Name recognition means a lot to brands looking to secure their place in competitive markets. People don't say, "Hey, let's go grab a cup of coffee at The Bean Shop", you know? They say Starbucks! Company names have become part of our vocabulary, and they're as recognizable as our own family's names in a lot of cases. When you're traveling to a new area, you can always find what you need if you know your fav company's name. McDonald's is McDonald's no matter where you are in the world. But did you know that some the most recognizable companies in the world used to be known by different names?
Sure, these companies all hoped to become big players in the game when they started. But considering the names some of them had when they started out, they might not have realized just how big they'd get. Or maybe they wanted to rebrand and start moving in a different direction. So at some point, they smartly changed their names. And thus, some of the most recognizable company and brand names in the world were born! We'll just be honest here - it's a good thing they made the change, too. Some of these early names are absolutely hilarious.
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We know it as Subway - Eat Fresh! But back when the sandwich chain first got started, it had a much different name. Subway was started in 1965 under the name Pete's Super Submarines. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it does have a great story behind it. Founder Fred DeLuca borrowed the money he used to start the company from his family friend named (you guessed it!) Pete. The name was shortened to Pete's Submarines in order to fit on billboards and in radio ads, but listeners often heard "pizza submarine". So DeLuca shortened it again to Pete's Subway, and eventually just Subway in 1968 as it grew in popularity.
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In September 2018, the weight loss and diet company shifted its priorities and started focusing on overall health and wellness. This meant an overhaul of their popular points program, new foods and goals, a new spokeswoman (hey, Oprah!), and of course, a new name! They went from Weight Watchers to just WW. We totally understand the shift, but honestly, does anyone call it WW? They'll always be Weight Watchers to us and the millions of people who use them to get healthy and fit.
IHOP is the pinnacle of cheap, fast diner breakfast. Who among us hasn't spent a supremely hungover morning over a cup of super hot coffee and a plate of pancakes at one of their restaurants?! Literally no one goes to IHOP for anything but breakfast. So when they announced a name change, people were a bit confused. IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, decided to call itself IHOB, for burgers? We guess? They wanted people to know they served more than breakfast ... but people were not having it. About a year later, they went back to IHOP, and all was right with the world.
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If you've been to a Dunkin' Donuts in the last year or so, then you know that they are way more than just a donut shop. They have lots of coffee and other drink options, sweet and savory foods, and more! So it makes sense they'd want to shake their donuts-only image and move into the casual eatery category. In January 2019, Dunkin' Donuts became just Dunkin'. Not to worry though - they still serve their delicious donuts! But they're hoping the name change will get people in the doors for more than apple fritters and donut holes.
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When you walked into a Jamba Juice, you definitely expected to get some juice. Or a smoothie! They make pretty legit smoothies. But nowadays, you walk into a Jamba Juice and there is a full menu of stuff to choose from - snacks, bowls, and boosts, just to name a few. So in keeping with this shift in their business model, the juice company quietly dropped "Juice" from their name and are just known as Jamba now. We like it, it's fine. But they seriously missed a cross-over opportunity with Will & Grace ... they could have been JUST JAMBA!
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There's been no official announcement, but the social media for Oreo has been dropping some (possible) hints of an impending name change lately. Followers noticed in June 2019 that the cookie brand has conspicuously dropped the two O's from their name on their Twitter and Facebook profile pictures. So they'll just be known as ... RE? That seems very strange and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Unless it's a hint at a RE-brand. Get it? RE - brand for oREo? We suppose we'll just have to wait and see what becomes of these interesting social media hints Oreo is dropping.
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North Carolina pharmacist Caleb Davis Bradham invented the drink we know now as Pepsi in 1893. It was a mixture of sugar, caramel, water, lemon oil, nutmeg, and kola nuts, and was immediately popular. He named it Brad's Drink, because wouldn't you name a super awesome beverage you invented after yourself? We would. Five years later, the name was changed to Pepsi-Cola. It's a weird name, but Bradham believed his "health" drink helped with indigestion. So he named it Pepsi after dyspepsia.
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Google is one of the most recognizable names and brands in the world. It's a noun, it's a verb. It's the search engine we all use to find out why our head hurts and if we should call poison control after our kid eats shampoo. But in the early days of the search engine's development, it was actually called Backrub. Which is ... creepy? The name was meant to reference the way the search engine analyzed "back links" on the internet and help users understand how the world wide web actually worked. The name lasted less than a year, and it officially became Google in 1997, thank god.
Can you imagine having to type in Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web every time you wanted to look for something on the internet? We don't imagine that would have lasted long. But when Stanford grad students Jerry Yang and David Filo started the company, that's what they called it. By 1995, they had changed the name to Yahoo, which is much easier. They joked that it stood for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle" which is actually pretty accurate when you think about it.
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The name Nike and the swish logo are unmistakable these days. But would we feel the same if the company was called Blue Ribbon Sports? Probably not. When the company was founded in 1964, it wasn't the shoe, apparel, and sports gear manufacturer it is today; it was simply a distribution company for Japanese manufacturer Onitzuka Tiger. When Blue Ribbon Sports started making their own merchandise in 1971, founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman decided it was time for a name change. They settled on Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory.
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Best Buy didn't start out as the electronics super store it is today. In fact, founder Richard Schulze named it Sound of Music, because when he started the company he sold mostly stereo equipment. But in 1981, a disaster ended up being sort of a good omen for Schulze. A tornado hit a store located in Roseville, Minnesota, destroying the roof and most of the showroom and stock. Schulze decided to make the best of a bad situation and held a "tornado sale" to offload some of the damaged merchandise, and they ended up selling more merchandise in two days than they had ever sold before. Two years later, he renamed his stores Best Buy.
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If you're not familiar, EA Games is one of the leading video games and software development companies in the world. But when former Apple director of strategy and marketing Trip Hawkins founded the company in 1982, he named it Amazin' Games, which sort of sold the company short on everything they offered and did. So he decided to rename the company as it grew, settling on EA Games to showcase video games and software development as more of an actual art form.
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This one made us really laugh out loud. Could you imagine heading into a convenience store to get something to quench your thirst and stumbling across an in-store display of Unadulterated Food Products? Well, that very well could have been our fate! When the company that would go on to become Snapple was founded, it's main goal was to sell all-natural juices in health food stores. But as they started expanding, they knew they needed a better name. One of their most popular products was a carbonated apple drink described as "snappy". So they incorporated that into the name and eventually became Snapple.
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If you've been single at any point in the last eight years, then you very likely took your chances at finding love on the dating app Tinder. We're not saying you were successful, but at least you tried! In the early days of the app, it was called Matchbox, which the founders picked because it evoked images of flames igniting and sparks flying. But it wasn't quite right, and after perusing a Thesaurus for a while, they settled on Tinder. It's also a play on words - tinder is what you use to light a fire, and it sounds a lot like tender (which ironically enough is just about the complete opposite of the types of people you find on it!).
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Hugh Hefner founded the racy men's magazine in 1953, and settled on the name Stag Party. He got inspiration from naughty cartoons from the 1930's called Stag at Eve. But right before the magazine was scheduled to publish its first copies, Hefner was hit with a cease-and-desist letter from another men's magazine, called Stag. Back to the drawing board he went, and after considering names like Top Hat, Pan, Satyr, Gent, and Bachelor, Hefner decided that Playboy had the connotations he was going for with this magazine. And thus, a pornography empire was born.
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Listen, as long as they actually work and clean as advertised, we doubt most people give a rat's butt what their cleaning products are called. When The Electro-Alkaline Company was founded in 1913, its product was initially intended to be used as an industrial cleaner. But once early investor Annie Murray discovered that a less-concentrated version could be marketed and sold for use as a household cleaner, the company switched gears. As it grew in popularity, people starting referring to it as Clorox, which was a mashup of the two main ingredients (chlorine and sodium hydroxide). Eventually the company caught wind of the nickname, and changed its name to Clorox in 1922.
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In 1903, George D. Dayton became the sole owner of Goodfellow's Dry Goods Company, then a large department store in Minneapolis. He renamed it Dayton's Dry Goods Company, and worked for more than 50 years to expand the business before he introduced a discount chain store named Target in 1962. In 1969, Dayton merged with the J.L. Hudson Company and became the Dayton-Hudson Company. Interestingly, it wasn't until 2000 that they renamed the company Target Corporation after the core business. And now Target carries a line of apparel and accessories called Goodfellow & Co. Full circle, guys.
In 1984, Michael Dell started doing some computer business out of his dorm room at the University of Texas. His dorm room biz was named PC's Limited. He apparently did a pretty good business, because by the end of the year the pre-med freshman dropped out to expand. He grew his tech company and eventually renamed it Dell. Because again, when you start a company and become successful, you should 100% name it after yourself.
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Before it became 7-Eleven, the chain of convenience stores was actually called Tote'm. Why? Glad you asked! Apparently the name was inspired by the way customers toted away their purchases. As a play on the name, many of the stores even had Alaskan totem poles displayed outside of the stores (we told you it was slightly problematic...). But in 1946, the company changed the name of the stores to 7-Eleven to reflect the hours of operation: they were open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was pretty adamant that Relentless was the perfect name for his business. So much so, in fact, that bought the URL (for all time, we guess?), and if you type relentless.com into your browser till this day, it redirects to Amazon. Friends told him the name was a bit sinister (can anyone say foreshadowing?), so he considered other names. Cadabra was a contender, until his attorney overheard it as cadaver. Bezos eventually settled on Amazon because it suggested something huge, and because it started with an 'A'. Back in those days, websites were listed alphabetically.
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Michael Kors has long been known for their affordable handbags that can be found at places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. But apparently they're tired of being the purse every teenager buys when they start making a little money. Last year, the company announced plans to acquire high-end fashion house Gianni Versace for $2.1 billion. As they began moving into the luxury brand world, they decided they needed a new name, and Michael Kors became Capri Holdings. The name is meant to evoke feelings of glamour and luxury, like the island that inspired it. Capri Holdings will be keeping the Michael Kors label though, so you can still get your handbags.
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Restoration Hardware has had a bit of a rough go of it lately. The home furnishings and decor store has struggled to stay relevant in a time when people are more likely to go to IKEA than drop $5,000 on a couch their kids are going to ruin anyway. They're trying to switch gears and move into a "lifestyle"company that sells more than just home goods - think baby products and outdoor stuff. So they dropped the "hardware" from their name and will be going by just RH from here on out. Still doesn't solve the problem of a lot of locations being in malls, which are dying a slow but certain death.
We all just call it CVS. But prior to 2014, it was actually called CVS Caremark. In an effort to move into more of a healthcare-branded entity, they're now known as CVS Health. They stopped selling tobacco products in all stores nationwide, and last year they acquired insurer Aetna. Additionally, CVS Health and Target partnered up and they took over pharmacies in most US-based locations. The way things are going, we'll be able to head to CVS and buy bandaids and get an x-ray pretty soon.
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And did you know they don't even offer users the ability to bid on low-cost airfare anymore? They stopped doing that in 2016, and we just learned this. Anywho, Priceline is now known as Bookings Holdings, and they've transitioned from being a travel site to a hotel and home rental site. So you may not be able to book a flight, but they're hoping to be the go-to for securing your lodgings on your next trip. Bookings Holdings acquired Bookings.com and OpenTable. The name change reflects the companies largest brand.
See, this is where things start to get confusing. Because we DEFINITELY saw a Coach store at the outlets like two months ago. But apparently, the company changed their name to Tapestry over a year ago. Tapestry is meant to "reflect the company’s history and the fact that multiple brands are interwoven to create one product". But it's ... not a good name, guys. The company acquired shoe brand Stuart Weitzman and accessory brand Kate Spade in the last few years, and is trying incorporate a variety of products into their business. But Coach is Coach, and the name change hasn't been well-received.
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Back in the day, there was nothing cooler than having a Blackberry. You didn't have to push each button 3 times to get to a specific letter! It had a roller ball! It was like a little pocket computer. Phones now are so advanced that a Blackberry is essentially a brick, but we used to love ours. However, when Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin launched the company in 1984, it was originally called Research in Motion. In 2013, they decided to change the name to Blackberry, which was their cornerstone product.
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Believe it or not, the company that would go on to become Nintendo was actually started in 1889. It was called Marufuku Company, and they manufactured and sold playing cards. In 1951, the name was changed to Nintendo Playing Card Company. But as we all know, Nintendo doesn't do playing cards now. They are one of the world's most popular video game companies. Shorty after the first name change, it was changed once again, to just Nintendo. And thus, Super Mario history was made.
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We might be aging ourselves here, but we definitely rode around in a little Datsun from time to time when we were growing up. The small compact car brand was quite popular in the 70's and 80's. While Datsun was its own brand, it was owned and manufactured by Nissan. Up until 1981, trucks made by Nissan in the US were advertised and sold as Nissans. Datsun was used for branding on smaller compact cars. So Nissan and Datsun are the same company. As the company grew and began selling more cars around the world, they dropped the Datsun brand completely and started branding all of their cars under the Nissan name.
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We get it - most people don't start a company thinking it's going to become an internationally-recognized brand. They might hope for that? But it's nowhere near guaranteed. So when Japanese electronic producer Matsushita Electric Industrial Corporation was founded in 1935, the name was probably fine. After all, they were an electric industrial corporation - it's right there in the name! However, that name is a bit long for branding, so it was officially changed to Panasonic in 2008. Can't believe it took them that long, for real.
Back in the early days of the world wide web, we all had an AOL email address. Remember those cds you'd get in the mail for a free trial or whatever? And you'd log on and sit through that annoying screeching sound while our dinosaur computers booted up and tried to get connected to the internet. Good times. But before it was AOL, it was America Online. And before it was THAT, it was actually called Quantum Computer Services. It was renamed American Online in 1991, then officially shortened to AOL in 2006. Then it was acquired by Verizon, merged with Yahoo, renamed Oath, then scrapped again and is now part of the Verizon Media Group.
In 1946, Japanese telecommunications company Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo was founded as a radio repair shop. They actually created Japan's first transistor radio and the world's first transistor TV! But as their business started to expand, they needed a more marketable name. So in 1958, they changed the name to Sony. It's a combination of the word "sonus" which is the root of sonic and sound, and the name "Sonny", which was a popular American term for a young boy in the 1950's. The change is good, since we can't imagine how they would have fit Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo on the ear pods we have.
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In 1995, Pierre Omidyar wrote the code for the website that would eventually become the most well-known auction site on the internet. Remember how insane people were about eBay?! They were selling everything on it, and there were even stores where people would sell your stuff for you. It was a lot. But when eBay first started, it was actually called AuctionWeb. It wasn't long before the site took over Omidyar's domain, which was called ebay.com (his consulting firm at the time was named Echo Bay). So AuctionWeb sort of just became eBay as a result!
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Snickers bars are popular around the world, and for good reason! The gooey, peanuty, chocolatey candy bar is all the best stuff smooshed together into one easy-to-eat snack. Snickers is made by Mars Company, which produces candy and products all over the globe. And that means that sometimes the most recognizable candies we know have different names. Snickers may be Snickers to us, but in the UK, it used to be known as a Marathon bar. The name was inspired by the Mars family's horse. But the name was uniformly changed in 1990, so it's a Snickers bar no matter where you go.
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Being able to make e-payments to people and businesses is totally normal now. Hell, there are tons of apps that let us do it right from our phones! But back in the 90's, it was sort of a brave new world. Cofinity, a cryptography and Palm Pilot company, was founded in 1998. The name was a combination of confidence and infinity. But when they debuted a new feature that allowed people to email payments, they changed the name of the company to PayPal. Palm Pilots went the way of Blackberrys, but people are always going to need to get paid, so the change works.
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Here's another one of the companies that started with a too-long name and wisely went in another direction. Sharp, which is one of the largest business product providers in the world, was originally named Hayawaka Brothers Shokai. But in 1915, they debuted one of its most famous and popular products - the mechanical pencil. The pencil was called the Ever Ready Sharp propelling pencil. So the company decided to change its name to just Sharp, in honor of the pencil that put it on the map.
We've all cursed the FedEx gods for destroying a package or failing to deliver it within the promised time frame. And FedEx is short and sweet, so it's easy to incorporate it into your ranting and raving. But when the company was started Yale graduate Fred Smith in 1965 as an international delivery service, it was known by the much more formal name Federal Express. The company officially changed its name and branding to just FedEx in 1994, which is much more recognizable and probably fits better on the uniforms, envelopes, and planes.
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LOL, we are so glad this name got changed, because the original was pretentious AF. In 1966, a group of California banks banded together to create Master Charge: The Interbank Card. They were hoping to compete with Bank of America, which issued the popular Bank Americard. Master Charge: The Interbank Card was, shockingly, a long and stupid name for a credit card. So in 1979, the group decided to change the name, and MasterCard was born. Now it's accepted everywhere that takes major credit cards, so it worked.
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When Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976, it was originally called Apple Computers. After all, that was the pioneering technology of that time, and making computers alone made them incredibly successfully. But Jobs wanted to expand into other products, so he decided to drop 'Computers' from the name, and from then on the company was known simply as Apple Inc. Now, as much as people love Apple computers, it's definitely their other products like iPhones and Apple Watches that people associate with the brand.
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Even if you don't drink coffee, you 100% know what Starbucks is. It is the quintessential coffee house name. Probably because they are literally everywhere and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one. But when it was first established in 1971, it was called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice. Then CEO Howard Schulz left to start his own chain of coffee houses, which he named Il Giornale (he still sold Starbucks coffee, though). A few years later, Schulz actually bought the original business, and revived the Starbucks name.
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John Hertz bought the Hertz car rental service from Walter L. Jacobs in 1923, and renamed it the Hertz Drive-Ur-Self System. Now, see, that's fun. That sounds like some cool, futuristic way to get around. Don't own a car? No problem. Take the family down to Hertz Drive-Ur-Self and let our team get you all set up in some wheels so you can take a leisurely drive around the city! We dig it. The company was eventually bought by Omnibus Corporation, and while they held on to the rental car service, they ended up shortening the name to The Hertz Corporation. Boring.
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There is no question that Instagram is one of our many daily obsessions. It's hard to go a few hours without scrolling through and hearting all the photos. The company, which is now owned by Facebook, used to be named Burbn, when it was owned by the founders who started it, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. When the app was called Burbn, it did more than just share photos, but it showed quickly to the founders that sharing image is what people loved most, so that's where they focused.
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This is like a throwback to the 90s when the World Wrestling Federation used to be called just that, or WWF for short. It's since been rebranded as WWE, or Word Wrestling Entertainment, after some legal back and forth with World Wildlife Fund, also know as WWF, won the legal right to be known by those letters. It didn't seem to hurt the brand too much because wrestlers love the new name, too.
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OK, so this is one of those companies that didn't necessarily make a huge name change, but shortened it and actually changed their tag line (while keeping some of the original name!). It was all part of a major rebranding, and LG is one of the biggest success stories around. The company started out as Lucky-Goldstar, which honestly sounds like something you'd find printed on the bottom of a cheap toy or something. But when they decided to actually focus on making high-quality electronics, they decided to short their name to LG, and changed their slogan to "Life's Good". Much better!
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Kentucky Fried Chicken has been finger-lickin' good since 1952. And everything was going great for decades! Until people started to care more about the food they eat, LOL. Suddenly, having the word "fried" in your name wasn't a great business model. So in 1991, the company shortened their name to just KFC. Years later, they rolled out some new, healthier menu items like grilled chicken. The new menu items were so successful that a free chicken promo they ran to promote the grilled chicken actually wiped most stores clean of their product.
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We're not sure we'd eat something that promised to be ... curious? But then again, kids love cereal, they love mysteries, and they would eat old french fries from the couch if we let them. When Nestlé began making the cereal, it was called Cinnamon Grahams. But in 1998, the company changed the name to Curiously Cinnamon. Why, you ask? Apparently because the new name gave "an added sense of mystery", which is obviously what people want from their ... breakfast cereal.
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We don't actually know anyone who still uses Firefox? It's out there, people use it, but it's not nearly as popular as some of the other browsers. Which is a shame because they 100% have the coolest name! However, it almost wasn't cool. Before Mozilla Firefox became Firefox and adopted the little red fox logo, it was actually Mozilla Firebird. Firebird sounds like a car or something to fear. The company changed the name when they realized the name was already being used by another software company.
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Remember Circuit City stores? Chances are, there's still an abandoned store in your town, the red tile faded to pink, the neon signs long-since taken down. Back in the day, it was the go-to for electronics and gadgets. However, it was one of the first big victims to fall in the recession in 2008-2009. But before it was even called Circuit City, the electronics mega-store had a much different name - Wards Company! It was opened by Samuel S. Wurtzel in 1949, and operated four different TV and home appliance stores in Richmond. VA.