- It’s not unusual for companies to rebrand themselves, but those original names tend to be forgotten.
- Some tech giants used to go by completely different names — Google was BackRub, eBay was AuctionWeb, and Amazon was Relentless.
- Many companies, like eBay, Nike, or Subway, changed their names just before becoming insanely popular.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ever heard of the search engine BackRub? Probably not — but you’ve definitely used it. The website that Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded in 1996 was rechristened Google a year later.
Companies undergo rebranding all the time, but occasionally their new names catch on so quickly that the old ones are virtually forgotten. In Google’s case, BackRub was still a relatively unknown side project for Brin and Page, until increasing traffic to the search engine prompted them to find a more marketable name.
Many of the companies on this list changed their names early on. In Best Buy’s case, they changed their name from Sound of Music just before they expanded their stores nationwide.
Here are some of the most drastic name changes undergone by today’s most recognizable companies. Note that, where possible, we’ve pointed out the logo changes if the original version is available in the public domain.
Brad’s Drink became Pepsi-Cola
According to ThoughtCo., Caleb Bradham invented what we know today as Pepsi back in 1893, after Coca-Cola had already been around for seven years. Bradham ran a pharmacy, and like many pharmacies at the time, it had a soda machine that Bradham created soft drinks with.
He ostensibly named his new concoction after himself — using a portion of his last name — until he changed the name to Pepsi-Cola in 1898, per The Pepsi Store website. The new name came as part of Pepsi-Cola’s health marketing strategy to make the drink’s name sound like "dyspepsia," a term for indigestion. The "Cola" portion of the name wasn’t dropped until the 1960s.
BackRub became Google
Before Google was the monolithic search engine we know today, it was called BackRub.
You may ask yourself why anyone would choose such an unmarketable name, but there was a (somewhat) practical reason. As previously reported by Business Insider, an early version of the search engine analyzed websites’ back links to see how high up on search results they should be placed.
"Google" came from a fellow Stanford student, who suggested "Googolplex," which is the name for 10 to the power of "googol." (A "googol" is 10100, written as 1 followed by 100 zeroes.) Eventually, the name was reconfigured to "Googol," then finally to its current form, apparently thanks to a simple spelling error. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the new domain name on September 15, 1997, and the rest is history.
Sound of Music became Best Buy
Before it was a national chain, electronics superstore Best Buy was an independent stereo equipment store called Sound of Music, according to the company’s corporate blog. It first opened in 1966, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a year after the hit musical "The Sound of Music" hit theaters.
But by the 1980s, founders Richard M. Schulze and James Wheeler realized they had a successful venture on their hands when they had seven stores and $10 million in annual sales. Their success stemmed from big spending on ads for sales with the "best buys" available, which inspired them to change their name in 1983. They opened their first superstore the next year, and business only got better.
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