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How Some of the Most Popular Brands Got their Names

Every wondered how some of the most popular brands or companies came to be named as they are now? Did the founding members see their respective names in their dreams or it came to them serendipitously, was it a very logical process or a purely intuitive? Was the name found by stretching the boundaries of imagination or simply by thinking out of the box? Well, stories of how these legendary companies were named have become a sort of legend themselves.

how popular brands got their names

Google – Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first called their search engine BackRub and aimed to create a “web crawler designed to traverse the web.” As the Silicon Valley-based service grew bigger the company’s name evolved—out came the name Googol, which means number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. However, it wasn’t until an investor wrote out a check to the founders and mistakenly called the company Google that the name stuck and Google was truly born.

Coca Cola – it was named after coca leaves and kola nuts originally used for flavouring.

Pepsi – In the 19th century, (Yes, it’s that old) it was called Brad’s Drink after founder Caleb Bradham and the soda fountain in his drugstore. Brad’s Drink was very popular with customers and included, among other ingredients, pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and cola nuts. Right before the end of the 19th century, the beverage was renamed Pepsi Cola and the name has stuck all these years.

YAHOO! – It is both an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” and an imaginary species described as rude, noisy and violent in Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”.

Nike – Named after the Greek goddess of victory, both in battle and in sport. The Romans knew her as Victoria, a name that obviously means “victory”. A very fitting name if there ever was one.

IKEA – This made up name comes from the first letters of founder Ingvar Kamprad’s name and the first letters of the Swedish village where he grew up, Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. (Quite a tongue-twister there; thank God they used the initials)

IBM – After leaving National Cash Register, founder Tom Watson, Sr. wanted to outdo his former employers by calling his new company International Business Machines.

Starbucks – Named after the first mate in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” in an effort to evoke “the romance of the high seas and the seafaring traditions of the early coffee traders”.

Virgin – A friend and colleague of the founder Richard Branson claimed that they were “complete virgins at business”. The name stuck. – Jeff Bezos reportedly wanted a name that began with letter “A” so it would appear as close to the top as possible in an alphabetical list. He eventually settled for Amazon because he thought that the world’s biggest river was an apt name for what he hoped could be the world’s biggest business.

Vodafone – is a combination of the first two letters of Voice and data and the last four letters of telephone with the phonetic sound of ‘ph’ captured in its name through ‘f’.

How can we forget Apple in this list? Well, as far as we understand, as radical as the company is, there is absolutely no story about why Apple was called that. What you hear is one of the rumours. Would you like to come up with an interesting addition to that list of rumours? We’d like to hear from you then. Let your imagination fly.

Written By

Kapil Vaishnani is the Founder of Litmus Branding - a leading Strategic Branding & Advertising Agency, which provides branding services including Logo Design, Packaging Design, Brochure Design & Website Design.

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