Febreze, Dasani, Scion: The Man Who Made it All Up

Crafting names that stand the test of time

By Laurence Scott
|  Friday, Jun 5, 2009  |  Updated 12:23 PM PDT
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Wordsmith's Paradise in Sausalito

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Wordsmith's Paradise in Sausalito

Marin's scenic waterfront town of Sausalito has an idea factory with a specialty. It's the birthplace of hundreds of internationally known brand names.
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In the early ‘80s, David Placek was working at a San Francisco ad agency thinking not just about the power of words, but specifically the importance of names.

Soon after, he forged out on his own. One man, one idea… to name things.

It may sound simple, but since 1982, Sausalito’s Lexicon Branding has coined hundreds of internationally known brand names with a process emphasizing the ideas associated with words.

His creations have ranged from Apple’s Powerbook to Zima, spanning the worlds of technological innovations and consumer products. Febreze, Dasani, Scion, Swiffer, Pentium, OnStar and Blackberry are just some of the names.

Flash forward to this current economic climate where companies need new products on the market to grow, and those products need lasting brand names.

Packaging, color schemes and ad campaigns around a product may change, but as Placek says, “what makes a brand name so important, is that it is your permanent media.”

Lexicon Branding has grown to employ dozens of people around the world specializing in crafting names that stand the test of time.

The names also have to be referenced in other languages so nothing’s infringed upon or potentially offensive.

Placek says that on every assignment, “as a discipline Lexicon considers form, function and behavior,” and as it relates to naming the Blackberry he says, “part of the form of the device is the small keys that look like seeds… which lead us first to Strawberry. But that was a sort of a slow and full name… we wanted something more abrupt and more robust.”

Just think if Strawberry stuck, we’d never have heard the colloquialism ‘Crackberry.’

Embedded above is a video look inside Lexicon Branding and how more of the names were given birth.

Of all the product names you’ve encountered over the years, which have resonated the most with you? 

Laurence Scott surprisingly has still not opened the Pepperidge Farms cookies featured prominently in the video.

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