The creativity and simplicity of some of the most successful brands are what made them instantly recognizable and memorable. Without difficulties, they communicate to their audience precisely the message they want to send. However, the origins of some of them are more interesting than you might think.
We bring you a series of curious facts about the names of the most popular trademarks in the world.
1. Pepsi, a drink for indigestion
Like many other carbonated beverages, Pepsi began to be sold as a remedy for indigestion. Pharmacist Caleb Bradham prepared it in the soda fountain of his pharmacy using a mixture of sugar, caramel, water, lemon oil, kola nuts, and nutmeg. The original name was “Brad’s Drink,” which he sold with the slogan: “Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.”
The drink turned out to be so popular that Bradham decided to change its name to a more attractive one. So, drawing inspiration from the word dyspepsia, the medical name for indigestion, and the kola nut that was part of the recipe, he renamed the product “Pepsi-Cola.” Nowadays, this centennial drink is a brand that has steadily grown thanks to the advertisements done by distinguished artists and celebrities.
2. Google, a typo
The world’s largest search engine developed an influential brand that spread like a communications giant and even led to the creation of the verb “google” in the English language. It’s undeniable that Google currently possesses one of the most extensive data centres in the world, which collects internet information.
Even during their freshman year at Stanford University, its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, already knew the potential their company had. That’s why the original plan was to name it “googol,” based on the Googol number, which is equivalent to 10 to the 100th power, a huge number, but one that is not infinite.
Due to a mistake, Larry Page misspelt the name: Instead of “googol,” he wrote “google,” and the web and the company were registered with this “error.” But, in fact, this mistake only worked to distinguish the search engine from the rest and rise to what it is today.
3. McDonald’s, the inventors of fast food
The entrepreneur Ray Kroc was the mastermind behind the expansion of the chain, but the original name comes from the last name of the inventors of the “fast food” concept: Maurice “Mac” and Richard “Dick” McDonald. Before 1940, they owned and operated a successful restaurant, but once World War II was over, they decided to try a new system to reduce the time people waited for their food.
The first McDonald’s opened in 1948. It had a menu of only a few items and executed standardized processes that allowed the brothers to accelerate the food preparation and sell it at a very competitive price. Their success led them to remodel the architecture of the restaurant too, building the prototype of the famous golden arches.
Soon after, the McDonald brothers bought Ray Krocs many milkshake mixers at a time when the market was on the decline. The businessman was shocked at the efficiency of the restaurant and came up with the idea of developing franchises throughout the United States. He became their agent and bought 100% of the firm in the 1960s.
The famous golden arches that identify the brand have evolved with time, but they’re still one of the most recognizable logos on the planet because of their simplicity and vibrant colour.
4. Rolex, the whisper of success
According to Hans Wilsdorf, founder of the exclusive watches label, he tried everything to give his new product a proper name. Wilsdorf was looking for something short that could be easily pronounced in any language. It also had to look good on the watch’s surface.
After combining all the alphabet letters in thousands of ways and coming up with a hundred potential names, none seemed powerful enough. But a trip on a horse-drawn trolley would change the fate of his newly founded company, because a “genius,” as he called it, whispered the word “Rolex” into his ear.
5. IKEA, the Scandinavian enigma
Founded in 1943, when its creator was only 17 years old, IKEA went from selling all kinds of objects to becoming the benchmark of Swedish creativity worldwide with its furniture for assembly that facilitates packaging and transport.
However, those who don’t understand Swedish have always wondered what the word IKEA means in that language. The answer? It’s an acronym that is a combo of the first letters of founder’s first name and last name: Ingvar Kamprad, the farm where he grew up: Elmtaryd, and the town in southern Sweden where it was located: Agunnaryd.
Curious fact: Unlike the company, the name of each product does have a Swedish origin (mostly). The categories can be found in the IKEA Dictionary.
6. Zara, taking inspiration from a movie
When magnate Amancio Ortega wanted to name his clothing business, he initially thought of calling it “Zorba,” like the 1964 movie, Zorba The Greek, as he was a big fan of the Anthony Quinn film. He had even made the frame to put the letters on the poster of his shop in A Coruña.
However, shortly before the inauguration in 1975, he realized that his store was pretty close to a bar named, precisely, “Zorba.” Since it would’ve been very confusing to the customers to have 2 businesses with the same name in such a small radius, Ortega took the sign and decided to add an “a,” and remove the ’b,” coining the name of one of the most recognizable Spanish brands in the world.
7. Amazon.com, a river of possibilities
Amazon.com started its days in Jeff Bezos’ garage in 1994 but didn’t always bear the name that distinguishes it today. What was originally an online bookstore was going to have the magical name “Cadabra.” However, the brand’s first lawyer, Todd Tarbert, convinced Bezos that the word sounded very similar to “cadaver.”
It was time to pick another name. Bezos came up with the name Relentless. In fact, the web domain exists and now redirects the user to Amazon.com.
But finally, the name Amazon was selected, and so, “the largest bookstore in the world” would bear the name of the longest river in the world, the Amazon. It wouldn’t be just an online bookstore, but a technological process that would simplify electronic purchases and change history forever. This is what it looked like in the 90s (look at the logo with the river).
8. Starbucks, the literary sailor
The history of the world-famous cafe is closely related to the sea. The first store opened in Seattle, a seaport city, and the logo portrays a 2-tailed mermaid. Its unique name also comes from the ocean, specifically from one found in English literature.
The founders of Starbucks come from the academic world: Jerry Baldwin and Zev Siegel were English and History teachers, while Gordon Bowker was a writer. No wonder, then, that the brand adopted a literary name. Among the potential names were “Redhook” and the almost winner “Cargo House,” but they were dismissed. The search shifted to focus on words that began with “st” because advertisers said they were powerful.
Then someone got an old map where a mining town called “Starbo” appeared. Bowker, the writer, immediately associated the word with Starbuck, the first officer of the Pequod, the whaling ship in the novel Moby Dick. They added an “s” to the name and, 40 years later, this ship continues to navigate the waters of commercial success.
Did you know the roots of these famous brands? What other interesting accounts could be part of this list? Leave us a comment and feel free to share these curious stories with your friends.
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