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Name Origins: The Story Behind the Brand Name

By Alan Brew

Ever find yourself asking “I wonder where they came up with that name?” Fascinated by the naming conventions behind some of the biggest brands? The origins of some brand names provide great color commentary. Here I share the brand development stories behind some well-known brand names. If you know how some other great brands got their names, please share.

Apple: various theories – for the favorite fruit of co-founder Steve Jobs and/or for the time he worked at an apple orchard. That’s co-founder Steve Wozniak’s story anyway.

ARAMARK: Like every business, ARAMARK started small. The year was 1936.The business vision of Davre Davidson was to put vending machines in factories and offices, then a novel concept. In 1959 the company became  Automatic Retailers of America, or ARA for short. It continued to diversify and expand and in 1968 ARA was selected to serve over one million meals to thousands of athletes at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. To reflect its growing range of services, the company changed its name to ARA Services in 1976 and then to ARAMARK in 1994.

Boeing: named after founder William E. Boeing. It was originally called Pacific Aero Products Co.

Cisco: short for San Francisco. It has also been suggested that it was “CIS-co”: Computer Information Services was the department at Stanford University where the founders worked.

DHL: A global leader in international express and logistics, DHL was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom and Robert Lynn.

Google: accidental misspelling of the mathematical term googol, proposed to reflect the company’s mission to organize the immense amount of information available online. BackRub was the working name before Google was decided on.

Honeywell: from the name of Mark Honeywell, founder of Honeywell Heating Specialty Co. It later merged with Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company and was finally called Honeywell Inc. in 1963.

Intel: from Integrated Electronics. Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore initially incorporated their company as N M Electronics. Intel purchased the name rights for $15,000 from a company called Intelco. (Source: Intel 15 Years Corporate Anniversary Brochure).

Kinko’s: from the college nickname of founder, Paul Orfalea. He was called Kinko because he had curly red hair. The company was bought by FedEx for $2.4 billion in 2004. For a transitional period it was known as Fedex Kinko’s until it became Fedex Office in June 2008.

Samsung: South Korea’s largest corporation. Samsung means three stars in Korean. The three stars disappeared form Samsung’s identity in March 1993 when Chairman Kun Hee Lee unveiled a new logotype by Lippincott Marguelies to mark the initiation of a new global identity system intended to position the company as a global electronics leader in the 21st century.