Untold stories behind popular brand names

If you don’t believe us, Backrub it! You want to buy something then look it up on Cadabra? Hey, want to grab a coffee from Cargo Cafe? Do you have an account on Kibble? Did any of this make sense to you? Of course not, it wouldn’t, but it would’ve made a lot of sense if Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and Netflix had stuck with their original names. There are very interesting untold stories behind popular brand names.

Naming a company is crucial as success depends on it. Some of these names are really thought through but some just happened accidentally. However, it isn’t easy naming a business.

Picking a name is incredibly difficult. For one thing, you need something catchy, something that rolls off the tongue and is easy to remember. One- or two-syllable words are best. Too many syllables, too many letters, and you run the risk of people misspelling your website. Too few letters, and you risk them forgetting the name.

Marc Randolph (Netflix co-founder)

A lot of companies get the names wrong in the first and/or even the second time. Thankfully they changed their name at the right moment. Here are a few origin stories of popular brands that all of us know and why they were changed.

1. Lakme

untold stories behind popular brand names
Source: Lakme’

The cosmetics brand Lakme’ was named after the French opera Lakmé, which itself is the French form of Devi Lakshmi (the Hindu goddess of wealth) who is renowned for her beauty. In 1952, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was concerned that Indian women were spending precious foreign exchange on beauty products.

Hence, he personally requested JRD Tata to manufacture them in India. JRD Tata chose the name for the brand after watching the said Opera.

2. Amazon

stories behind popular brand names
Source: Amazon

Jeff Bezos, a technological genius known throughout the world. The story behind how the name changed just might make you feel better, that even geniuses can go wrong sometimes. Yes, Amazon was called Cadabra. In 1994, when Jeff Bezos conceived the idea of the world’s largest online bookstore, he wanted to call it Cadabra.

He picked Cadabra from “Abracadabra.” However, his lawyer thought the company was called “cadaver.”, which is when he decided to change it to Amazon after the largest river.

3. Adidas

stories behind popular brand names adidas

The meaning of Adidas is commonly misunderstood. People believe that the letters each have a meaning, “All Day I Dream About Sports,” ADIDAS. This is correct. The name is after the founder of the company, Adolf “Adi” Dassler (Adi+Das). The company tried to hide the fact to avoid any linkages with Nazi Germany due to the founder’s name.

The famous three-striped design came later and was chosen to symbolize a climb upward.

4. Apple

interesting stories behind popular brand names apple
Source: Apple

Steve Jobs, one of the biggest entrepreneurs and inventors of all time, but he is also just like many of us. He was a fan of the Beatles, so Apple might have been named after the Beatles’ record label, Apple Records. But that is actually not true.

Instead, the name came when Jobs was, oddly enough, picking apples at an orchard in Oregon when he decided to name the company Apple.

5. Ikea

stories behind popular brand names IKEA
Source: IKEA

Ikea! Yes, it finally in India now, but Ikea is a known brand when you want to buy furniture for your new place. When it comes to the name of the company, the process was not easy. Here is a fun fact: the brand IKEA was founded by a Swedish teenager, Ingvar Kamprad, who was just 17 at that time.

IKEA, the name came into place by taking his first initial of his first name, the first initial of his last name, the first letter of his childhood farm (Elmtaryd), and the first letter of his hometown (Agunnaryd). Making it IKEA. Genius!

6. Facebook

Source: Facebook

Facebook created by Mark Zuckerberg. He dropped out of Harvard University, started working on his social media company, which definitely paid off. Zuckerberg was trying to make the name of the company short. Originally, it was called “The Facebook”, which was supposed to be for students within Harvard University.

Eventually, the company started growing and Zuckerberg ultimately dropped the “The” and decided to go with just Facebook. You can still search thefacebook.com, the site will redirect to Facebook.com.

7. GAP

Source: GAP

Gap started off by selling mainly jeans and vinyl records. Things we don’t expect parents to usually understand. Donald and Doris Fisher, owners, wanted to focus on the age gap between teenagers and young adults. Hence the name Gap. They aren’t just a regular store, they are a cool store.

8. Google

Source: Google

Google is the default place to go for anything and everything. It didn’t make life easier for everyone, rather transformed our lives. But the name they picked for the company initially, wasn’t the best. The initial name for Google was Backrub. If you don’t believe us, Backrub it!

Thankfully, the owners realized that it wasn’t the best name, so they changed it to Googol. Which is the name for number 1 followed by 100 zeros. Interestingly enough, the Developers misspelled it from the name Googol to be Google.

9. Lego

Source: Wikipedia

We have all played with the Lego toys. They are bright and colorful plastic building blocks and the typical yellow headpieces of each character. Interestingly enough the company didn’t even start as a plastic building block brand. It started as a wooden block company founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter.

The name ‘Lego’ came from a Danish saying “Leg Godt,” which translates directly to “Play Well.” The name stayed yet the blocks changed over time.

10. Pepsi

Source: Wikimedia

Pepsi is a part of the American culture, so much so that Britney Spears sang the catchy Pepsi songs for her advertisements with the brand. Pepsi is everywhere from barbeques to birthday parties, it is the go-to-drink. Before Pepsi, it was called “Brad’s Drink.”

Why brad? you may ask. It refers to Caleb Bradham, a pharmacist who created the Pepsi recipe in North Carolina in 1893. Then it became everyone’s drink and the name changed.

11. Nike

Source: Daily Tribune

Nike is one of the most respected brands globally. From shoes to clothing, it has become a staple in athletic wear. Before being called Nike, it was called Blue Ribbon Sports. Japanese shoemaker Onitsuka Tiger thought of the name after he founded the company, naming it Nike, after the name of the Greek goddess of victory.

12. Skype

Source: Skype

The perfect platform for video calling your friends and relatives, or even interviewing. Skype was the first company to find a way to video call online. This changed things. Skype was originally called “sky peer-to-peer”. Then it was changed to Skyper, but the name was taken. Later on, after thinking it was changed to Skype.

12. Yahoo!

Source: Yahoo!

Yahoo! was originally just an idea between two Ph.D. students. An idea that they had while they were studying at Stanford University. Jerry Yang and David Filo had an amazing idea but didn’t have the perfect name to go with it.

Yahoo! was originally called “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” Too long and not really catchy. It was then changed to “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” or just Yahoo for short.

Which of these stories surprised you the most? Do let us know in the comments below if you also know any such interesting story about a brand.

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6 thoughts on “Untold stories behind popular brand names

  • March 11, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    It was really interesting to get revealed about the stories behind each popular names. The story of Pepsi and google surprised me more

    • May 21, 2021 at 9:42 pm

      Great to know about real things about the market leaders


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