There’s one company, Lexicon, that’s behind some of the most recognisable product names in America. In an excellent piece for the New Yorker, John Colapinto wrote about how, in 1998, it met with executives from Research in Motion, who “had brought with them the prototype for a new device, a two-way pager that could send and receive email wirelessly. They could not agree on a name, but they had a few contenders: EasyMail, MegaMail, and ProMail.”
After polling commuters in San Francisco and an exhaustive brainstorming session, the Lexicon branding team had about 40 possibilities:
RIM executives narrowed the list, and eventually talked themselves into the name Blackberry. Its strengths, they decided, were not limited to blood-pressure-lowering associations with fruit. The word “black” evoked the colour of high-tech devices, and the gadget’s small, oval keys looked like the dropelets of a blackberry. … [Plus] in the mid-nineties, Lexicon funded a linguistic study whose results suggested that the sound of the letter “b” was one of the most “reliable” in any language — “whether you were in Poland or Paris or New York.”
Lexicon’s first big success was naming the PowerBook for Apple, reports the New Yorker (“some people at Apple thought the name was boring … but there [was] no such thing as a PowerBook”), and the Pentium microprocessor (“Intel’s marketing team … had asked for a name that ‘sounded like an ingredient’ — something that goes into the computer to enhance it”).
Lexicon has been around since 1982, when there were fewer than 10,000 registered high-tech trademarks in the U.S. (now there are more than 300,000, via the New Yorker).
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