By Dave Taylor
As terrifying as it can be to consider changing a brand name, looking backwards at the original names of successful brands illustrates the incredible value of making a well-timed change. Which names do you like better?
“I back rubbed it.” Doesn’t sound right, does it? Fortunately, the founders of this tech company were able to settle on a much more powerful brand name when they switched the name of the Internet search tool from Back Rub (it “rubbed” the back links on websites, see) to Google, based on the mathematical term, Googol. By the way, don’t forget that Google has a parent company named Alphabet, a brand that will likely become better known in the future as its enterprises grow.
Sounds like an X-Men character. Like FedEx, this brand was essentially re-named by its customers. In 1913, the Electro-Alkaline Company developed a solution of chlorine and sodium hydroxide, which is also known as bleach. Their customers began referring to it as “Clorox,” which was officially adopted as the company brand name in 1922.
Shorter is sweeter. Back in 1972, a fledgling company by the name of Blue Ribbon Sports decided to re-brand. They chose the name of the relatively unknown Greek goddess of victory. People were even unsure how to pronounce it. Was it Nike as in “bike?” The rest is history, but it’s hard to imagine “Blue Ribbon Sports: Just do it.”
Very descriptive and totally boring. It can be helpful to have a brand name that gives some sense of what the product is. But when that name is really nothing more than a description, there is nothing to own. (And it may be impossible to trademark.) The owners of the brand Unadulterated Food Products were faced with this conundrum and fortunately made a wise choice when they used a copy line from one of their products to come up with a better brand name. The drink was a carbonated apple juice with a “snappy apple taste.” Figure it out? Snapple, of course.
The hills are alive with the sound of good deals. When a freak storm destroyed the building for what was originally a retail store named The Sound of Music, the owners held a sidewalk sale for the merchandise that survived. Promoting it is as the best buys ever, they sold more products in that sale than ever before and decided to change the name of the brand to Best Buy.
There are more:
PayPal was originally x.com. (Shortest possible URL, generic name.)
Amazon was Relentless.com (Too aggressive sounding.)
Subway was known as Pete’s Super Submarines.
It seems safe to say that these brands made the right choice in moving on from brand names that were weak, flawed or not working as well as they could have.
Changing the name of your brand can seem as challenging as renaming one of your children. Any new suggestions seem foreign and unfamiliar. And not every re-brand will be successful. (Back Rub “New Coke” and see what comes up.) But many times, as these examples prove, re-branding can be the start of what becomes a much bigger brand in the long run.