Alongside logo design, brand names are one of the most vital parts of a brand identity. The conventional wisdom is that choosing the right one takes a lot of thought, but the stories behind some of the world's biggest brand names sometimes reveal apparently haphazard choices, as this Twitter thread demonstrates.
The mobile operating system Android has a suitable futuristic, techy-sounding name, but it turns out its story is more personal. Android was apparently its founder's nickname. Other random name choices mentioned in the feed below include a company name inspired by events outside of the business's control (for more stories see the best branding books and our own piece on how the world biggest brands got their names.
How did these brands get their names?Here are some of their stories… 🧵 pic.twitter.com/YtxXAKWNEpMay 21, 2023
In the Twitter thread above, Bloomberg anchor Jon Erlichman considers the stories of nine brand names. The most surprising one has to be the suggestion that Android, the mobile operating system that was bought by Google in 2005, was named after the nickname of its cofounder, the programmer Andy Rubin. Apparently, Rubin picked up the soubriquet when he worked at Apple because of his interest in robots. Until 2008, his personal website was android.com.
The name brings up lots of sci-fi connections and may seem like a strange choice at first, potentially conjuring up fears of a dystopian future. But, unlike the term 'cyborg', androids are designed to look like humans, so the choice was perhaps seen to fit the intention of creating mobile tech that felt human and accessible (many will recall that updates used to be named after confectionary products like Cupcake and KitKat to reflect how sweet they made our lives.
The name of Android's current owner, Google, was, of course, an accidental misspelling of 'googol'. As for Apple's iPhone, Erlichman recalls that as well as 'internet', Apple considered the 'i' to represent 'individual, instruct, inform, inspire'. All very Apple, but at least it ditched its other options, which included Telepod, Mobi, Tripod and even iPad.
Other fun stories are that the Frisbie Pie Co changed its name based on a completely unintended recreative use of its packaging. It learned that students had begun calling its products 'frisbees' based on a trend of using the empty pie tins as such. As for Kleenex, the 'Kleen' part is clear, but the 'ex' was chosen to show that it was part of a family with manufacturer Kimberly-Clark's Kotex menstrual pads.
Some of the stories shared are more obvious. Jacuzzi was the surname of the device's founders, who originally made jet propellers, Band-Aid is logically a combination of 'bandage' and 'first aid', and Doritos comes from Spanish (Erlichman suggests they "added a 'd'" to the word 'oro', but the name is actually a contraction of the diminutive 'doraditos', or little golden ones).