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What’s in a name? Four high-profile brand name changes

The power of branding is unquestionable. In many cases a businesses’ product or service can evolve or completely change underneath established values, messages, and commitments that still attract customers.

Brands create loyalty, establish communities and influence behaviour, and a rebrand is therefore a major step for a business to take. Here, we explore the words behind four of the biggest brand name changes.

Blue Ribbon Sports to Nike

You don’t need us to explain the significance of Nike in the sporting world, but the firm is unlikely to have had the same monumental impact if ‘Blue Ribbon Sports’ had been kept in 1971. ‘Nike’ – the Greek goddess of victory – provides the perfect platform to build an aspirational brand upon, and brilliantly encapsulates the status the firm holds today. Nike is now more than a clothing and equipment manufacturer, it’s a lifestyle.

Research in Motion to BlackBerry

In 2013, Research in Motion (RIM) adopted the name of its sole product – the BlackBerry smartphone – as its brand, largely because most customers referred to the company by the fruit-based title anyway.  The change also brought the company in line with dynamically-named rivals Apple and Samsung, at a time when both were rapidly stealing market share. It remains to be seen if the rebrand came too late to save BlackBerry, but its contemporary name in a sector that demands innovation gives the firm a better chance of survival.

BackRub to Google

The dominant search engine’s original name ‘BackRub’ possibly referenced the backlinks that played a major part in the service’s algorithm, and the switch to ’Google’ occurred in 1997.  Today’s title is a play on ‘googol’ the mathematical term for the number one followed by 100 zeros, which reflects the firm’s task of organising masses of webpages. Such is the brand’s success, ‘google’ has become a verb in its own right. “I’ll backrub it” doesn’t quite have the same ring.

Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation to IBM

The adoption of ‘International Business Machines’ (IBM) from ‘Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation’ in 1924 gives us an early glimpse of the trend for cleaner and more succinct brand names that is prevalent today. The abbreviation enabled the technology firm to become a household name, a rarity for a specialist company in such a highly technical field, and it demonstrates the stickiness of a succinct title no matter the industry.

If you can think of other brand’s that changed their name for the better, let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting @strattoncraig.

  1. April Myers : 4th September 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Don't forget about Federal Express shortening to FedEx in 1994 (since that's pretty much what all its customers were calling the company anyway).

  2. Nina Whittaker : 4th September 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks April, a great addition!

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