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August 30, 2005

Do You Drive a "Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget?"

Company monikers have a way of burrowing into our collective unconscious until a meaningless combination of syllables becomes synonymous with tea as in Lipton or soft drinks as in Pepsi. And while appropriate choices may change over time, a solid handle will reward a brand with generations of buyers.

Nestles LogoOne popular tactic early on in branding was to dub a company after the founder. Nestlé, for example, is the junior of proud parent Henri Nestlé, whose given name is German means "bird's nest." This explains why the chocolate company's curious logo is a bird nest with two cheeping youngsters. Adidas also celebrates its founder - culled from Adolf (Adi) Dassler - since Adolf might be less of a selling point.

Other companies find inspiration in literature. Starbucks began life as a character in Moby Dick, although by now students may wonder if Captain Ahab enjoyed a half decaf latte before going after the whale. Verizon applied the classics, by combining the Latin "veritas" (or truth) with horizon.

SAAB Logo A Swedish car manufacturer might have had fewer sales had it stuck with "Svenska Aeroplan aktiebolaget" (Swedish Aeroplane Company). Luckily, this was soon abbreviated into SAAB. By the way, "do you drive a SAAB?"

Hyundai and Samsung, two Korean companies, used their native language to attract international buyers. Samsung translates to "three stars" (which begs the question: is three stars the highest rating in Korea?), while Hyundai is Korean for "modernity" or "the present age." In English, of course, it means "good gas mileage."

Sharp Electronics decided to take the name of their first product when the company was launched. And that product happened to be an ever-sharp pencil.

Are there any company names that have you scratching your head as to their origins?

Posted by Diane Prange at August 30, 2005 2:07 PM
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