In the great history of business, there have been some truly awful and truly brilliant rebrands. Technology services giant IBM was once called ‘Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation’, eBay used to be ‘AuctionWeb’, and Pepsi-Cola was once named ‘Brad’s Drink’.
While Brad probably deserves more justice, business name changes can often be an obvious choice, but can also leave customers scratching their heads.
Australian design giant Envato switched its name up from ActiveDen, or ‘Eden’, about 10 years ago, with founder Collis Ta’eed saying in a blog post the switch to being called ‘Envato’ would be an easy one due to it being a made-up word.
“As far as I know it doesn’t mean anything in any non-English languages (though I’ve heard it’s akin to the Mexican Spanish slang for dude), but I’d love to hear if it does have any other translations that we’ve missed, especially if they are funny!” Ta’eed said at the time.
However not all users loved the change, with many sounding out in the comments of the blog to tell Ta’eed the change was “not as catchy” and even “kinda… dirty”.
So what about other Aussie companies who switched up their name? Here’s why some of them chose to — or were forced to — change their business names.
1. From Acorns to Raiz
In a recent example, micro-investing startup Acorns had to switch up its name and pick out an entirely new one after the Australian side of the business split from US company Acorns Grow, a company it was in a joint venture with.
The app was well-established in Australia at the time with over $150 million funds in management, so changing the startup’s name was a tough ask.
“We came up with over 500 names, and the top 50 names we did URL searches and [found] they are gone, and the next 50 names, maybe 10 of them will come up and you send them over to your lawyer, and they come back and say no way,” Raiz managing director George Lucas told SmartCompany at the time.
2. From ZaraBumba to Z and Co
For reasons some savvy readers might have already spotted, Canberra business ZaraBumba was required to change its name back in 2014 after Spanish retail giant Zara decided to foray Down Under.
“It was basically an infringement notice on the Zara trademark. They said my business name was too similar to Zara and that I was using the Zara name to better my business,” ZaraBumba founder Neda Luketic told SmartCompany at the time.
Despite advice from her lawyers at the time that it would be possible to retain the ‘Zara’ part of her name, the business owner chose to rebrand to Z and Co due to the costs of defending her trademark in court being “prohibitive”.
“A lot of small business owners, especially mums who operate their businesses from home, don’t know about trademark issues,” she said at the time.
3. From ISIS Group to SHAPE
There are no points for working out why this business had to change things up, with a business name unfortunately similar to jihadist militant group ISIS. The business told news.com.au it was planning a name change after receiving messages via social media calling them “terrorist al-Qaeda bastards” and “ISIS pieces of shit”.
“In recent weeks we have instructed our workers to stop wearing ISIS-branded clothing and are also in the process of scaling back on-site branding to limit attention from misinformed people and ensure the safety of our employees,” chief executive Michael Barnes said in a statement in 2014.
“We are upset that what we stand for is becoming eroded by the Islamic State.”
Today, the company is known as SHAPE, a much less problematic name.
4. From Muber to Mobey
Finally, Australian delivery startup Muber was required to switch its business name to Mobey after receiving a cease and desist from international ride-share giant Uber. However, at the time, the business owner said naming his business something similar to Uber was an intentional move, designed to draw a link between the two.
“Uber is not a unique name; it is not a unique word. The only reason Uber wanted us to change the name was because we adopt a similar business practice they do in terms of the method of operation,” Manne Padowitz, general manager of Mobey said at the time.
However, IP law expert Narissa Corrigan warned businesses against undertaking the same practice.
“Business can’t come up with a name that is similar to another business because it could well be misleading or deceptive or had potential to be misleading or deceptive,” she said at the time.