By Patricia Sellers

(FORTUNE Magazine) – THINK ABOUT power tools, and what name pops up? If you're the average fixer- upper, it's bound to be Black & Decker. But if you're a professional tradesman, it's more likely Black & Decker's Japanese rival Makita. That . presents Black & Decker CEO Nolan Archibald, 48, with what he calls ''a classic marketing problem.'' His solution is anything but classic: Abandon one of America's best-known trademarks for a moniker most people never heard of. Black & Decker is the seventh most powerful brand in the U.S., according to surveys by the Landor Associates consulting firm. That puts it behind Coca- Cola and Kodak but ahead of Levi's and Hershey's. While Black & Decker dominates the consumer tool market, it sells only about 10% of the heavy-duty tools professionals buy at Home Depot and other retail outlets. This segment, worth around $400 million a year in the U.S., is where the growth is -- and Makita owns almost half of it. Joe and Jane Consumer love Black & Decker, but Charlie the Carpenter considers the products amateurish. The company's black consumer tools, some as cheap as $25, sit on shelves right beside its expensive, charcoal-gray professional models. ''They're not differentiated enough,'' says Archibald. Hence the plan to distinguish the two: The consumer models will keep the Black & Decker name, but beginning this month the professional tools will travel under the DeWalt brand, taken from a 65-year-old maker of high-quality stationary saws that Black & Decker acquired in 1960. In hammering out the strategy, Black & Decker got advice from retailers, tool users, and all manner of marketing pros at Toyota's Lexus division, Honda's Acura, McDonald's, Apple Computer, and Hallmark. In 1990, Michael Hammes, president of Black & Decker's $2.5-billion-a-year power tools and home improvement group, pitched what he calls ''the Acura concept.'' Hammes, just arrived from Chrysler, believed Black & Decker could win in high-priced tools the way Honda did in the upscale auto market with Acura. To keep DeWalt distinctive, the sole mention of its parent on product and packaging is in eye-straining print: SERVICED BY THE INDUSTRIAL TOOL DIVISION OF BLACK & DECKER. The company's 117 service centers have DeWalt agents who guarantee 48-hour repair -- Makita doesn't make any promises -- and hand out free loaner tools. Says Hammes: ''Lexus turned the car industry on its ear by giving service that exceeds expectations. We're trying to do the same.'' A team headed by U.S. power tools boss Gary DiCamillo, 41, and Joseph Galli, 33, a high-energy marketer, spent three months visiting more than 200 stores and job sites, displaying photos of possible products and soliciting feedback. Which name do you prefer? Toolies chose DeWalt because of its quality image. Your favorite color for drills and angle grinders? Industrial yellow, which is easy to see and signifies safety. Folks from marketing, manufacturing, and R&D ripped apart Black & Decker's and Makita's products, then engineers set forth rebuilding. Now, Galli says, all 33 DeWalt tools meet or beat Makita in consumer tests. A miter saw and a few others couldn't cut it; since retooled, they will join the DeWalt line later this year. Archibald wants DeWalt to exceed Makita's revenues from retail outlets, currently $180 million a year, by 1996. Early reviews are promising. Says Don Opal, Ace Hardware's top tool merchandiser: ''DeWalt rivals anything the Japanese or Germans have come up with.'' James Inglis, Home Depot's executive vice president of merchandising, says, ''Black & Decker truly made the retailers partners.'' Is Makita complacent? ''We'll continue to trudge down our happy trail,'' says Patrick Griffin, vice president of sales and marketing. Two weeks before DeWalt's rollout, Makita was the only power tool supplier that had not called Lowe's Cos., a large hardware retailer, to snoop about Black & Decker's plans. Lowe's marketing specialist Doug Godwin says, ''Makita should be worrying.''