22 Jul 2009
Did you know that Google was originally called BackRub? Or Yahoo was going to be called Jerry’s Guide? This month’s The Marketer takes a look at how some of our fave brands got their names. And which brands have changed their names – and not always for the better.
Ebay got its name when its founder Pierre Omidyar discovered that the domain name for Echo Bay, his web consulting company, was already taken. While Haagen-Dazs, started by New Yorker Reuben Mattus is a completely made-up ‘European sounding’ name. (And how many of you thought it was spelt Haagen-Daaz?)
Portmanteaus and acronyms seem to be popular. German supermarket chain Aldi comes from a portmanteau of the founder’s name, Albrecht, and discount. While, the famous cinema chain, Odeon is an acronym of Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.
So how about the ubiquitous Starbucks? Apparently, it was named after the coffee loving first-mate in Moby Dick. Although naming it after the ship in the book was vetoed pretty early on. As an associate of founder Gordon Bowker pointed out, ‘no one’s going to drink a cup of Pee-quod!’
Some famous brands have changed their names of course. Who can forget the demise of Opal Fruit and Marathon in favour of Starburst and Snickers? (Just for the record: Opal Fruits were juicer!)
Tokyo Tsoshiu Kogyo KK was thankfully renamed Sony. A combination of the Latin for sonus meaning sound, and sonny, American slang for youngster. While moisturiser Oil of Olay has been known as Oil of Ulay in the UK, Oil of Ulan in Australia, and Oil of Olaz in Europe, before it was standardised in 1999.
So how about the renames that weren’t successful? Remember The Post Office? It changed its name to Consignia. Only to change it to The Royal Mail less than a year later.
Tough sounding British Steel merged with Dutch steel company Hoogovens NV and became the forgettable The Corus Group. While the jury’s still out on Norwich Union’s name change to Aviva. A name described by the Guardian newspaper as sounding like a vitamin pill.
How did Turner Ink get its name I hear you ask? Well it sort of sounded familiar because of Ted Turner’s Turner Inc. And I chose the ink bit as it sounded ‘writerish’. Although, the last time I wrote anything with a pen was about 5 years ago. And the amount of calls I get asking “d’ya sell ink cartridges for HP printers?” is unbelievably annoying.
So how did your company get its name? Share your story in the comments.