8 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / Q&A
1 How did it feel to name a mega-city? I’ve taken to saying that this is the first project I worked on that actually put
a name, literally, on the map. I was part of a small team from
Landor, an international branding agency, that had this crazy
responsibility and nothing about this assignment was like anything I had worked on before.
2 Swiffer? Was there a close second? I’d be hard-pressed to remember what it might be after all this time — that was
more than 20 years ago. I do remember that the clients from
Procter & Gamble were pretty insistent that that word “mop” had
to be in the name, because they were afraid consumers wouldn’t
know what this new device-on-a-stick was supposed to do. David
Placek, the founder of Lexicon Branding, the Sausalito company
where I learned most of what I know about this business, was
pretty sure — after watching videos of people using the prototype
and hearing them say things like “This sure is faster than mopping!” — that the name needed to index on speed and ease and
stay far away from mentioning the “m” word.
3 BlackBerry? Is it because the buttons looked like a black- berry? On the original prototypes of the very first devices,
yes, but we knew that if successful, the design would likely
change in future generations — this was even before they added
phone capabilities. So the name was really meant to sound disarming and friendly in a world that was beginning to swarm with
techy, largely meaningless words.
4 If you had a dog, what would you name him/her? Tough question. I often tell people who ask me to help name either
their dogs or their kids that those projects are way too personal.
And I charge way too much money for something you can get
out of a baby name book for free. If I have to answer that, male or
female, I would name my dog Marc, just because I like the idea of
both of us turning to look every time someone says my name.
With 30 years in the branding business under his belt, Marc Hershon could be considered an
authority on how to name things. A graduate of Redwood High School, he also attended College
of Marin before getting a job in radio. From there, he sidestepped into the comedy business.
He’s used that improvisational spirit to inspire moves into teaching improv,
writing TV movie screenplays for the Hallmark Channel, writing comedy
for the likes of Dana Carvey, Jay Leno and Bill Maher, and being on the
teams that have named products and companies like BlackBerry, Swiffer,
Garmin’s nüvi GPS, Sony’s Crackle and the Clash of Clans game. Most recently, he was
part of the group that helped to name NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s “city of the future.” MIMI TO WLE
5 Can you recommend a good local comedy experience For folks in
Marin, there’s no better local comedy
show and venue than Tuesday nights at
the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.
The shows feature both veteran and newer
comedians and I think you always get your
money’s worth. Occasionally, you might
even see me onstage there. It happens.
6 Who was the funniest kid at Redwood? What’s he doing now?
Sadly, the funniest kid to ever pass through
my old alma mater had to have been the late
Robin Williams. He was several years ahead
of me so our paths never crossed there, but I
got to know him once I got into booking comedy
shows in the Bay Area. And once I was performing with some of the various improv groups in
town, we saw each other fairly often — usually
onstage — and it was always a treat to be improvising lines in a scene with the master.
7 What’s your favorite drink and where do you like to drink it? When I’m deep into a naming assignment, I get what I call a “naming headache.” My favorite
remedy to cool down the ol’ brainpan is a Tanqueray martini, without a whiff of vermouth, a tad dirty with a couple
of olives for nourishment. And no one serves ’em up meaner
and drier than Jason at the bar at Frantoio.
8 Best street name in Marin? I’ll go with Mark Drive in Terra Linda. It’s in that industrial park off the
freeway, and they spelled it wrong. But it’s still a
pretty cool name. m