7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame

By Madz Dizon

May 26, 2024 07:38 AM EDT

Have you ever wondered how your favorite brands received their names? You may be shocked to hear that many of them started with completely different identities.

Indeed, a brand name is a valuable asset that sets you apart from your competitors. It is a fact that the majority of products and services can be replicated over a period of time.

The brand name is an essential element that cannot be replicated. Being a registered trademark, a brand name is protected. This intellectual property holds significant value, comparable to that of a patent. Choosing distinctive product names has become increasingly crucial.  

In this article, we'll dig into the intriguing realm of brand evolution, exploring the stories of great companies that experienced revolutionary name changes on their way to becoming popular brands. 

From Brad's Drink to Pepsi

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
Cans of Pepsi soda are seen on display at a Target store on February 09, 2024 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn borough New York City.
(Photo : Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

With a history dating back to 1898, Pepsi has a rich and fascinating background that began with the creation of what was originally known as Brad's Drink.

Brad's Drink has a fascinating origin story. According to DNCR, it was actually named after Caleb D. Bradham, a pharmacist who invented the soda that eventually became known as Pepsi.

Doctor Bradham was dissatisfied with the name his concoction was being sold under, so he decided to find a new name. He discovered a local competitor called "Pep-Cola" and decided to use that name instead. After acquiring the rights to the name, he swiftly rebranded it as Pepsi-Cola.

From AuctionWeb to eBay

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
The eBay homepage appears on a screen in Washington on September 3, 2010.
(Photo : NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1995, eBay was launched under the name AuctionWeb as one of the four sites belonging to Pierre Omidyar's umbrella company, eBay Internet.

Among the other three sites were a travel site, a personal shipper site, and a site dedicated to the Ebola virus. In response to the media's use of the name AuctionWeb to refer to the company, eBay decided to officially change its name in 1997. 

From Facemash to Facebook

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
A smartphone and a computer screen displaying the logos of the social network Facebook and its parent company Meta.
(Photo : LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook, originally known as Facemash, was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University, in 2003.

The online platform initially served as a space for students to browse through photos of their peers and provide ratings based on physical appearance. 

The endeavor came to an abrupt end after just two days when Harvard authorities intervened, citing Zuckerberg's unauthorized use of university resources.

Following an unsuccessful initial endeavor, Zuckerberg decided to give his project a fresh start and renamed it 'The Facebook' in January 2004, as per ThoughtCo.

Eventually, the name was deemed more suitable for the inaugural social media platform, leading to the removal of 'the' from its name. 

From Blue Ribbon Sports to Nike

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
Nike shoes are displayed at a Macy's store on March 21, 2024 in San Francisco, California. Athletic footwear and apparel maker Nike will report third quarter earnings today after the closing bell. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Nike, Inc., is a renowned global brand in the sports and athleticwear industry, known for its size and recognition. 

In the late 1950s, Phil Knight crossed paths with Bill Bowerman, a track and field coach at the University of Oregon. Bowerman had a deep passion for equipping his athletes with top-notch running shoes.

Following the completion of his master's degree at Stanford, Phil brought back to Oregon a wealth of expertise in shoe production and distribution. He then joined forces with his former coach to establish Blue Ribbon Sports. 

During the years 1964 to 1971, Knight operated under a different name as he focused on designing shoes. He successfully sold his designs to a larger company known as the Tiger Shoe Company, which is now called Asics.

In 1971, Knight had a desire to break away from Tiger and give his successful design, known as the "Cortez," a new identity. He also had plans to introduce other designs to the market. This is when the name Nike first emerged, according to Britanica.

From Confinity to PayPal

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
A PayPal sign is seen at its headquarters on January 30, 2024 in San Jose, California. PayPal announced plans to lay off 2,000 employees or 7 percent of its workforce.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In 1998, Peter Thiel and Max Levchin founded PayPal, a pioneering online payment platform. In the past, the startup was known as Confinity, a name that evokes a sense of community and boundaries. The company's initial goal was to develop an affordable online payment solution that could be used by businesses and consumers alike. 

In late 1999, Confinity introduced its groundbreaking product, PayPal.In March 2000, Confinity merged with X.com, which was founded by Elon Musk.

According to Wikipedia, the merged company was rebranded as X.com due to its perceived long-term potential, surpassing Confinity and PayPal. Following a significant corporate restructuring, which resulted in the departure of Elon Musk, the company underwent a name change and became PayPal Inc.

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From Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo to Sony 

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
The Sony logo is displayed at an electronic goods store in Tokyo on April 28, 2021.
(Photo : YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1946, a radio repair shop called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo was established. It gained recognition for creating Japan's first transistor radio in 1955 and the world's first transistor television in 1960. In 1958, the company underwent a name change to Sony Corporation. 

From Backrub to Google

7 Iconic Brands With Surprising Names Before Getting Into Fame
Figurines next to a screen displaying a logo of Google, a US multinational technology company.
(Photo : SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)

A love for wordplay and quirky yet meaningful company names is evident in Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin's choices. When Page and Brin co-founded what later became known as Google, they initially named it Backrub, inspired by the program's analysis of back-links on the internet.

The company stumbled upon the name Google by accident in 1997 when a team member made a typo. This play on words served their purpose for just over a year, from 1995 to 1997. 


The success or failure of a brand often hinges on its name. It's exciting to discover that many famous businesses initially had entirely different names. 

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