A unique name alone rarely accounts for a company's success, but a memorable moniker never hurts. Let this look at select brands and how their names came about - plus some general pointers - spark your own creative naming efforts.
Behind the Brand
Searching for your own winning brand name? Check out this handful of well-known organizations and brief backstories.
The name started as a joke about the amount of information the search engine could manage, or a 'googol' of information. (A 'googol' is the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.) After founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin presented their idea to an angel investor, they received a check made out to "Google."
The Taiwan-based PC maker was originally named Pegasus, after the winged horse in Greek mythology. Later, in order for the brand to appear higher in alphabetical listings, the founders later dropped the first three letters. In 1998, Asus created a spinoff company, Pegatron, making use of the previously dropped first letters of Pegasus.
Cisco is short for San Francisco, where the tech conglomerate was founded. According to the company's website, it's the reason the founders Leonard Bosack and Sidney Lerner branded its products with the lowercase "cisco." In a further tribute to its home city, Cisco's logo resembles the suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Canon was founded in 1933 under the name Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. Two years later, it adopted "Canon" after Kwanon, the company's first camera. Kwanon is the Japanese name of the bodhisattva (a person pursuing Buddhahood) of mercy. This name, per Canon's origin story "embodied the Company's vision of creating the best cameras in the world."
Coca-Cola's name derived from the the coca leaves and kola nuts used as flavoring in the soft drink. Eventually Coca-Cola creator John S. Pemberton changed the "K" of kola to "C," giving the brand logo a more fluid appearance
Ikea uses the first letters of founder Ingvar Kamprad's name and the first letters of the Swedish property and the village where he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
Lego is a combination of the Danish phrase "leg godt," which translates to "play well." Initially the company sold wooden toys and later switched to producing plastic bricks for building. 'Lego' also means "I put together" in Latin, but according to the Lego Group, this is a coincidence.
Reebok is an alternate spelling of "rhebok," an African antelope. Reebok's founders discovered the word in a South African dictionary that Reebok founder J.W. Foster's son owned.
The Japanese consumer electronics company is named after its very first product, an ever-sharp pencil created in 1915, before expanding its product portfolio far beyond writing tools.
The software company behind Movable Type blogware, the blog hosting service TypePad, and Vox has a fun story behind the name: its co-founders, Ben and Mena Trott, were born six days apart.
The original prototype of the company's flagship product had the name "Sky-Peer-to-Peer," which was shrunk down to Skyper, then finally to Skype.
Verizon is a combination of the words "veritas," which is Latin for "truth," and "horizon."
Questions to consider
1. How can you create a unique brand name?
Try looking for a word or combination of words that communicates something meaningful to your audience. Your name should also be a distinctive and unique selling point for your brand.
Keep in mind that having something easy to spell will help customers easily find you online.
2. How do you brainstorm brand names?
You can come up with a cool brand name by brainstorming, but you need a place to start. Creative business names can be based on a real or fictional person, a descriptive name that describes what the company does, a fabricated name, a metaphor, or a combination of two words together.
3. What makes a brand name catchy?
A brand name should have a nice ring to it and sound good out loud. It should be short, simple, memorable, and easy to pronounce. If it's something fun with a unique back story, that's a great way to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
Creating a unique brand name can be fun and well worth the effort. Once you have your name, make sure to take steps to protect it.
A version of this article was originally published on July 08, 2010.
Photo: Getty Images