The other day, my better half and I were brainstorming the next great social media app.  You know, the one that would propel us from our employers’ payrolls like circus performers out of a cannon? We had the concept down — there was a social component, some cool location-based features, and a great swath of would-be users (we think, anyway).  The conversation eventually turned to the obvious:  what would we call it?

[radio silence]

[crickets]

Two of Lexicon Branding’s creations for P&G. Don’t know about you, but “swifter” is now a verb in my household.

That was the hardest part of the little shared daydream of ours.  All the ideas reeked of mediocrity.  They were generic.  Bland.  All the makings of a battle before the folks at the USPTO for legal protection.  Good thing I have my colleagues here at the law firm.  But we wouldn’t just want trademark rights.  We want that multimillion dollar payday!  So we’d need more than a name.  We’d need an identity — the kind that leads to icon status.

Enter the company that has helped turned so many brands into BRANDS — with a capital ‘B’ — the same ‘B’ in Billion.  Billion dollar brand names don’t just appear out of thin air.  Lexicon Branding, founded in 1982, has been helping companies come up with killer names — the likes of which we all know (and often love).  BlackBerry®.  Febreze®.  Dasani®.  Some have staying power (the latter), others don’t (the former)–but all bring in the bucks (or once did).

You’ve got to wonder whether some of these companies with the super-unique names just yank Scrabble® pieces out of a hat to come up with the monikers they do.  Well they don’t — and the folks over at Fast Company have a great account of Lexicon’s process a few years ago of coming up with the name for the new Colgate® mini portable toothbrush.   Before you click on that link — do you know what it’s called now that it’s been on the market for a few years (test that brand strength)?

Lexicon uses a nice little story on its website to illustrate the importance of branding — I removed the “brand name” so you can test yourselves:

While speaking at a small scientific conference in 1969, Cambridge physicist Sir Roger Penrose announced his discovery of what he called a “gravitationally completely collapsed object.”

The world yawned.

Months later, he changed the name of his discovery to [] and the news of his discovery raced around the world.

Today, the term [] is a part of the world’s working vocabulary.

I don’t think we’re ready to hire Lexicon Branding for our app just yet — but we may need them if we’re ever going to make it big.