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3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.): Short and SweetApple: Challenging PerceptionsBAPE: Thoughtfulness CountsKodak: The Power of "K"Nike: Just Outsource ItSamsonite: Never Too Late to ChangeVirgin: Calling It Like It IsHäagen-Dazs: Expand the DictionaryGoogle: Mistakes Aren't Mistakes
When it came to finding a simple company name, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company had its hands full. Founded in 1902 by five entrepreneurs in Two Harbors, Minnesota, the company wanted to be innovative, but the name sounded robotic and dull. The founders eventually discovered the company's nickname 3M was the solution. The simple name now matches its innovative products like Post-It notes and Scotch tape. Abbreviations and acronyms are the perfect remedy for long and challenging names.
When Steve Jobs wanted to create a new line of personal computers in the 70s, computers were considered foreign and inaccessible. So when it came to the company name, Jobs searched for a friendly, inviting name to attract everyday people. Co-founder Steve Wozniak supposes the name Apple was inspired by Jobs's stay at an Oregon commune, which was completely surrounded by apple trees. But however the inspiration came to him, Jobs made Apple into a leader in consumer electronics innovations, with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices attracting computer and noncomputer types alike.
Company names with substance can help to define the brand's identity. BAPE, a cult clothing company founded in 1993 by music producer/DJ Tomoaki "Nigo" Nagao, stands for "A Bathing Ape." The name is derived from an old Japanese saying, "A bathing ape in lukewarm water," which refers to overindulgence. It was the perfect concept for the company, which targets the egotistical and overconfident youth. In other words, when you think of names consider who your products will be serving.
George Eastman, the founder of Kodak—both the camera and the company—loved the letter "K." Before arriving at the name "Kodak" in 1892, Eastman tested several combinations of words starting and ending with "K." Eastman believed the right name would be memorable, would not resemble anything else, and could not be mispronounced. However, above all else, it must have the letter "K" because he believed in the letter's punch and effectiveness. Kodak has endured over 100 years, having thoroughly ingrained itself in the world of photography and popular culture.
In 1971, Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight, the founders of Blue Ribbon Sports, were set to launch a new line of soccer shoes branded with a design by Carolyn Davidson, called the swoosh. The new shoe line would embrace the spirit of victory, so the marketing minds behind BRS consulted Greek mythology to find their muse: Nike, the Winged Goddess of Victory. The name was so good that in 1978, Blue Ribbon Sports officially changed its name to Nike, Inc.
The Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company, founded in 1910 by Jesse Shwayder, made suitcases and briefcases that emphasized durability and strength. Shwayder named one of his first cases after the biblical figure Samson, a man given supernatural strength by God to defeat his enemies, wrestle lions, slay entire armies. Shwayder started using the trademarked name "Samsonite" in 1941, and changed his company's name in 1966. Significant, relevant names dominate the minds of the public, much more so than common family names.
Before earning his billions, 20-year-old entrepreneur Richard Branson was preparing to launch a mail order record retailer. According to Branson's biography, one of his workers suggested, "What about Virgin? We're complete virgins at business." Branson loved the idea. It embraced who they were, rather than trying to conceal it. In 1970, Branson's mail order business took off. Two short years later came the record shop and then the recording studio.
How can you ensure your company's name will never be replicated? Make it up! That's what ice cream makers Reuben and Rose Mattus did in 1961, when they founded their ice cream store Häagen-Dazs in New York. Though the name sounds exotic, the owners will tell you the name doesn't actually mean anything. The Bronx-natives realized the appeal of foreign-sounding names.
Google was originally a misspelling of a word that already exists in the dictionary: "Googol." A googol is defined as a very large number, specifically 10 to the 100th power. Googol was supposed to be a name that would be indicative of the titanic amount of information on the Internet that the company sought to organize. The misspelled domain name "google.com" was still available, so the company settled on "google." Now, both words are in the dictionary, but most consumers only ever use one.