“I thought it was brilliant” Third Summit CEO on Lexicon Branding

What caught my eye, however, was not the design, but the name. It was called Wisp.


The Golden Rule Of Branding: Perspective Is Necessary

About a decade ago, I read an article about a new disposable toothbrush. The product itself was modestly interesting: It was a travel-sized toothbrush meant to be used without water, allowing travelers to use it once before tossing it in the garbage.

What caught my eye, however, was not the design, but the name. It was called Wisp. Colgate hired a branding agency to come up with it, and in the article I read, someone from that agency described their research method, including an international analysis of similar sounds and a linguistic understanding of the word “wisp.” The way that “isp” noise rolls off the tongue in various different languages — it’s like a whisper or a shush. I thought it was brilliant.

Based on industry referrals, I began reaching out to the heads of reputable branding agencies. My first call was a dud — the CEO kept veering our conversation back toward money and did not sound very interested in my ideas. (Therein lies another good lesson: Just because a reputable company looks glossy and charges a lot doesn’t mean it’ll match your needs.)

But the second call was genuinely invigorating. We discussed disruption in the marketing industry and the importance of corporate agility and agreed on almost every point. But in the back of my mind, I knew it was a lost cause. How could we financially justify hiring an expensive outside branding agency?

When is it time to let go of the steering wheel?

It turns out, the man from the second call, David, was the CEO of a company called Lexicon Branding, which — in a coincidence too strange to be fiction — branded Colgate Wisp. David was featured on a podcast where he explained that a good brand name is a chance to set yourself apart or even rename an entire category. I’d worked in branding for years, but hearing him outline his process put me at ease. Not every name he came up with was a winner, but there was a well-thought-out reason behind each one.

It also reminded me of a valuable branding lesson: It’s important to recognize when it’s OK to let someone else take control. It helps you gain perspective on the issue you’re facing, but you need to do it on your own terms.

Branding is an emotional industry; brands are meant to evoke feelings and reactions. When you see an Apple commercial, a feeling of awe should wash over you. When you see a product called “Wisp,” you understand it won’t last forever.

But because branding is emotional, it’s hard to do it yourself. Perspective is necessary. If you can’t do it yourself, it’s OK to take a step back and let someone else try.

Read the Forbes article.