What’s in a name? 4 brands names and why they’re unforgettable

Take a look around wherever you are right now. Right this second. Take a look. What do you see? A screen? A desk? What about out of the window? A car? A shop? Somebody on their morning run?

Now take a closer look.

The second time you’ll see things again, but somehow, differently.

The Mind’s Eye distorts, or clarifies our physical vision. It shapes our reality. So just exactly what am I on about here?

Well, brands do something similar, by playing upon how our Mind’s Eye shapes our experiences and gives new meaning, tells us all a different story depending on how we see that brand. It comes down to the tiniest detail. The shape of a logo. Where and when we were when we first saw it. The jingle.

Who doesn’t remember their first pair of Nike trainers? Or Adidas trainers? Or whichever one it was? The swoosh. The stripes. The crocodile. The polo player.

Frank Ocean’s ‘Nikes’ makes explicit reference to the significance of a pair of said shoes, but with dark undertones that demonstrates how something seemingly small, like a brand, actually filters through our consciousness and becomes part of our concept of reality.

  • So why are some brands so potent?
  • Why and how have they left such an impression?

Here’s we’ll pull apart some of the most iconic brands and attempt to decipher just how these brands manage to achieve such omnipresence.


Did you know ‘Nike’ is in fact the name of a Ancient Greek goddess that personifies ‘victory’?

Even if you didn’t, knowing the origin suddenly breathes new life into something you always felt you knew.

And how do you pronounce it? ‘Nike’ as in ‘bike’ or ‘Nike-y’ as in ‘crikey’?

The pronunciation bit is important. It’s divisive. People, places, regions choose their way and stick to it.

And the swoosh. The swoosh, that inimitable symbol that says sport. It says ‘Just do it’, even without the words; it speaks volumes without saying a thing. Then there’s the mythology of the logo and how it was conceived.

The fact it was originally considered nothing particularly special only adds to its effectiveness. It’s like magic.

The shape, the name, the slogan, they’ve become part of our collective consciousness, and it’s as if knowing less about Nike, the pronunciation, the logo, the meaning of the word, these things have come to shape our understanding, or rather, the mystery of the brand. And who doesn’t love a bit of mystery?


Old McDonald had a restaurant and he franchised that restaurant and eventually there were 36,615 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide.

Forbes points out that to create an effective brand you need to “create a positive image”. McDonald’s deliberate association with a children’s ditty which evokes innocent imagery of farming, community and simplicity is vital given the company’s global presence.

Similarly, the logo is unmistakeable.

“Imagine your company sign above your building doorway. Does it look visually appealing from afar?” Forbes asks.

We’ve all driven along a road and seen the iconic McDonald’s ‘M’ in the distance, like a lighthouse. It’s become a part of our childhood, our adulthood and ultimately the brand has become iconic thanks in part, undoubtedly to the connotative qualities of its name and the effective integration of a well-designed logo.


Take a close look at the Amazon logo. Can you see it?

It’s a smile. The arrow. It’s a smile. Now you’re smiling because you’ve spotted it. It’s infectious.

Amazon is also a vast rainforest which covers 5,500,000 square kilometres. So the name is actually symbolic of something vast, implying an infinite catalogue or space.

Ok, so that’s the rainforest, the smile, but is there something else here we’re missing? Yes.

A-Z. Spot it? The smiling arrow literally goes from A-Z, again reiterating the idea Amazon has everything.

An expert speaking to Business Insider notes, “A name is how a company introduces itself, so there’s a lot of weight on the name initially. But we always look at it from the perspective of it being rooted in the strategy, and it’s going to have other things that reinforce it, like the logo.”

Amazon’s logo does this; it embodies the way the company works and how it wishes to be perceived.


“I am here in this critical ocean to kill whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs; and that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew.”

That’s not the Starbucks company slogan. It’s actually about Starbuck, one of the mates on board the Pequod, the ship of Captain Ahab who’s aim is to take down the white whale, or Moby Dick.

So why is it so memorable?

The character himself is a religious man, but that bears little relation to the choosing of the name. “The sound just made sense”, according to the founders.

However, the logo is related to the nautical origins. Yet it is still not exactly common knowledge.

Perhaps that’s why it works. Like Nike, appeals to our sense of mystery, even when, like a tick or a mermaid, there’s an obvious origin to the logo. That original image is altered just enough to be new, to be different.

It’s now the unforgettable symbol of coffee. Starbucks also benefits, of course, from its social media presence, which Forbes outlines as needing to be “consistent, unique, and engaging,” and “characterises the most memorable brands.”

So how do you create your brand?




Who knows what the next great idea will be?

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