Laud him as a literary genius or hail his exemplary talent at producing many of the masterpieces that continue to grace the literary shelves, but you cannot always go the cliched William Shakespeare way when he made our forever heroine Juliet utter “What’s in a name” with so much of passionate nonchalance. Specially when you view the world in all its branded airs, Shakespeare would fail to make himself hear. And this we state from empirical evidence, given that many of the world famous brands that are now instantly decipherable to us did not initially emerge with their current names. That should be no reason for surprise, at least not until you are aware of their almost atrocious etymology. So haw many brands have you hooked enough with them to know everything about their origins? Read on to find out-
BackRub » Google
First things first, and so we name Google #1 on our list because ‘moral responsibility’, you see. The savior of all since 1996 (and our go- to for this compilation), Google acquired its now very iconic name in 1998. For two initial years of its introduction however, the search engine was known as Backrub- a rather odd choice if we consider the present name but quite fitting the bill when you trace its roots.
Creators Larry Page and Serge Brin being no stranger to the algorithm of backlinks came up with the name in reference to the search engine’s mechanism of analyzing them to understand the relevance of websites. However, given how distasteful it sounded, Google was christened such, as a play on the word ‘googol’. A mathematical term for the numeral 1 followed by a 100 zeroes, the play on googol appealed to the creators because it personified Google’s intention to index a really vast amount of data.
Matchbox » Tinder
Hooking up on Tinder sounds like fun- something which might not have been the case had the dating app would have been still known as Matchbox! Though not without analogy because Matchbox intended to imply all elements of a sizzling romance like sparks flying, smoldering looks, it’s a match, et al, the name still wasn’t a bit catchy. No wonder it became Tinder when it rolled out for the public, with all the connotations of what was intended and also because of its closeness with that very loving affection, encompassed by ‘tender’.
Dunkin’ Donuts » Dunkin’
Well you still know it as Dunkin’ Donuts because there’s no other better way the world would be having its donuts. And yet because the Dunkin’ chain offers more than just Donuts, they decided to drop the ‘surname’ starting 2019. So now its just Dunkin’, with offerings of donuts of course, plus a lot more like breakfast meals and yep, coffee. Yet a phenomenon to be, but a sure one in years to come.
Burbn » Instagram
We wouldn’t have been just ‘gramming our life all the way long if Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided to stick with their original choice of “Burbn”. Named after the whiskey bourbon because Systrom was too fond of it, Burbn however started out by being more than just a photo sharing app. A location-based iPhone app, Burbn soon became the hotshot photo sharing site Instagram. In more technical terms though, Burbn was just a prototype leading to the success of Instagram with yet another ‘whiskey sounding’ prototype Scotch preceeding it as well.
Kentucky Fried Chicken » KFC
You can of course argue that Kentucy Fried Chicken is just that- KFC and yes, it very much is. Yet the brand decided to go with just the initials because the Fried in the expansion could have been negative for its presence in the market. Finger lickin’ good since 1952, the hugely popular chain also offers more than just fried chicken which also explains why the name change was such a smart move of the times. Because haven’t we all obsessed over how good KFC is with their Krushers and cleaned up their fried chicken to the bones without even giving a second thought to health conditions? This is some really clever marketing we say!
Federal Express » FedEx
They might not exactly be express range with their delivery but at least they claim to be in name. Not so much now as FedEx as what they pompously presumed themselves to be with the more assertive Federal Express in tow. Almost three decades after its inception in 1965, Federal Express decided to go along with the much cooler FedEx branding which also makes it sit pretty cosy on envelopes and stuff.
Relentless » Amazon
Amazon might be Jeff Bezos’ claim to fame- and fortune- at the moment but this worthy name in the Big Four might have come with a different nomenclature. Relentless was what Amazon almost set out as on business and till this day a google search for relentless.com will land you on the Amazon website. But because Relentless sounded what Bezos’ friends claimed as ‘sinister’, the name was chosen as Amazon from some couple of contenders. Even Amazon bears relevance- being the namesake for the largest river in the world by volume and starting with the first letter of the English alphabet that catered both to the reference of hosting a host of products as well as to the need to come at the top, at least with alphabetical listing.
Brad’s Drink » Pepsi-Cola » Pepsi
What we glug now as Pepsi started out as Brad’s Drink after its inventor Caleb Bradham made a delicious concoction of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, kola nuts and vanilla in 1893. Five years later, Bradham himself rebranded it as Pepsi Cola because he believed that the drink helped with dyspepsia. Pepsi finally decided to do away with its Cola characterisation years later and is now popular world over as just Pepsi.
Apple Computers » Apple, Inc.
We all covet an iPad or iPhone because Apple is all the rage in technology even now- four decades after its founding. But the company that makes them all- Apple Inc. was initially known as Apple Computers till 2007. However, since the tech giant is more than just about computers, Apple Computers changed to Apple Inc and is known as such till date.
Research in Motion » Blackberry
The cool gadget all we cool 90’s kids wanted to flaunt back in the day, Blackberry phones were all we could care for. A stark diversion from the mere 15 something switches cell phones, BlackBerry was at origin a boring sounding ‘Research in Motion’. All that hype perhaps would not have been possible had the name not been changed to the uber cool BlackBerry.
Stag Party » Playboy
There’s no denying the impact infamous fashion magazine Playboy has had in popular culture. The original choice of name for Playboy however was Stag Party, which had to be done away with last minute due to name infringement claim by the Stag magazine.
Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice, Il Giornale Coffee Company » Starbucks
The very iconic name in coffee, Starbucks was known as “Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice” after a name inspired by Moby Dick. From 1971 to 1983, the literary name persisted after which Starbuck became the assertive brand in and by itself.
Blue Ribbon Sports » Nike
Even sports apparel major Nike underwent a name change to let the Greek goddess of victory reign supreme before it operated as Blue Ribbon Sports for distribuing shoes of Japanese venture Onitsuka Tiger.
Pete’s Super Submarines » SUBWAY
Starting out as Pete’s Super Submarines to settling at Subway, this fast food chain has seen it all. Opened in 1965 perhaps after the name of its co- founder Dr. Peter Buck to becoming Doctor’s Associates Inc. a year later again to encompass the Dr. in his name, Subway attained its present name after its first two christenings failed to live up to expectations.
Firebird » Firefox
One of the most used of web browsers, Mozilla did not instantly and instinctively come up with the Firefox branding. First named Phoenix which had to be foresaken due to trademark claims, Firefox came to be known as Firebird before it acquired its present identity. Interestingly, even Firebird was subject to similar claims following which the present name meaning red panda was worked upon. Three name changes in less than two decades and we thought only our lives had commitment issues!
Confinity » PayPal
PayPal might be a funky portmanteau itself, that which asserts its positioning as a company that makes payment through email possible. But that isn’t the only wordplay attempted by this brand that virtually revolutionized money through tech. Back when it was established in 1998, PayPal was called Confinity that was a merger of the words confidence and infinity. Tech brains backed by wordy souls, impressive indeed!
Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web » Yahoo
Another popular search engine is Yahoo! which came into existence as Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web after its founders Jerry Yang and Stanford alumni co- founder David Filo. One year hence, they rechristened it Yahoo which, as the joke goes, is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”!
Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo » Sony
Sony might be at present one of the best Japanese companies in India as also in the world but the starting out of this venture happened to be as a radio repair shop named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo that was responsible for producing Japan’s first transistor radio in 1955, and the world’s first transistor television in 1960. Sony acquired its present name only after a decade of its humble name.