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Google, Apple, Nike: 10 big brands that changed their names

·6-min read
Storefronts and buildings with the Apple, Google and Nike branding
Here are 10 well known brands that previously had some lesser known names (Source: Getty)

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would a search engine named 'Backrub' command as much respect and credibility as Google does? Or would the name 'Blue Ribbon Sports' wield the same impact as Nike with its 'Just Do It' tagline? Maybe not.

Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to mirror its focus on building the ‘metaverse’. It wants to be recognised beyond social media and bring to the fore the futuristic work it is invested in.

While a name change may not greatly impact the already existing image of Facebook, rebranding has often proved immensely successful for companies seeking to revamp their image, influence or reach.

Take a look at some of the biggest companies that have undergone a brand change.

Google was initially called 'Backrub'

HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 27: Google Hamburg photographed on July 27, 2021 in Hamburg, Germany.
Google was initially called BackRub (Source: Getty)

Can you imagine what it would sound like to say 'why don’t you BackRub it' instead of 'let me just Google it for you'?

Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin called their initial search engine 'BackRub' in 1996, named for its analysis of the web's 'back links'. But the name, thankfully, didn't stick for the rapidly improving search technology.

The intent on finding a suitable name that related to the indexing of an immense amount of data resulted in registering the name 'google.com' on September 15, 1997. And the rest is history.

Pepsi-Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink

GDANSK, POLAND - 2020/12/01: Pepsi bottle seen at the grocery store. (Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Once known as Brad's Drink, it was rebranded to Pepsi in1898(Source: Getty Images)

This story dates back to 1893 when a North Carolina pharmacist named Caleb Bradham developed and began serving a carbonated drink he called 'Brad’s Drink'.

He served the beverage from the soda fountain in his pharmacy and believed in the health, energy and digestive benefits of the sweet and bubbly brew, which originally included the enzyme pepsin and the cola nut.

It was those ingredients that probably resulted in renaming of the drink, even though pepsin was dropped from the formula at some point.

In 1898 Brad’s Drink was renamed 'Pepsi-Cola' and would go on to become one of the world’s most recognised brands and celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1998.

Apple, Inc. was originally called Apple Computers

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - AUGUST 08: Apple Store photographed on August 08, 2021 in Dusseldorf, Germany. (Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)
Tech giant Apple was once known as Apple Computers (Source: Getty)

The tech behemoth, founded in 1976, today popularly known as Apple was originally named Apple Computers by founders Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in 2007, announced the company dropping the word 'computer' from its name to become 'Apple Inc'.

Steve Jobs has said that among The Mac, iPod, Apple TV and iPhone only one is a computer, so it was important to drop the word from the brand's image which also includes other consumer electronics.

AOL was formerly known as Quantum Computer Services

BRAZIL - 2021/08/10: In this photo illustration, the AOL logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AOL has undegone numerous name changes over the years (Source: Getty)

One of the early pioneers of the Internet in the mid-1990s, AOL has been through several name changes in the effort of rebranding. It was formerly called AOL Inc. before which it was famous as America Online. But even before it was identified under these names it was originally called Quantum Computer Services and its short-lived founding name was Control Video Corporation (or CVC).

Sony was originally called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo

The Sony logo is displayed at the company's headquarters in Tokyo on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
Consumer Electronics company Sony was once called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Source: Getty)

In 1946, a radio repair shop was founded under the name Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo which produced Japan's first tape recorder, called the Type-G. This company would go on to be known as the now world famous consumer electronics company Sony.

In 1958 the founders decided that Tokyo Tsushin Kenkyujo would be renamed as Sony Corporation, mainly because it had a global appeal, was easier to pronounce and was more in line with the company's core values of 'open-mindedness and freedom'.

But in over 6 decades as of April 2021 Sony Corp was rebranded as Sony Group Corp. to reflect its diversification into other areas such as games, movies and music and to shrug its image as a purely consumer electronics focused company.

Yahoo was formerly known as 'Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web’

BRAZIL - 2019/10/13: In this illustration the homepage of the Yahoo website is seen displayed on the computer screen through a magnifying glass. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Yahoo is an acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle (Source: Getty)

Can you imagine the 'Yahoo' yodel with that name? Yahoo which is an acronym for 'Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle' was initially named after its founders in January 1994.

Jerry Yang and David Filo created a website and named it 'Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web' which was a directory of other websites organised in a hierarchy unlike a searchable index of pages.

The original name was likely a little long-winded so the change was destined. Since the name Yahoo had previously been trademarked, Yang and Filo added the exclamation mark to the name.

Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 16: People walk in front of Nike store store on October 16, 2021 in Beijing, China. According to an action plan released on October 14, Beijing has unveiled a series of measures aimed at building the city into an international consumption center over the next five years. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)
One of the world's biggest sports brands was once called Blue Ribbon Sports (Source: Getty)

Did you know that Nike is named after the Greek goddess of victory? And, did you know it was originally called 'Blue Ribbon Sports'?

Founded in January 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) the company initially operated in Oregon as a distributor for Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger. It officially came to be known as Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971.

SUBWAY was originally called Pete’s Super Submarines

A view of Subway logo in Edmonton's downtown.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Subway started out as Pete's Super Submarines (Source: Getty)

Subway was founded by 17 year old Fred DeLuca and financed by Peter Buck in 1965 as Pete's Super Submarines. It was renamed Subway two years later, and a franchise operation began in 1974. It has since expanded to become a global franchise and a favourite fast-food joint in most countries.

Playboy would have originally been called Stag Party

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 23:  A first issue Playboy Magazine, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and signed by Hugh Hefner is displayed during a preview for Julien's Auctions Hollywood legends memorabilia auction at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on June 23, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
Playboy would've been called Stag Party if not for a last minute name change (Source: Getty)

Most famous for its centerfolds of nude and semi-nude models or ‘playmates’, one of the world's best known brands Playboy was going to be called 'Stag Party' influenced by a cartoon book that its founder Hugh Hefner had read.

A last minute letter from the lawyer of a lesser known brand called 'Stag magazine' saying that it was an infringement on their title led to the world receiving its first Playboy.

IBM was originally called Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 20: The logo of International Business Machines (IBM) stands on the facade of the local headquarters, located in the Porta Nuova district on May 20, 2021 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
IBM stands for International Business Machines after its name change (Source: Getty)

Multinational computer technology and IT consulting corporation IBM originated from the bringing together of several companies that worked to automate routine business transactions.

In 1911, these companies were amalgamated into the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). This name was complex and not very relatable, so it was renamed International Business Machines (IBM) a name that helped the company align with its aspirations and also to escape the limitation of an office appliance.

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