Lexicon Branding

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Lexicon Branding, Inc.
FounderDavid Placek[1]
United States
Key people
David Placek
ServicesCorporate and brand name selection

Lexicon Branding, Inc., is an American marketing firm founded in 1982 by David Placek. It focuses on selecting brand names for companies and products. The company devised the brand names Pentium, BlackBerry, PowerBook, Zune, Swiffer, Febreze, Subaru Outback and Forester, Toyota Scion, DeskJet, Dasani, OnStar, Embassy Suites Hotels and Metreon, among others.


David Placek founded Lexicon in 1982. Placek grew up in Santa Rosa, California, and graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science. He cites his work as press secretary in Warren Hearnes's unsuccessful 1976 campaign for U.S. Senate from Missouri as the experience that inspired him to go into marketing. Before starting Lexicon, he worked at the advertising agencies Foote, Cone & Belding (where he became a devotee of Synectics) and S&O.[1]

As of October 1992, Lexicon had eight employees.[3] As of February 1998, it had 15 employees and did about 60% of its business in the technology sector.[4] An April 2004 article described the company as having 17 employees but said the "core creative team" was Placek and three others.[5] As of November 2008, Lexicon had 26 employees.[6]

As of June 2010 the company was headquartered in Sausalito, California, and had offices in London and New York City.[7]


Apple Inc. introduced its PowerBook in 1991. Lexicon crafted the name to combine the notions of performance ("Power") and portability ("Book").[1] That same year, Lexicon came up with the name of Apple's Macintosh Quadra desktop computer, hoping to appeal to engineers with a name evoking technical terms like quadrant and quadriceps.[3]

In 1992, Intel was preparing to launch its fifth-generation x86-compatible microchip and needed a name it could trademark. Lexicon suggested it should end with the suffix -ium to connote a fundamental ingredient of a computer, like a chemical element.[8] On a list of such names was "Pentium", which stood out to Placek because the prefix pent- could refer to the fifth generation of x86. Lexicon conducted market research and found that consumers would expect a hypothetical "Porsche Pentium" to be Porsche's highest-end car.[1] In 1998, Placek said Pentium was the best name his company had come up with.[4] The name was so successful that Intel named the chip's x86 successors after it: Pentium II, Pentium III, and so on.[9] Intel CEO Andy Grove said that Pentium became a more recognized brand than Intel itself and told The New Yorker in 2011 that the name "was one of our great success stories."[1]

Intel hired Lexicon again in 1998 to name the Celeron and Xeon chips. The San Jose Mercury News described Lexicon's reasoning behind the former name: "Celer is Latin for swift. As in 'accelerate.' And 'on.' As in 'turned on.' Celeron is seven letters and three syllables, like Pentium. The 'Cel' of Celeron rhymes with 'tel' of Intel."[10] Placek told the San Francisco Chronicle said that the "X" of "Xeon" evokes "the next generation", "eon" refers to the long period of time, and the novelty of the name as a whole reflects the product's novelty. It also was supposed to recall "Pentium's Greek roots".[11]

In 1997, Sony's retail division hired Lexicon to name the first location, to be in downtown San Francisco, of a newly planned chain of "urban entertainment centers" designed to promote the Sony brand. Lexicon chose the name Metreon because they believed the metr- suffix evoked words like "metropolitan" and "meteor", the latter "suggesting something sophisticated, exciting and fast-moving".[12]

In 1998, Lexicon came up with a new name for the company then known as Borland International: Inprise. Borland CEO Del Yocam explained at the time that the new name was meant to evoke "integrating the enterprise".[13] Analysts said Borland proved to be a stronger brand, and by 2000 the company had switched the name back.[14]

Research In Motion hired Lexicon in 1998 to name their new two-way pager. RIM came with several ideas, including EasyMail, MegaMail, and ProMail. Based on interviews with San Francisco Bay Area commuters, Lexicon determined that referring to e-mail in the name would induce stress in users.[1] Encouraging RIM to choose a name that larger competitors would never think of, Lexicon proposed BlackBerry.[6] The second B was capitalized because a linguistic study funded by Lexicon suggested that the letter "B" is, in The New Yorker's words, "one of the most 'reliable' in any language".[1] Lexicon research also suggested that repetition of the B would promote relaxation in users.[15]

In 2006, Microsoft approached Lexicon to find a name for its new portable media player to compete with Apple's iPod. Placek assigned three teams to come up with three names: one for the Microsoft player, one for a hypothetical Sony player, one for "a broadband experience for MTV."[16] He refused to tell the San Francisco Chronicle which team came up with "Zune", the name Microsoft chose. Placek said the name was chosen because the "Z" was perceived as fun and irreverent, it has one syllable compared with iPod's two, and it has a musical sound that rhymes with iTunes, Apple's media distribution platform.[16] Controversies arose due to similarities between the name and vulgar words in Hebrew[6] and Canadian French.[17] In 2008, Lexicon came up with the name of Microsoft's Azure Services Platform.[6]

Lexicon also christened Subaru's Outback and Forester vehicles,[18] Procter & Gamble's Swiffer cleaner,[19] Levi Strauss & Co.'s Slates dress pants,[20] the Oldsmobile Alero, Embassy Suites Hotels,[21] Hewlett-Packard's DeskJet printer line,[3] Nestlé's Dibs confection, Colgate's Wisp miniature toothbrush, the Coca-Cola Company's Dasani bottled water,[1] the Toyota Scion, P&G's Febreze odor eliminator, and OnStar.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colapinto, John (3 October 2011). "Famous names". The New Yorker. pp. 38–43. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  2. ^ Secretary of State of California. "Business entity detail: Lexicon Branding, Inc". Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Beckett, Jamie (23 October 1992). "Finding names in unusual places". San Francisco Chronicle.
  4. ^ a b Alexander, Steve (9 February 1998). "In name only". Computerworld.
  5. ^ Frankel, Alex (24 April 2004). "The making of a brand name". National Post.
  6. ^ a b c d Wailgum, Thomas (11 November 2008). "Tech's product name guru: meet the man who coined BlackBerry, Azure and more". CIO.com. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  7. ^ Lexicon Branding, Inc. (15 June 2010). "Lexicon Branding opens New York City office". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  8. ^ Burgess, John (20 October 1992). "Intel's fifth-generation chip no longer goes by the numbers". Washington Post.
  9. ^ Morris, Evan (2004). From Altoids to Zima: the surprising stories behind 125 brand names. Simon & Schuster. p. 150. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  10. ^ Cassidy, Mike (15 April 1998). "Lexicon puts names on new technology". San Jose Mercury News.
  11. ^ Fost, Dan (29 June 1998). "Intel betting on 'Warrior Princess' chip". San Francisco Chronicle.
  12. ^ Lexicon Branding, Inc. (18 Jun 1997). "Sony entertainment center to rise in San Francisco". PR Newswire.
  13. ^ Beckett, Jamie (30 April 1998). "Borland sheds past with new name, game". San Francisco Chronicle.
  14. ^ Wong, Wylie (8 November 2000). "It's back to 'Borland' for troubled software maker". CNET. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  15. ^ Begley, Sharon (26 August 2002). "What goes into a brand name? A letter at a time". The Wall Street Journal.
  16. ^ a b Fost, Dan (14 November 2006). "Name That Zune". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  17. ^ Canwest (15 September 2006). "Microsoft dismisses music player's linguistic lapse". Canada.com. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Ahead of the curve". CNN. 22 February 2001. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  19. ^ Blair, Elizabeth (13 May 2011). "With billions at stake, firms play name that mop". NPR. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  20. ^ Underwood, Elaine (19 August 1996). "Levi's new dress code". Brandweek.
  21. ^ Herz, JC (26 November 1998). "A name so smooth, the product glides in". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  22. ^ Heath, Dan; Heath, Chip (3 January 2011). "How to pick the perfect brand name". Fast Company. Retrieved 12 October 2011.

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