We’re all so used to big brand names forcing their way into our lives on a daily basis that they all can start to bleed into the background. Sure, while these brands might be popular, few of us ever consider the thought that went into their creation.
Well, it turns out these brand names are almost always selected with a specific message or idea in mind. Some utilize clever wordplay while others make historical references. Each one has its own intriguing backstory!
Want to know the origins of the biggest brand names in the world? Then have a look for yourself…
1. Volkswagen: In German, Volkswagen translates to “people’s car.” The idea behind the company’s creation and name was that, at the time it was started in the 1930s, cars were mostly still luxury items. Thus, Volkswagen wanted to make automobiles more available to the average citizen.
2. Nokia: In 1865, a Finnish man named Frederik Idestam opened a single paper mill. He was so successful that he opened a second one, which happened to stand next to the Nokianvirta River. Inspired by the body of water, he named his company Nokia AB. Over the years, the company nabbed a slice of a variety of markets, including generators and, eventually, electronic goods.
In 1982, Nokia made the first digital phone call and it became a staple of the industry shortly thereafter.
3. Cadillac: Named after 1600s French soldier and explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac, this car company eventually emerged from the second failed business attempt of Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford.
4. 3M: Short for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 3M was originally a slow start for the five business men who developed the brand in the early 1900s. Their first project was mining the mineral corundum at Crystal Bay. While doing so, they realized that the mineral had adhesive elements.
Without a plan of what to do, the men of 3M began taking pitches from common people, and in 1923, they had their first break: Scotch Tape! Over time, they built the company into the adhesives conglomerate that it is today.
5. Asus: While this company has long claimed that its model embodies “strength, purity, and adventurous spirit,” it only makes sense that it’d be named after a derivative word from Greek mythology: Pegasus. Rumors have long been spread that they dropped the “Peg” part as a means for their name to land higher on alphabetical lists.
6. Arm & Hammer: If you’ve ever wondered why a baking soda company would have an arm and hammer as its logo, you’re not alone. It turns out, the name stems from the god Vulcan in Roman mythology. He worked in metal and fire and embodied wildfires and volcanoes. He had so much destructive power that his temples were placed far away from cities in an effort to prevent fires.
This, Arm & Hammer believed, represented their ability to make dough rise.
7. Sharp: As Japan’s largest electronic manufacturer to date, you’d think its name was derived from something electronic-based—but it’s not! In 1915, Hayakawa Tokuji invented the mechanical pencil, and the accompanying patent called it “The Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil.” Naturally, he named the company Sharp.
Shortly thereafter, Tokuji paid off some debts by selling the company. Then, he moved to Osaka, Japan, where he began making radios. Eventually, the company grew to produce an array of different electronics.
8. Volvo: What started as a Swedish ball bearing company eventually became one of the largest car manufacturers in the world today. The name itself translates to “I roll” in Latin. Those ball bearings were surely rolling, but their cars are rolling a lot faster!
9. American Express: What started out as a speedy delivery service combating the American postal service in 1850 became a way for people to make purchases in the similarly quick fashion. The people behind the company noticed their largest profits came from performing trans-bank deliveries. So, eventually, they began leaning toward bank-related jobs, which led to them becoming a financial delivery team.
10. Bluetooth: This company’s brand name is a direct reference to Viking king Harald Blatland, whose surname actually translates to “bluetooth.” As the story goes, he had a dead tooth that was rumored to have turned blue over time. His most notable achievement was establishing a working relationship between two Viking parties without the use of violence. This, the technology company believed, was a practical method for the way they would like to conduct business.
Who could’ve guessed that these companies got their names from such strange places? It makes you wonder what other brand names have strange origins, too.
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