15 Companies That Changed Their Names
What's in a name? A lot, if you ask these 15 companies. Before they became the international powerhouses they are today, these businesses had decidedly different names.
1. BACKRUB // GOOGLE
It may sound skeevy, but the search engine’s early name was actually meant to reference the way it analyzed the internet’s “back links” to understand the importance and relevance of websites. “BackRub” lasted less than a year; the name “Google” was trademarked on September 15, 1997.
2. JERRY AND DAVID’S GUIDE TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB // YAHOO!
During its humble beginnings as a list of websites organized by Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo, Yahoo! was named for its creators. By March 2, 1995, the duo changed the name to Yahoo, which, they joked, was an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
3. BRAD’S DRINK // PEPSI
In 1893, North Carolina druggist Caleb Davis Bradham invented a delicious concoction of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, kola nuts, and a few other ingredients. The creation, which he called Brad’s Drink, was an overnight sensation. In 1898, Bradham rebranded it “Pepsi-Cola” because he believed it was a health drink that helped with indigestion, also known as dyspepsia.
4. BLUE RIBBON SPORTS // NIKE
When Nike was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, the company didn’t produce shoes; it merely distributed them for Japanese manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger. When Blue Ribbon started making its own shoes in 1971, they also refreshed the brand name. Though “Dimension 6” was briefly in contention, founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman settled on “Nike” after the Greek goddess of victory.
5. AMAZIN’ SOFTWARE // EA GAMES
When former Apple director of strategy and marketing Trip Hawkins founded EA Games in 1982, he simply called it “Amazin’ Software.” As the company grew, Hawkins decided he needed a name that more accurately depicted games and software development as an art form.
6. SOUND OF MUSIC // BEST BUY
Back when his store sold mostly stereo equipment, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze gave his retail stores the punny name “Sound of Music.” In 1981, disaster struck: A tornado ripped the roof from the Sound of Music store in Roseville, Minnesota, destroying the showroom and damaging much of the stock. Several days later, Schulze moved the damaged items to the parking lot and declared a “tornado sale” where customers could get the best buys. The company sold more items during the two-day tornado sale than they had ever before. Two years later, the business was renamed “Best Buy.”
7. STAG PARTY // PLAYBOY
When Hugh Hefner founded his risque men’s magazine in 1953, he originally settled on the name Stag Party, a nod to a book of racy cartoons from the 1930s called Stag at Eve. Right before the first issue went to print, however, Hefner received a cease-and-desist letter from Stag magazine, another publication for men. After considering names like Top Hat, Bachelor, Gent, Satyr and Pan, Hef decided on Playboy for the Roaring Twenties feeling it inspired.
8. PETE’S SUPER SUBMARINES // SUBWAY
In 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca took a $1000 loan from family friend Dr. Peter Buck to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut—and named the shop after him. They sometimes had to shorten the name to fit outdoor signs and radio spots. “When people heard the name ‘Pete’s Submarines’ over the radio, they often thought they heard the words ‘pizza marine,’” DeLuca wrote in his autobiography. When customers showed up at his restaurant requesting seafood pizza, he knew they needed a simpler name. They changed it to “Pete’s Subway,” and eventually just “Subway” as the business grew.
9. MATCHBOX // TINDER
The hookup and dating app was first called Matchbox to play on the many idioms about love and fire—sparks flying, flames igniting, smoldering looks. But co-founder Jonathan Badeen said they knew the name wasn’t quite right, so they turned to a thesaurus for inspiration. “Tinder” caught their attention for being a somewhat unusual word, but also for its homonym, “tender.”
10. UNADULTERATED FOOD PRODUCTS // SNAPPLE
The company that would eventually become Snapple was founded to sell all-natural juices to health food stores, so the original name “Unadulterated Food Products” was practical, if not catchy. One of their popular products was a carbonated apple juice marketed by its “snappy apple taste,” which was eventually incorporated into the brand name we know today.
11. THE ELECTRO-ALKALINE COMPANY // CLOROX
Though Clorox was intended to be an industrial product when the company was founded in 1913, its use became widespread when early investor Annie Murray suggested creating a less-concentrated solution for households. As the bleach became more popular, people started referring to it as “Clorox,” a portmanteau of its two main ingredients, chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The company caught on and renamed itself after the product in 1922.
12. PC’S LIMITED // DELL
When Michael Dell started doing business out of his dorm room at the University of Texas in 1984, he called his company "PC’s Limited." By the end of the year, the pre-med freshman had dropped out to grow his tech company instead.
13. GOODFELLOW’S DRY GOODS COMPANY // TARGET
In 1902, George D. Dayton became a partner in Goodfellow’s Dry Goods Company, a large department store in Minneapolis. By 1903, he took over sole ownership of the store and renamed it "Dayton Dry Goods Company." The business expanded for more than half a century before introducing a discount chain named Target in 1962. “As a marksman’s goal is to hit the center bulls-eye, the new store would do much the same in terms of retail goods, services, commitment to the community, price, value, and overall experience,” the company declared.
Dayton merged with the J.L. Hudson Company in 1969 to become the Dayton-Hudson Company. It wasn’t until 2000 that the company renamed itself “Target Corporation” after its core business.
14. TOTE’M // 7-ELEVEN
The company’s early convenience stores were named Tote'm after the way customers toted away their purchases—and to play on the name, many stores installed Alaskan totem poles out front. The name was changed in 1946 to reflect store hours: open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
15. RELENTLESS // AMAZON
If you type “relentless.com” into your browser, you’ll find yourself quickly redirected to Amazon. That’s because founder Jeff Bezos was sold on Relentless for the name of his burgeoning business. Friends felt that the word seemed a bit sinister, so he floated a few other ideas, including Awake, Bookmail, Browse, and Cadabra. The latter name, which referenced “Abracadabra,” was nixed when Bezos’s lawyer overheard it as “Cadaver” instead. “Amazon” was the winner because it suggested scale—the Amazon is the largest river in the world by volume—and because it started with “A,” which was valuable in an era when websites were often listed alphabetically.