11 Best Brand Name Changes

11th November 2014

Our research often takes us away from good Graphic Design in Newcastle. As you’d expect, the web allows us to scour the globe looking at competitors, successful examples and just inspiration in general. This is the next post in our series of global round ups on things that we’ve seen and liked.

Recently, private equity firm ISIS announced that it would be rebranding and changing its name in order to avoid confusion with the Islamic State terrorist group. Mobile commerce program ISIS Wallet has already done so, changing its name to Softcard. These are extreme examples of the difficulties faced in finding the right name for your business. Usually, it’s just a matter of finding the best moniker that will be memorable and descriptive but also original. It can be a difficult process and sometimes company names need to be rethought, either because they no longer adequately describe the products or services, have become tarnished by poor company behaviour, or because the original name was just a big old mistake. This list covers all these reasons and a few more – great examples of big businesses who successfully changed their names.


Originally called: Brad’s Drink

Pepsi has been around for a long time, since 1893. It was developed by Caleb Bradham , a pharmacist in North Carolina who first labelled it ‘Brads Drink’. In 1898 he wisely renamed it Pepsi-Cola after the pepsin and kola nuts used in the drink.


Originally called: Blue Ribbon Sports

Founded in 1964 by Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman, Blue Ribbon Sports was originally set up as a US distributor for Japan-based Tiger sports shoes. By the early 70s, the company was ready to market its own brand of trainers with its own trademark logo and a new name, Nike.


Originally called: Andersen Consulting

Arthur Andersen was was one of the Big Five accounting firms in the US before being fatally linked with the Enron scandal in 2001. Prior to that, Anderson Consulting had been a partner company. In the late 1990s that partnership broke down and it was forced to break ties and rebrand. Despite criticism of the new name, it helped to distance the company from the Enron fallout and allowed them to successfully build their new brand.


Originally called: Everything Everywhere

T-Mobile and Orange’s merger into the UK’s largest mobile provider resulted in the name Everything Everywhere. Its lifespan was short, during which it was heavily criticised and suffered poor sales and eventual lob losses. Then it was awarded the rights to launch the 4G network and used that as an opportunity to rebrand. The new name was a success and EE continues to grow, recently acquiring the ailing Phones4u and taking on an extra 140 stores.


Originally called: Backrub

Developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University, the search engine’s original name was due to its reliance on backlink checking to grade the importance of a website. When the project grew too big for the Stanford servers, they changed the name to Google, a play on the maths term ‘googol’ meaning 1 followed by 100 zeros. So successful the name is now a verb.


Originally called: Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web

There’s no real explanation needed for this change. Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web – an indexed directory of websites – was a terrible name and needed changing. Co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo switched it to Yahoo (which stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle!) in 1995 and the nascent web portal became the dominant search engine of the late 1990s.


Originally called: Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation

IBM was formed in 1911 through of merger of three existing businesses which led to the truly terrible name of Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. In 1924 it changed its named to International Business Machines which was so brilliantly vague that it is still appropriate today. 


Originally called: Service Games

Sega’s origins actually begin with a company called Standard Entertainment Games set up in 1940 by Marty Bromley who distributed coin operated machines to military bases in Hawaii. After slot machines were outlawed in the US in 1951, the company was moved to Japan and changed its name to Service Games. In 1964, the company merged with Rosen Enterprises and changed the name to Sega when it began its rise to global success by manufacturing it own arcade games and exporting them to the US. 


Originally called: Peter’s Super Submarines

Subway’s original name sounded like a nautical themed soft-play centre. It was originally opened in 1965 and named after Peter Buck who loaned Fred DeLuca $1000 and suggested he open a restaurant to help pay his tuition fees for medical college. The restaurant was renamed three years later as Subway and since then has grown to be the largest fast-service restaurant chain in the world.


Originally called: Quantum Computer Services

Quantum Computer Services was set up in 1985 as an online services company originally catering to Commodore consoles but later expanding to Apple computers. After parting ways with Apple in 1989, the company changed its name to America Online (quickly abbreviated to AOL and used ever since) and over the course of the next decade became the largest subscription-based provider of internet and email services.


Originally called: BT Cellnet

In 1985, the UK’s first cellular network, Cellnet was established, a joint venture between BT and Securicor. In 1999 BT bought out Securicor’s share and rebranded as BT Cellnet. In 2002 it was relaunched as o2 with a huge rebranding and marketing push, since when it has become one of the largest mobile providers in the UK.