What’s in a Name? Rebranding Yourself

All it takes to fail is a bad name. Even if you are talented and full of good ideas, your name can still sink you.

The Wall Street Journal recently proved this point in a piece about the difficulty of finding a good band name. They described the downfall of a Scottish band called Captain America from the early 1990’s. In 1992, the band got a record deal and was slated to open for Nirvana (a dream gig at the time), but then Marvel comics accused them of trademark infringement and forced the band to change their name.

“With its first U.S. record already in the pipeline, the group rechristened itself Eugenius, a reference to leader Eugene Kelly,” the Journal reported. Unfortunately, fans did not like the name change and the band soon disappeared into obscurity.

Don’t let that happen to you. Here are six artists and companies who recognized their poor name choice and made a much needed change. You can judge for yourself whether these big names would have been as successful with their original moniker.

1. David Bowie: The musical chameleon is known for changing his appearance and music every year, but what’s less known is that he also changed his name. Bowie was born David Jones, but the name was too common – in fact, at the time Bowie was starting out, there was already a famous Davy Jones (the lead singer of the Monkees.)

2. Jack White: The lead singer of the White Stripes may be one of the most talented namers in contemporary music. In addition to that band, he also can take credit for The Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. But his very first band was called The Upholsterers, an unfortunate name. Of course, it is worth noting that White was actually working in upholstery at the time, so there was a good reason for the name. But still.

3. Google: These days, Google is a noun and a verb, which is a testament to its power as a brand name. It’s based on the word googol, meaning 10 to the 100th power. Kind of cool. But before that, the founders of Google considered several terrible names, even making some official at different stages in their career. Two that stand out are The Whatbox and Backrub. Just imagine how much different the world would be if people were saying they just “backrubbed” you…

4. Yahoo: It would be unfair for us to leave out the other search giant. Yahoo was originally called Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web after the co-founder, Jerry Yang. Yikes!

5. Pepsi: The original version of Pepsi soda was actually called Brad’s drink, after its creator, Caleb Bradham, but the name was changed in 1898 for good.

6. Radiohead: Before they took over the modern music landscape, Radiohead used to go by the name On A Friday, which was the day the band would get together to practice. Luckily, they decided to borrow the name of a Talking Heads song.


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