How Products Get Their Names

Cosmetics companies start with a sense of humor.

Sure, a product has to be good for it to become popular, but clever cosmetics companies know that putting a witty name on the label can quickly turn a product into a top seller. So how do they come up those amusing, evocative, sometimes provocative labels? Surprisingly, the catchiest, it seems, are the result of groupthink.

"We all sit around a table munching on M&M's and blurt out ideas for names we think will make people laugh," says Jean Ford, cocreator and cofounder of Benefit Cosmetics, a line known for its wacky names, like Dr. Feelgood (a skin balm) and Ooh La Lift (an under-eye product).

Nail-care company Opi is as well-known for its quirky names as its striking colors. There's Señorita Rose-alita, a hot pink, and the best-selling polish I'm Not Really a Waitress. "How a product is packaged and named ultimately determines the target audience, and that's your bottom line," says Paula Conway, coauthor of The Beauty Buyble (Regan Publishers, $20, amazon.com).

Even though Wende Zomnir, executive creative director of Urban Decay and Hard Candy, has come up with such labels as Big Fatty (for a lip plumper) and Lube in a Tube (for a lip balm), she says the process isn't always easy: "Sometimes the perfect name just pops into my head, but other times I have to sit down with a thesaurus and grind it out."