In the brand-naming world, Sausalito, Calif.-based Lexicon has become legendary for its work over the last 30 years, and no wonder. It named the Pentium chip for Intel, the PowerBook for Apple, the Swiffer for Procter & Gamble, and Dasani for Coca Cola. As a recent New Yorker piece about the firm observed, Lexicon also managed to transform Research in Motion’s bland, corporate, painstakingly matter-of-fact smart phones into caressable little devices, all with the word Blackberry.
It’s not an easy trick to pull off, says Lexicon founder David Placek, who believes a good brand has to blend numerous variables, including resonance, pluck and the ability to tell a service or product’s story, often in just a few characters.
Following Netflix’s now-famous Qwikster debacle, I called Placek to learn more about his job, and how both big and small companies might do a better job of selecting brands for themselves. Our conversation has been edited for length.
Q: Let’s start with a really annoying question. Why can’t you just tell a client, ‘I’m going to give you 25 great names, and you’re going to love one of them.’ That tactic seems to work just fine for Don Draper.