Google, Nike, Apple are some big brands that changed their names

·7-min read
(PHOTOS: Getty Commercial)
(PHOTOS: Getty Commercial)

SINGAPORE — 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? Probably not.

Facebook on 28 October announced it will rename itself ‘Meta’, in an effort to align itself with its push to build the ‘metaverse’.

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 and brands that have undergone a name change.

Google was initially called 'Backrub'

Google Global Hardware Operation director Paul Froutan (L) talks to Belgium King Albert II (2nd L) and Belgium's French-speaking socialist party (PS) President Elio Di Rupo (2nd R) and Walloon Region Economy Minister Jean-Claude Marcourt (R) during a visit at the site of the future Google Datacenter in 2009.
Google was originally called BackRub, until the founders decided to register it as Google in 1997. (Photo: Getty)

Can you imagine what it would sound like to say 'I'm just going to BackRub it for you' 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 is the world glad for it!

Pepsi-Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink

Pepsi-Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink. (PHOTO: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Pepsi-Cola was originally called Brad’s Drink. (PHOTO: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via 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. The ingredients that probably resulted in the 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

Apple, Inc. was originally called Apple Computers. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)
Apple, Inc. was originally called Apple Computers. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

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 that Apple is 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 'Computer' from the brand's image which also includes other consumer electronics.

AOL was formerly known as Quantum Computer Services

AOL was formerly known as Quantum Computer Services. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AOL was formerly known as Quantum Computer Services. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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

Sony was originally called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. (PHOTO: YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
Sony was originally called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. (PHOTO: YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

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

Yahoo was formerly known as 'Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Yahoo was formerly known as 'Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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. 

Surely its original name didn't have much potential for growth so the renaming was destined. Since the name Yahoo had previously been trademarked, to get control of the trademark, Yang and Filo added the exclamation mark to the name.

Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports

Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. (PHOTO: Getty Commercial)
Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. (PHOTO: Getty Commercial)

Did you know that Nike is named after the Greek goddess of victory? You probably also didn't really know it was originally called 'Blue Ribbon Sports'. 

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

SUBWAY was originally called Pete’s Super Submarines

SUBWAY was originally called Pete’s Super Submarines. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)
SUBWAY was originally called Pete’s Super Submarines. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

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.

Instagram was first called 'Burbn'

A picture taken on October 18, 2021 in Moscow shows the US social network Instagram's logo on a tablet screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
A picture taken on October 18, 2021 in Moscow shows the US social network Instagram's logo on a tablet screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Would you believe your favourite photo-sharing app was actually named after booze? Today's popular Instagram started out as a location-based iPhone app called 'Burbn', named after co-founder Kevin Systrom's love of Kentucky whiskey.  

The app was too complicated for users. After months of experimentation and prototyping, Systrom and co-founder Mike Krieger stripped the app of other features and released a simple photo-sharing app called Instagram on 12 October 2010.

IBM was originally called Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation

IBM was originally called Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
IBM was originally called Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

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. This name was complex and the end user wouldn't easily relate to it, hence it was renamed International Business Machines (IBM), a name that helped the company align with its aspirations and also to escape the limitation of office appliance.

Source: inc42.com, www.cnbc.com, wikipedia, graphics.stanford.edu, english.kyodonews.net, www.macworld.com, www.theatlantic.com

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