Tesla just announced that it is dropping “Motors” from its name to signal that it’s moving into businesses other than cars. They will, at least in the foreseeable future, be an unparalleled sustainable energy company. However, at the pace they are moving, one can only imagine what businesses they might ultimately be in. Will that name hold?
Apple did this several years ago by changing its name from Apple Computer to Apple. Obviously, this was a smart move that helped them broaden their portfolio of products and services.
There are many reason why a company might move to change its name —an obvious one being a legal issue. Beyond that, changes can be driven by consumer trends, broadening portfolios, over-coming negative perceptions, or just trying to stay relevant. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC to avoid healthy consumers thinking about fried food. Or Philip Morris created new name, Altria, to be known as more than just a cigarette manufacturer, but a portfolio of businesses.
So, for fun, below are a list of several companies that completely changed their names. Can you identify who they are today?
Blue Ribbon Sports
Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation
Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web
Lucky and Goldstar Co.
Pete’s Super Submarines
Quantum Computer Services
Sound of Music
Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo
If you think about these things and are considering a business transformation, step back and look at your name.
There are interesting stories behind how these names became the ones we know today. How many did you know?
AuctionWeb, the first on-line marketplace, became eBay
BackRub was the original name for Google, based on the mathematical term “googol”,1 followed by 100 zeros
Blue Ribbon Sports was the business that became Nike
Brad’s Drink was the original name of a soft drink developed by a pharmacist that became Pepsi-Cola
Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation evolved into IBM, the name of its Canadian subsidiary
Confinity, started as a Palm Pilot payment company, renamed itself to become PayPal
Datsun today is Nissan based on the strategy to unify many products one-der one brand
Firebird is the original name for Firefox, changed for legal reasons
Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web became Yahoo, standing for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”
Lucky and Goldstar Co. is today LG Electronics
Pete’s Super Submarines is known today as Subway
Quantum Computer Services is today AOL, a shortening of America Online
Sound of Music became Best Buy, based on a successful fire sale after a tornado hit the company’s main store promising “best buys” on everything
Stag Party was the original name for Playboy after a law suit was threatened by Stag Magazine
Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo was a radio repair shop that is known for making the first transistor radio, and today is known as SONY
ValuJet became AirTran after a well-publicized plane crash. Today it is part of Southwest.
Wards Company adopted the name of a retail format they owned to become Circuit City
February 6, 2017 No Comments
I was asked by a friend about the Washington Redskins name issue, which was so eloquently written about in the New York Times Opinion Pages on June 24 by Michael Lewis and Manish Tripath.
Here is essentially what I wrote as a reply….
This is an interesting branding question on many levels. I am in complete agreement with the Michael Lewis and Manish Tripath conclusion.
1. Money aside, (changing the name) is the right thing to do.
2. The “model” they used (have not seen it) indicates no significant loss in revenue. My experience with name changes would bear this out. In fact, the opposite is often the case. I understand the argument about existing brand equity, but there are other important factors.
3. We would advise that the team owners look at a new name as an opportunity to re-energize the fan base. What if it attracted more fans and advertisers? Looking at the upside might help all involved think about a different and better brand and future for the franchise.
4. Lewis’s idea of involving the Native American community leaders is a brilliant way to move forward in a positive manner. It could result in an even larger upside, albeit the process might be complex so as not to disenfranchise anyone.
Change is scary for many, but, in this case, necessary. Not only has the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office voted to strip the team of trademark protections, but changing the name is the right thing to do.
June 26, 2014 2 Comments
Most people today, especially those in marketing, understand the tremendous value of a great brand name. A distinctive name will get an audience’s attention, help position and distinguish a company in the marketplace, take the company into the future, offer good ROI, and galvanize employees. Many do not, however, realize just how difficult creating a unique, “ownable” brand name has become.
Name styles seem to change every decade or so. Years ago, most companies preferred – and were able to own – generic, descriptive names like International Business Machines, American Airlines, and Radio Corporation of America. Now, the trend seems to be a desire for names that are arbitrary, i.e., they have nothing to do with the business, service or product they represent. Think Apple, Java, Yahoo and Uber. (Although if you dig into the etymology of these names, you often discover they actually do have meaning to the company founders, be it an emotional connection or a favorite fruit or drink).
June 17, 2012 1 Comment
Kraft’s decision to name its soon-to-be-stand-alone snack division, “Mondelez” is a very smart move in more ways than one. “Monde” is derived from the Latin word for “world” and “delez” means “delicious”. By separating the snack division from the North America focused grocery division and giving it a name that is clearly not America centric, Kraft is establishing a business that will have global appeal.
March 26, 2012 1 Comment
The Wall Street Journal feature about the Mac landing on more corporate desks is more than just an opportunity… it is a tectonic shift that will open up the business market for Apple in amazing new ways. It is truly a tipping point of amazing proportions.
If I were you, I’d buy Apple stock today… believe it or not, it’s just a leap to another plateau.
The Tipping Point, best known from Malcom Gladwell’s 2000 book of that name, is defined as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” The very public acknowledgement by GE that it is making Apple products available to GE employees is, in our opinion, a “tipping point”. [Read more →]
January 19, 2012 No Comments
Netflix stock has tumbled again to an 18-month low of $75 a share based on, among other things, trust. Think about it… the company’s value has erased about $12 billion in just 104 days. Yes the company has see-sawed on promises of splitting apart services, then relenting and bringing them back together… but what they have really undone is the consumer trust and loyalty they had worked so hard to achieve.
One of the fundamental values of a brand is to earn loyalty that results in the security of future earnings. In other words, consumers will come back time and time again to both purchase your products, and also allow them to expand their relationship with you. But the moment a company breaks that trust, it is very hard for consumers to stay on board. [Read more →]
October 25, 2011 No Comments
A feature in the Sunday New York Times about Johnson & Johnson struggling with many of it’s consumer brands raises a much bigger issue… when you lose trust in a brand name. The specific manufacturing problems and recalls for J&J open up consideration of less marketed store brands. In that moment where value intersects with (brand) price, it will be interesting to see how consumers shift shopping behaviors over the near to longer term.
January 17, 2011 1 Comment
General Motors recently announced that it was dropping Mr. Goodwrench, their ubiquitous brand for service across all their products. They are now moving to brand-focused service for their remaining four car lines; Buick Certified Service, Cadillac Certified Service, Chevrolet Certified Service, and GMC Certified Service. This is, finally, the right direction for them to be taking.
November 11, 2010 5 Comments
Starbucks is introducing a new concept idea this week. It will serve regional wine, beer, cheese, soup and other small dishes. While designated by location (e,g, “Olive Way store”), it will indicate it is “by Starbucks”. The interior will be more like a cafe that has been in the neighborhood for years, but extremely eco-friendly. This evolution into an after work, evening business just feels right for the times.
October 22, 2010 25 Comments
Sports Team Names Reveal Something… UC Santa Cruz has had the "Banana Slug" as an Unofficial Name and Mascot. Is this a Beneficial "brand" for them?
Sports teams can select names and identities that really are often interesting and intriguing. Some time ago I learned that University of California Santa Cruz had selected the banana slug as a mascot, and I took pause. They describe their mascot as “a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk commonly found on the redwood forest floor…” Certainly this brand is unique and memorable, but is it positive for the school?
September 15, 2010 3 Comments