Choosing the right name for your business is a crucial step in building a strong brand identity. While some entrepreneurs opt for names that directly describe their products or services, others embrace the power of made-up words. These invented words can be memorable, distinctive, and evocative, capturing the essence of your brand in a unique way. To gain inspiration for your business naming journey, let’s explore the stories behind famous made-up names like Starbucks, Uber, Rolex, Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Verizon, Exxon, and Xerox.
The founders of Starbucks, Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Zev Siegl, sought a name that would reflect the maritime history of coffee trading in Seattle. Inspired by the character Starbuck from Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick, they settled on “Starbucks.” The name had a nautical connection and a memorable quality that reflected the company’s Pacific Northwest roots. Over time, Starbucks has become synonymous with quality coffee and a global coffeehouse experience.
The name “Uber” was derived from the German word “über,” which means “above” or “over.” However, in the context of the company Uber Technologies Inc., the name was intentionally chosen as a distinctive and catchy brand name. It does not have a specific meaning related to its services. Uber’s success demonstrates the potential of a unique and memorable made-up word to create a strong brand identity.
Unlike some other famous brands, the name “Rolex” does not have a specific meaning in the conventional sense. The origins of the name are not definitively known, but it is believed that founder Hans Wilsdorf chose “Rolex” for its phonetic appeal and easy pronunciation in different languages. Today, “Rolex” has become synonymous with luxury, precision, and high-quality watches.
George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, wanted a name that was unique, easy to pronounce, and had no existing associations. He coined the name “Kodak” in 1888, reportedly liking the letter “K” for its strength and memorability. Over time, “Kodak” became synonymous with photography and the Kodak brand.
The name “Nikon” is derived from the Japanese name “Nikko,” which is the abbreviated form of Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha, the original name of the company. In 1932, the company decided to rebrand itself and chose the name “Nikon” as a more internationally recognizable and marketable name. While “Nikon” does not have a specific meaning, it was selected for its simplicity and ease of pronunciation in different languages.
The founders of Canon Inc. were looking for a name that would be easily recognizable and memorable both within Japan and internationally. They chose “Canon” because it sounded sophisticated and suggested precision and accuracy, reflecting the company’s focus on camera and optical products. “Canon” is a made-up word that does not have a specific meaning related to the company’s products.
The name “Verizon” was specifically created for the telecommunications company formed in 2000 through a merger. The company chose the name to represent their commitment to providing reliable and truthful communication services with a forward-looking perspective. “Verizon” did not have any established meaning or usage before the company’s formation.
The name “Exxon” was created as a brand name for the multinational energy company Exxon Mobil Corporation. It was specifically chosen for its uniqueness and global appeal, without any inherent meaning or specific derivation from existing words or languages.
Xerox Corporation, known for its photocopier and printing products, introduced the term “Xerox” as its new name in 1961. The word “Xerox” itself is a coined word, created by combining the syllables “xer” (derived from “xerography,” the electrostatic photocopying process) and “ox” (to imply speed and reliability). This unique and memorable name has become widely recognized and synonymous with photocopying.
The name “Google” is a made-up name. It was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google Inc., while they were developing the search engine. The name “Google” is a play on the word “googol,” which refers to the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. The name “Google” was chosen to represent the company’s mission to organize the vast amount of information available on the web. It has since become one of the most recognizable and influential brands globally.
The name “Lyft” is a made-up word. The ride-sharing company Lyft was founded in 2012, and the name was specifically chosen to reflect the company’s mission of providing a friendly and enjoyable transportation experience. While the exact origin or meaning of the name “Lyft” has not been officially disclosed, it was created to evoke a sense of lifting spirits, fostering community, and creating positive connections between drivers and passengers. The name “Lyft” has since become associated with the company’s brand and services in the transportation industry.
Canva is a graphic design and publishing platform founded in 2012. The name “Canva” was derived from the word “canvas,” which refers to a surface on which artists create their artwork. The founders of Canva, Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams, wanted a name that conveyed the idea of a blank canvas and the creative possibilities it offers. They modified the word “canvas” to “Canva” to create a unique and memorable brand name for their platform.
Grammarly is an online writing assistance tool that helps users improve their grammar, spelling, and writing style. The name “Grammarly” was specifically created as a brand name for the tool. It combines the word “grammar,” which relates to the focus on writing correctness, with the suffix “-ly” that is commonly associated with adverbs. The result is a unique and catchy name that conveys the purpose and functionality of the tool.
Nike is a well-known global sportswear and athletic brand. The company was founded in 1964 and initially operated under the name Blue Ribbon Sports. In 1971, the company rebranded and adopted the name “Nike” inspired by the Greek goddess of victory, Nike (pronounced “ny-kee”). The name “Nike” was chosen to reflect the company’s vision of helping athletes achieve victory and success in their pursuits. It has since become one of the most recognizable and influential brands in the sports industry.
Scion was a brand of vehicles owned by Toyota Motor Corporation from 2003 to 2016. The name “Scion” was specifically created as a brand name for this line of vehicles. It was chosen to convey a sense of youthful energy, innovation, and the emergence of a new generation. The word “Scion” itself means “descendant” or “heir” in English, suggesting a fresh and forward-thinking approach to automotive design and targeting younger demographics.
“Nikon” is derived from the Japanese name “Nikko,” which is the abbreviated form of Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha. The company was founded in Japan in 1917 under the name Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha, which translates to “Japan Optical Industries Corporation” in English. In 1932, the company decided to rebrand itself and chose the name “Nikon” as a more internationally recognizable and marketable name. The word “Nikon” itself does not have a specific meaning, but it was specifically selected for its simplicity and ease of pronunciation in different languages.
Toyota is a Japanese automotive manufacturer and one of the largest carmakers in the world. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937. The name “Toyota” is derived from the founder’s family name, Toyoda, with a slight change in spelling. The decision to change the spelling from “Toyoda” to “Toyota” was made for a few reasons, including the fact that the eight strokes required to write “Toyota” in Japanese characters are considered lucky and bring good fortune. Additionally, “Toyota” is easier to pronounce in some languages. The name has since become synonymous with the company and its vehicles globally.
When it comes to naming your own business, consider these insights from famous made-up names:
Distinctiveness: A made-up word can make your business stand out from the competition. It allows you to create a unique identity and avoid any existing associations.
Memorability: Aim for a name that is easy to remember and pronounce. A distinctive and catchy name will help your business stay top of mind with customers.
Brand Reflectiveness: Consider how the name aligns with your brand values, products, or services. It should evoke the desired feelings and convey the essence of your business.
Multilingual Considerations: If you plan to operate internationally or in diverse markets, ensure that the name is easy to pronounce and has no negative connotations across different languages and cultures.
Evocative Power: A well-chosen made-up word can spark curiosity and leave a lasting impression on customers. It allows you to shape and define the meaning of your brand.
Legal and Trademark Considerations: Before finalizing a name, conduct thorough research to ensure it is available for use and doesn’t infringe on any existing trademarks or copyrights.
Remember, the success of your business ultimately depends on the quality of your products or services, your customer experience, and your overall brand strategy. While a unique and memorable name can make a strong first impression, it is the holistic brand experience that will truly differentiate your business in the long run.
Whether you choose a descriptive name, a made-up word, or any other naming approach, invest time in crafting a name that represents your business’s values, resonates with your target audience, and sets the stage for future success.
Other brands’ names originated from the surnames of their founder or an existing word.
Ryobi is a brand known for its power tools, outdoor equipment, and related products. The name “Ryobi” is an abbreviation of “Ryōbi Seisakusho,” which in Japanese means “Ryobi Manufacturing Corporation.” The company was founded in Japan in 1943 and initially focused on making printing equipment. Over time, Ryobi expanded into various industries, including power tools. The name “Ryobi” was chosen to represent the company and has since become well-known in the power tool market.
The word “Honda” is not a made-up word. It is the family name of the company’s founder, Soichiro Honda. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., commonly known as Honda, is a well-known Japanese multinational corporation specializing in automobiles, motorcycles, and power equipment. The company was established by Soichiro Honda in 1948. The name “Honda” carries the personal significance of the founder’s family name and has become synonymous with the company’s brand identity and its various products across the globe.
The founders of Subway, Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck, named their sandwich shop “Pete’s Super Submarines” when they started in 1965. They later changed the name to “Subway” in 1968 to reflect the concept of serving sandwiches quickly and efficiently, akin to a subway system where trains move swiftly along designated paths. Over time, “Subway” has become widely recognized as a brand specializing in submarine sandwiches.
Amazon is a multinational technology and e-commerce company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994. The name “Amazon” was specifically chosen to reflect the vastness and scale of the company’s ambitions. It is inspired by the Amazon River, the largest river in the world, known for its size, power, and diversity. By naming the company “Amazon,” Bezos aimed to convey the idea that the company would offer a wide range of products, akin to the variety found in the Amazon rainforest. The name has since become synonymous with the company and its extensive online marketplace.
The original name of the company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 was “Cadabra, Inc.” Bezos initially registered his online bookstore venture under this name. However, he later decided to change it due to concerns that it sounded too similar to “cadaver.” After considering several alternatives, Bezos settled on “Amazon.com” as the new name for the company, reflecting his vision of a vast and diverse online marketplace. The name change to Amazon occurred before the company went public in 1997, and it has remained the company’s name ever since.
In conclusion, choosing the right name for your business is a critical aspect of building a strong brand identity. While some entrepreneurs opt for descriptive names, others embrace the power of made-up words to create unique and memorable brand names. The stories behind famous made-up names like Starbucks, Uber, Rolex, Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Verizon, Exxon, Xerox, Google, Lyft, Canva, Grammarly, Nike, Scion, and Toyota illustrate the thought processes and inspirations behind these successful brands.
By understanding the significance and creativity behind these names, you can gain inspiration for your own business naming journey. Consider factors such as distinctiveness, memorability, brand reflectiveness, multilingual considerations, evocative power, and legal considerations when crafting your business name. Ultimately, a well-chosen name can make a strong first impression, but it is the overall brand experience and customer satisfaction that will contribute to the long-term success of your business.