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Naming Your Business, Learn From the Biggest Brands

Choosing a name for your business can be a tricky process!


There’s so much that might go into the decision, between finding something catchy that best exemplifies your values, and making sure that it’s unique yet still easy to read and say. Not to mention, avoiding copyrights and making sure no one else has already taken the name!


To help inspire you, here are a few interesting stories behind how the biggest brands came up with their names!



Starbucks:

This massive coffee chain may actually have been named because of classic literature! Starbucks’ founders were searching for a name that started with “st”, as they thought it would be the most powerful name for a business. They came across the name Starbo, which was a mining town, before one of the founders, who was also a writer, was reminded of a character from Moby Dick, named Starbuck. And thus, Starbucks was created, becoming a small tribute to classic literature.



ASOS:

ASOS stands for "As Seen on Screen". The founders, Quentin Griffiths and Nick Robertson, initially created a platform where people could buy clothes they'd seen celebrities wearing. Over time, as the brand evolved to include its own designs and various other brands, it shortened the name to the acronym ASOS.

Google:

As a resource that many of us use to search for new knowledge, it’s quite funny that Google’s name was actually created because of a spelling mistake! Originally called BackRub, they came up with “googolplex” as an idea for a new name, meant to suggest the idea of the “immense amount of data” that the search engine could index. They decided to shorten the name to “googol”, which is the equivalent to ten raised to the power of a hundred (10100), an immensely large number. When they were checking that the domain name was available, they accidentally typed “google” instead, and the name stuck!



Nasty Gal:

Sophia Amoruso, the founder, named her company after the title of Betty Davis' song and album, 'Nasty Gal'. Amoruso, who was a 22-year-old college dropout and working at a thrift store at the time, started by selling vintage clothes on eBay under the handle Nasty Gal Vintage. The name raised some eyebrows and even resulted in eBay suspending her account at one point due to its suggestive nature. Despite this, she stuck with it and the brand went on to become a major player in the fashion industry, its cheeky name making it all the more memorable.





Apple:

Steve Jobs first suggested the name “apple” after he spent months working at an apple orchard, and was in the midst of one of his fruitarian diets. He thought that the name was fun and not intimidating, and would be more approachable compared to other computer companies that had more complex names. Unable to come up with other more technical-sounding names, Apple was chosen and to date, the company still exemplifies the idea of simplicity and spirit.



Pepsi:

Pepsi was originally known as “Brad’s Drink”, which definitely does not have the same ring to it, even though it was already extremely popular at the time. As a rebrand, they changed it to Pepsi, which is reportedly a play on the word “pepsin”, which is a digestive enzyme. The name also has roots in the word “dyspepsia”, which has a definition meaning indigestion. Regardless of which is the true origin, the brand name was chosen as a way to signal to consumers that the drink could be used to help aid digestion, and it’s still around today for many to enjoy!



Bic:

Bic is a classic case where the founder named their business after themselves, in this case, co-founder Marcel Bich. However, in this particular situation, he did decide to remove the last letter of his surname, for an understandable reason of avoiding miscommunication when pronouncing the brand in English. It’s also a valuable lesson to keep in mind when choosing a business name, in the rare case that your last name may be similar in pronunciation to some less-than-nice words in other languages!



Drunk Elephant:

Tiffany Masterson, the founder of Drunk Elephant, was inspired by a viral video she saw of elephants getting drunk after eating marula fruit. She found it hilarious and apt since one of the key ingredients in her products is marula oil. Despite some concerns that the name could be seen as not taking skincare seriously, she went with it because she wanted to bring a sense of fun and whimsy to the beauty industry.



In a nutshell, there's no definitive formula for creating a great business name. As shown by the brands we've discussed, sometimes it's a spontaneous or even quirky process that brings about the perfect name. Here are three key takeaways:

  1. Relax and Brainstorm: Pressure can often block creativity. Just like how the Apple name popped up casually, allow your mind to wander and come up with ideas freely.

  2. Learn from Mistakes: Google emerged from a simple typing error. Embrace your mistakes, as they could lead to unexpectedly great outcomes.

  3. Personal Touch Can Work: Bic's name was a derivation of the founder's surname. Incorporating personal elements can make your brand more unique and relatable. Remember to consider how it will sound in different languages and cultures.

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