By Lou Carlozo, dealnews contributor
When it comes to chains like Walgreens, Macy's, or McDonald's, you don't have to be a genius to figure out the establishments were named after someone who got the enterprise off the ground, but wherefore Target? What inspired Pizza Hut? Does Starbucks have its roots in mariner lore, marketing smarts, or both?
You can keep imagining what the story behind Apple Computers is, too, or we can talk about how the tech company and six other major national brands chose their names.
Apple Computer: Love at First Byte
the tale of Steve Jobs suggesting the name Apple after a trip to an Oregon commune called "The Apple Orchard." Wozniak's reply: "What about Apple Records?" The two brainstormed for untold hours: "We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn't think of any good ones. Apple was so much better than any other name we could think of," Wozniak wrote. So they dubbed their company Apple, and The Beatles indeed sued the company in 1989. But everything worked out for all parties in the end: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Target: A Blurt Hits the Bullseye
Pizza Hut: A Sign of Ingenuity
was wide at the top and tapered down at the bottom and there was room for only five letters on the top line and three letters on the bottom line. 'Pizza' obviously had to be on top. But Pizza what? Pizza Pad? Pizza Inn? Pizza Pan? Pizza Jug? Dan's wife, Beverly, mentioned that she thought the building looked like a hut. The decision was made. The name of the pizzeria would be Pizza Hut, and it made enough money for the Carneys that they could well have renamed it Pizza Bank Vault.
Amazon: A River Runs Through It
There are lots of stories about the pluck that Jeff Bezos displayed when starting his online retail operation. Doors and caution horses were fashioned into the first makeshift Amazon office desks, but who thought up that name and why? Originally called "Cadabra"and in 1994, "Abracadabra," Bezos changed direction "after he heard his lawyer call it 'cadaver' by mistake." Bezos quickly renamed the company after the Amazon River for two reasons: "One, to suggest scale (Amazon.com was launched with the tagline 'Earth's biggest book store') and two, back then website listings were often alphabetical." The arrow that runs beneath A to Z in the logo was introduced in 2000, representing that the mega retailer carry every product from A to Z.
Starbucks: Starts with an "S-T"
an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo." As soon as he saw Starbo, he jumped to Melville’s first mate named Starbuck in Moby-Dick. "But Moby-Dick didn’t have anything to do with Starbucks directly," nor did the awful-sounding runner-up name: "Cargo House." Imagine the repercussions: "I'll have a Mocha Cookie Crumble Cargochino."
eBay: Buy It Now
eBay, did a quick check and found the domain name available. He bought it, and we're pretty sure that eBay.com is not up for auction at any price. By the way, EchoBay.com still exists: It is the home of Echobay Partners, LLC "a private fund management company, specializing in the trading of fundamental, discretionary, diversified commodity intensive portfolios."
The Gap: It's in the Jeans
the generation gap." Interestingly enough The Gap sold records as well as pants when it first opened, but founder Donald Fisher almost went bankrupt on this idea until he took out ads selling four tons of jeans at bargain-basement prices. The Gap moniker hardly fits now, though, as you can shop for adults, kids, babies, and probably some cool grandparents who bought hippie clothes at the very first Gap stores.
So what's in a retail name? Whether inspired by desperation, inspiration, or simplification, there's no exact formula to pin down what makes a label stick. Maybe it's the repetition involved. Maybe it's a question of a powerful image: An apple, after all, is easier to visualize than a "microsoft," whatever that is. Just remember that every name carries with it a story, and almost always, that story speaks to a founder or entrepreneur who took an inventive step into the unknown.