How six world famous brands got their names

Choosing a business name is one of the first big decisions you have to make as an entrepreneur. After all, you’re going to be stuck with it for at least a few years — probably longer. It has to make the right impression and reflect your ethos, while also being catchy, easy to say and simple to spell. But most importantly, it has to be original — otherwise you could end up with a domain or copyright dispute on your hands.

But the funny thing is that once your business is established, customers rarely question your brand name — to them it just is. What matters is what it represents, i.e. your product, service and what you stand for. Take these six world famous brands — did you know the stories behind their monikers?

1. Google

It’s a little-known fact that the now world dominating search engine provider was originally called something a lot less catchy — BackRub! It may sound like a massage service, but apparently it had something to do with searching backlinks. Thankfully, Sergey and Larry soon realised they could do better, landing on the word googol, a mathematical term referring to a 1 with 100 zeroes. The pair felt that it fit nicely with their mission to search millions of pages on the Internet, just tweaking the spelling slightly to secure an available web domain.

2. Spotify

A great example of how some names are completely random, Spotify founders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, came up with the name while brainstorming ideas in Daniel’s flat in Stockholm. They were shouting ideas at each other from separate rooms, while searching online to see if the domains were available. Martin shouted a name that Daniel misheard as Spotify. He liked it and the rest is history.

3. Apple

Fruit appears remarkably frequently in business names, but Apple has to be the pick of the crop ;). In his biography, Steve Jobs claims he came up with the name while on a fruitarian diet and visiting an apple farm, saying it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” The Macintosh (or Mac) computer later continued the theme, named by Apple employee, Jef Raskin, after his favourite type of apple, the McIntosh, but with a slight spelling change to avoid a copyright clash.

4. Slack

The revolutionary business messaging tool was originally thought to be named after the project management terminology, ‘slack’ (AKA ‘float’), referring to the “amount of time a delay could take from a task without causing subsequent problems.” But according to Slack CEO, Stewart Butterfield, it’s actually an acronym, standing for Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge. Either way, we like it.

5. Cisco

It’s hard to believe that this multi-billion, multinational technology giant was ever a start-up. Founded by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner while working at the University of Stanford in San Francisco, its first IOS was based upon aspects of the university’s software — a fact that eventually got them fired. And the name? In case you haven’t guessed already, it’s actually derived from the Cisco’s home town, just minus the ‘San Fran’. And if you look closely at the logo, you can make out the Golden Gate Bridge on there too. Who knew?!

6. Amazon

The founder of the online retailer of everything, Jeff Bezos, very nearly called his business ‘Cadabra’, a derivative of the magical word, ‘Abracadabra.’ However, he rapidly changed his mind when his lawyer misheard the name as “cadaver” — not exactly what he had in mind! He eventually plumped for Amazon for two reasons. Firstly, to show scale — the site had big ambitions from the start, launching as “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” The second reason was because Bezos wanted the name to fall at the beginning of the alphabet, as many web listings were alphabetical in the early days. And voila, an internet institution was born!

It feels like it’s getting even harder to come up with a company name that isn’t already taken, and copyright disputes and rebrands are becoming more common as a result. So, if you’re worried about infringing on somebody else’s brand, check out our recent blog on what to do if you face a trademark or copyright dispute.

And to find out more about how professional indemnity insurance can help protect your IP and any infringement claims you might face, check out our website — what is professional indemnity? And to discuss your risks and insurance needs in more detail, drop us a line at hello@digitalrisks.co.uk, or give us a call on 0333 772 0759.