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You might not know Marc Hershon by name but chances you are familiar with his names. That’s because Hershon is the man behind some of the most memorable brand names of our time including BlackBerry, Swiffer, and Dasani. What’s in a name? More than you might think. Marc Hershon breaks it down on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.
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About Marc Hershon
Marc Hershon is senior manager of naming and verbal identity in the San Francisco office of Landor, where he’s responsible for using storytelling and creativity to develop brand voice, copy, taglines, names, and nomenclature systems for corporate and consumer brands.
Marc comes to Landor from Lexicon Branding, where he worked for more than 20 years and served as creative director from 2010 to 2014. During his time there he helped to create such memorable brand names as BlackBerry, Swiffer, and Dasani. As a solo consultant for several years, Marc worked with clients such as Garmin, Sony, and Christopher Ranch to create nüvi, Crackle, and Monviso, respectively.
Marc’s creative endeavors reach beyond brand names. His several screenplays produced made-for-TV movies for the Hallmark Channel, including Santa Jr., Monster Makers, and Wedding Daze. In 2009, he coauthored a business book entitled I Hate People!, a how-to manual on how to deal with difficult people in the workplace. Marc is an award-winning editorial cartoonist for the Half Moon Bay Review, publishing a weekly panel for the past decade and a half.
When he’s not writing and drawing, Marc can be seen performing and teaching improvisational comedy in and around San Francisco. For the past three years, he has also been host and executive producer of Succotash, a comedy podcast that features other comedy podcasts and interviews.
How does one get known for naming? When you’ve named Blackberry and Dasani your resume starts to speak for itself. In short, you’re known once you start naming things more and more.
Improv is at the core of Hershon’s naming process. A regular improv teacher and performer, it didn’t take long for Marc to pivot to the value that this adds to his naming process. “Saying ‘yes and …’ is key. It’s about learning from others and building on it.” In addition to naming and branding, Hershon notes that improv helps many aspects of business communications. Marc even teaches an after-hours improv class to his teammates at Landor.
What skills are students today lacking? As Hershon has also taught improv to business students, I asked what skills tomorrow’s business leaders might be missing. “Interpersonal skills … and also the ability to understand that there’s more to presentations that PowerPoint.”
What about naming the BlackBerry? Hershon told us the now famous story of first studying the small black pager with a simple qwerty keyboard and marveling that it “looked like a blackberry.” Was it really that simple? Listen to the show for the rest of the story.
To get good at naming brands you have name things a lot. Building on his frequent collaborator and recent On Brand guest Jonathan Littman’s advice, Hershon notes that it often takes hundreds of ideas and iterations to arrive at the right brand name. While BlackBerry was one of their first names, they wouldn’t have known this had they not worked through many other ideas. “Creativity is messy.”
How did they know the name would stick? A good name “repositions the competition.” Everything else in the space had a literal name. The BlackBerry was a composite tool with composite name. Dasani is another name from an unlikely source. It’s a derivative of a word Marc found in the Navajo dictionary. “You have to be able to tell the story behind the name.”
What brand names have made Marc smile lately? He loves the adult scooter Xoom and gaming giant Zynga. Both have great stories behind them that are bound to make you smile as well but you have to listen to the show for those.
To learn more about Marc, go to the Landor website or visit his personal sites marchershon.com and succotashshow.com.
As We Wrap …
Recently Dave Cutler gave the show a shout about our recent episode featuring everyone’s favorite brand evangelist Guy Kawasaksi. Thanks for listening, Dave!
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