“Yes, I’d like some Opal Fruits and a Marathon. To drink? Hmmmm, let’s see… how about a Brad’s Drink, please…”
That’s what we would be saying to the movie theater concession stand folks if the owners of Starburst, Snickers, and Pepsi hadn’t decided to rebrand to create the household names we know today.
For this Throwback Thursday, we’ve dug up 9 companies/brands whose names originally fell flat, but that reached a far greater audience once they selected a new name. Seriously, did you ever think a business named Back Rub would amount to anything on the World Wide Web? The owners of that company apparently didn’t. That’s why they renamed it, and to their credit. It’s done pretty well since then. The company? A little internet startup called… [What, you think we’d give it away this early? Read on to find out!].
1) Opal Fruits > Starburst
Starburst were originally manufactured by Mars in the UK and were marketed under the name Opal Fruits. When Opal Fruits were introduced in the United States in 1967, the name was changed to Starburst.
2) Marathon > Snickers
Okay, this is a little bit of a cheat; Snickers has been sold as Snickers in America since 1930. But it was marketed under the name “Marathon” in the UK and Ireland until 1990, when they decided to rebrand for global continuity. So Marathon became Snickers everywhere. And then in a nostalgic move, Mars, Inc. decided to bring back Marathon to the UK. The Snickers/Marathon candy is not to be confused with the braided caramel and chocolate Marathon Bar, which sadly disappeared in the early 80’s. Cadbury introduced the Curly Wurly bar as a throwback to that classic candy bar.
3) American Messenger Company > UPS
According to the UPS website:
“In 1907, two teenage entrepreneurs created what would become the world’s largest package delivery service. Starting in a Seattle basement with a $100 loan, Claude Ryan and Jim Casey opened the American Messenger Company. With telephones and automobiles scarce, the company fulfilled a range of tasks, from running errands and carrying notes on foot or on bicycle, to making home deliveries for drugstore customers. Their fledgling business entered a competitive marketplace, facing numerous firms that also specialized in message and parcel delivery.”
As for the rebranding to United Parcel Service or UPS:
“In 1919, the company made its first expansion beyond Seattle to Oakland, California, where the name United Parcel Service debuted. “United” reflected the company’s consolidated shipments, while “Parcel” indicated the kinds of deliveries the company made, and “Service,” noted Charlie Soderstrom, “is all we have to offer.” During the same year, Charlie was credited with the idea of painting all the company’s cars brown, chosen for its stately appearance.”
4) Service Games > Sega
Back In the 1940’s, three men in Honolulu, Hawaii got together to make coin operated games. Operating under the name Standard Games, the machines were made for men and women in the service and distributed to army bases. In 1950 they renamed themselves to Service Games (which seemed more fitting). Service Games merged with import business Rosen Enterprises in 1965 to create Sega Enterprises. The “SEGA” brand is simply the abbreviation for “SErvice GAmes”.
5) Back Rub > Google
Aren’t you glad they changed their name? According to Google’s history page, in 1996:
“Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] begin collaborating on a search engine called BackRub. BackRub operates on Stanford servers for more than a year—eventually taking up too much bandwidth.”
They must have quickly realized that such a silly name would probably rub people the wrong way, so they registered Google.com in September 1997.
And if you want to know more… Google it.
6) Brad’s Drink > Pepsi
In 1893, Pepsi was first introduced as “Brad’s Drink” in New Bern, North Carolina by Caleb Bradham. Bradham made and sold this beverage at his drugstore. Brad’s Drink was renamed Pepsi Cola in 1898, named after the digestive enzyme pepsin and kola nuts used in the recipe.
7) Jerry And Dave’s Guide to the World Wide Web > Yahoo
Like Google. Yahoo! was started by two guys at Stanford University who apparently had nothing better to do with their time. But before it was Yahoo! It was named “Jerry and Dave’s Guide to the World Wide Web.”
Just think if they had to yodel that line…
8) Sound of Music > Best Buy
Sometimes inspiration can rise from the ashes of destruction… One of the most profitable stores in the St. Paul, Minnesota-based electronics chain, Sound of Music, was hit by a tornado in 1981, destroying the showroom, but sparing the storeroom. The Sound of Music owner, Richard Schulze, held a sale in the store parking lot to get rid of the damaged and excess stock, and marketing the sale. Yep, you guessed it, the Sound of Music promised “best buys” on everything.
Because the sale brought in tons of cash (more money in four days than in a typical month) there was only one thing Schulze could do. The new company name, Best Buy Company, Inc., launched in 1983. According to Best Buy, “more than 70 percent of the [US] population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store…”
9) Blue Ribbon Sports —> Nike
Blue Ribbon Sports started when University of Portland track coach Bill Bowerman and a mid-distance runner, Phil Knight, got together to import running shoes from Japan. They began to sell the Japanese Onitsuke Tiger (now known as ASICS) running shoes, Blue Ribbon Sports opened up a retail outlet in Santa Monica, California and incorporated in the mid 1960’s. It remained Blue Ribbon Sports until approximately 1970, when one of the owners dreamed of the Greek goddess of victory: Nike.