the outsider perspective of a journalist, plus insider perspective gained by crossing over into the ‘synthetic language’ business himself, Alex Frankel knows the name game like nobody else.” —Rob Walker, “Consumed” columnist, The New York Times Magazine

“Informative, overdue . . . fascinating.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Wordcraft is a rare peek inside organizations making enormous decisions about their identities and futures—struggling to develop a brand name that captures what they want to be when they grow up. Journalist Frankel talks his way into situations most of us never see. The book is both vivid and lively.” —Chip Heath, professor of organizational behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Frankel gives the impression that the reader will learn (or get an inside view of) how the brandnaming craft works. He fails miserably. He's neither a good wordcrafter nor a good journalist. For example, he spends an entire chapter on how he tried to get the inside story of how Porsche gave its SUV the name Cayenne but that he was unable to because the company was unwilling to discuss the process. Duh!
Frankel doesn't even realize that the title of his book is confusing. Is it two words or one? If you look at the book's cover-jacket, it appears that the title is composed of two separate words. If one searches for the book at Google, using two separate words, it's not found - at least not in the first 10-20 results because the title in fact is one word. Moreover, the design of the title is unelegant and unprofessional - each letter is in a different font - sophomoric! The book is useless.
Frankel spends many pages worshipping a woman who he says loves playing with words without giving us an insight of how she goes about the process of creating brand names or company names. He doesn't realize that the names need to be trademarked and registered as domainnames. For example, the title of his own book "wordcraft" can't be registered as a domainname because it's already claimed by some other party. A good name is unique enough so that when it is searched on the internet, it naturally comes up at the top of the search list without having to pay search engines, on an ongoing basis, to move the keyword (i.e., the brand name) higher on the search list.
A word of wisdom for Frankel: be succinct. It's obvious why he failed as wordscrafter and why he'll fail as a writer / journalist / reporter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Names that tell a story April 20 2004
By Oscar
Format:Hardcover
Word Craft is the insider's guide to how an elite group of writers - or namers, as they might call themselves - splice, dice, twist and otherwise invent words that become brand names. Frankel has spent the majority of his professional life running in this intimate and self-selecting world, and with authority and irreverence he clues us in to the truths (and half-truths!) behind the names of some of the most ubiquitous brands in business and popular culture today.
The element that most endeared me to Mr. Frankel's testimony is the personal thread that holds the book together. He shares the successes and failures of Quiddity, the naming firm he founded at a time when the Internet needed people like Frankel to invent and tell their stories. He also shares myriad experiences as a hired gun - smart and savvy creatives to whom the boutique naming firms pay big bucks for help on projects whose names find their way into the vernacular. He guides the reader through high stakes creative sessions and client meetings where every moment is scripted, where a single word goes for the price of a luxury car. His description of the process is as fascinating as the results it leads to.
This is a highly readable book that has earned its place on the shelf in my office alongside recent pieces by the likes of David Brooks and Jonathan Franzen.
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Format:Hardcover
I will never think of "Viagra" the same way again. Frankel is an astute verbal anthropologist; he takes recent brand names ("blackberry") that have become household words and traces them back to their roots -- back to their early beginnings as ideas in a focus group meeting, scribbles in a whiteboard session, a twinkle in the eye of a member of the word-obsessed "naming" community. The world of creating corporate brand names is both thrilling and terrifying. (You learn how Frito-Lay has teams of scientists who have calculated the precise times of day in which people crave salt or sugar, so the company can play their commercials at the right times.) Frankel, a wonderful wordsmith himself, brings each brand's story alive. He has created the year's must-read book for anyone in advertising, marketing, business, or the business of names.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Looking beyond the obvious... May 4 2004
Format:Hardcover
What I enjoyed about Wordcraft is the way Frankel examines the everyday, and in many ways, obvious use of "name" in branding and how that effects consumer patterns (and sometimes corporate). That being said, it is more then just the name, but the color, font and movement of the name. This book coupled with a book by Paco Underhill (Why We Buy)should be required reading for first year namers/branders, etc.
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4.0 out of 5 stars great view to how companies name May 3 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
After spending more than ten years in the branding and naming industry, it is great to see a good book about how we do what we do. Frankel's book is funny and true to life. Don't approach it expecting to find succint lessons on how to name things but if you pay attention you'll find yourself picking up some insights into the craft along the way.
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