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What's in a name?

To make a top-selling product, more than you think

Marc HersHon is no household name. But wander down your store’s aisles and you’ll see plenty of his handiwork: Swiffer, Febreze, Dasani. These are all products whose names were thought up by Hershon and his Sausalito, Calif.-based company, Lexicon Branding. Hershon, who is Lexicon’s creative director, says the right brand name can make all the difference when a customer stares at a shelf full of competing products. A name, he says, “should strike a unique chord.” At the same time, he adds, it shouldn’t be so novel that it appears out-of-place

So what’s the secret to finding great names for everyday products? Hershon, whose company recently worked on Cargill’s Truvia sweetener and Dibs ice cream treats for Nestlé, says he often gets his staff to work on naming something that isn’t the actual product. Take, for instance, a new red wine from Italy. Rather than come up with a name for that product, his team brainstormed names for an upscale Italian restaurant that might also apply to wine.

Hershon has also turned to unorthodox resources for ideas. Take the copy of the Navajo/English dictionary that inspired Dasani water. He created the brand’s name by cutting words apart. “It was a fresh source of letters put together in a different way.”

Sometimes the inspirations are more literal. When Lexicon worked on a name for a small, single-use toothbrush from Colgate, one word in particular stood out to Lexicon’s president, David Placek. “It’s not something heavy and foamy; it’s barely there,” he says. What was the magical word ultimately chosen as the product’s name? Wisp, of course.

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