How some of world’s most renowned brands got their names
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once said- “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well”. Companies spend a great amount of time choosing the right brand names to communicate their vision, products and values to customers and build a reputation. While some brand names are derived from the characteristics of the product/company, others find their inspiration from a variety of different sources. Here, we look at how some of the world’s best-known brands found their names.
Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.
– Richard Branson
Pepsi was first introduced as “Brad’s Drink” in 1893 in the United States by Caleb Bradham, who made it at his drugstore. In 1898, it was renamed Pepsi-Cola after the digestive enzyme ‘pepsin’ and ‘kola nuts’ used in the recipe. Eventually in 1961, the Cola was dropped and the brand became just Pepsi.
Nike was originally founded as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. It officially became Nike, Inc on May 30, 1971. The name Nike is derived from the Greek goddess of victory- Nike.
Vodafone was founded in 1991 when Racal Telecom was demerged from Racal Electronics. The name Vodafone comes from Voice, Data, Fone (phone). It was chosen by the company to “reflect the provision of voice and data services over mobile phones”.
Intel was founded in 1968 by Gordon E. Moore, a chemist, and Robert Noyce, a physicist and co-inventor of the integrated circuit. When brainstorming on a name, they quickly rejected “Moore Noyce” as it sounded like ‘more noise’ – not suited for an electronics company! Instead they decided on Integrated Electronics or Intel in short.
Coca-Cola, introduced in 1886 by John Pemberton, was originally intended to be a medicine! The name Coca-Cola was derived from 2 of its original ingredients – kola nuts, a fruit of the Cola genus of trees & a source of caffeine and coca leaves. The current formula of Coca-Cola still allegedly remains a trade secret.
Skype, a video and voice call application, was founded in 2003. The name Skype was derived from “sky peer-to-peer”, originally shortened to Skyper. However, since some of the domain names associated with Skyper were already taken, the ‘r’ was dropped and led to its current name Skype, for which domain names were still available.
Canon was founded in Japan, originally as Seikikogaku kenkyusho (Precision Optical Industry Co. Ltd). In 1934, it made the prototype for ‘Kwanon’, Japan’s first 35mm focal plane-shutter camera. The name ‘Kwanon’ came from the Buddhist goddess of mercy. In 1947, the name of the company was changed to Canon after its Kwanon camera.
Sony was founded in 1946, originally as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation). Its name was changed to Sony in 1958, when the founders were looking for a more marketable name. The name Sony was chosen as a mix of 2 words – 1) the Latin word Sonus, meaning sound and 2) the slang term sonny, used in America in the 1950s to refer to a boy. In the 1950s, the term “sonny boys” was loaned into Japanese to connote smart and presentable young men, which the Sony founders considered themselves to be.
Lego began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Chritiansen, a carpenter from Denmark, in 1932. In 1934, his company was named Lego, derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means to ‘play well’. Interestingly, ‘Lego’ in Latin can also be loosely interpreted as ‘to assemble’ or ‘to put together’ – very apt for their products!
Xerox was founded in 1906, originally as The Haloid Photography Company. In 1938, Chester Carlson, an independent physicist, invented a process for printing images using an electrically charged drum and dry powder “toner”. Joseph C. Wilson, the then head of Haloid saw opportunities in Carlson’s invention and signed an agreement to develop it as a commercial product. To differentiate the new system, the word ‘xerography’ was invented. Xerography is derived from the Greek words xeros (meaning dry) and graphos (meaning writing). The company’s name was subsequently changed to Xerox in 1961.
Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The name Microsoft was coined by Allen as a combination of the words Microcomputer and Software. Originally, it was hyphenated as Micro-Soft but subsequently, the hyphen was removed.
Nivea was introduced in 1911 by the brand’s owner Beiersdorf AG, based in Germany. It was the first stable water-in-oil emulsion. The word Nivea is derived from the Latin word niveus, which means ‘snow white’ – an apt description for the cream!