Brands are pretty inescapable. From the sheets and blankets you’re snuggled in to the fresh pot of coffee that mom’s brewing downstairs (assuming you still live at home), you’ll probably encounter over 200 brands before leaving your house in the morning.
And we’re willing to bet that some of them you either grew up on or frequently use were big iconic brands that went 180 for their rebrands.
Here are some of our favorite rebrands of the century.
Computing Tabulating Recording Company → IBM
Before it was known as this tiny, 3-lettered acronym, IBM was once that really really long name. It was a part of a list of 4 other bigger holding and manufacturing companies that produced products like employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, and even automatic meat slicing machines.
So where does the computer stuff come in?
The acquisition of Computer Tabulating Recording Company along with the unification or merger of 4 other companies, Bundy Manufacturing Company, International Time Recording Company, Tabulating Machine Company, and Computing Scale Company of America, happened in 1914. Then 10 years later in 1924, Thomas J. Watson founded the name IBM and served as the brand’s first president. Their new venture was the typewriter in the 1930’s and soon morphed into launching their first tech product, the Model 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine in 1953. You could even see the early IBM computer featured in Mad Men, Season 7, Episode 4.
Rowntree’s Chocolate Chip → KitKat
Here’s some history for you sweet tooths out there. Before the classic household candy was stocked in every cupboard, it was known as “Rowntree’s Chocolate Chip”. It was a British confectionery founded in the mid 1800’s and located in the northern part of England, a few hours away from merry-ol-London.
Their original products were milk chocolate chips with a mission to catch tails of the ultra-smooth milk chocolate of Cadbury (yes, the chocolate egg thingies). KitKat’s weren’t introduced into the British market or even the U.S. market until almost 100 years later in 1935. Rowntree was also the master manufacturer of other classic treats like Rolos, Smarties, Aero, Fruit Pastilles, and Quality Street brands.
Circling around KitKat’s timeless popularity, their original tagline (that’s still printed on all their wrappers) “Have a break, have a KitKat”, was created by Donald Gilles from J Wunderman Thompson London in 1957, almost 80 years ago. Then in 1986, Michael Levine, a composer, crafted the “Gimme a Break” jingle, that’s probably one of your childhood core memories.
These crispy, chocolate coated bars of segmented wafers definitely helps us get through our midday slump. And they’re intended to be eaten one broken-off piece at a time. If you’re biting into the bar and not breaking them off, we won’t judge, but you can’t sit with us.
Brad’s Drink → Pepsi
Brad or Caleb Bradham, was a pharmacist and gut health enthusiast from eastern North Carolina. He was obsessed with experimenting and creating fountain drinks that could help his patients with indigestion and gut issues. And in 1893, he successfully crafted the first “pepsi” drink by combining a mixture of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, kola nut extract, and vanilla to form a syrup to serve using his fountain machine. Caleb named his creation “Brad’s Drink”.
Yet in a few short years, in 1898, he renamed it “Pepsi Cola” because he felt like his drink was closely related to the pepsin enzyme which helps with digestion. He became the first President of Pepsi Cola Company and trademarked our favorite soda (or pop) in 1902 and the rest was . . .history, really. A trip to the grocery or convenience store won’t be complete without spotting a blue can with a dark blue and red symbol.
Next time your tummy is feeling icky, crack a Pepsi can and belch in Caleb’s honor.
Blue Ribbon Sports → Nike
Halt! This colossal shoe brand was known as Blue Ribbon Sports before it was bestowed with a Greek name. Originally founded in 1964 by Coach and student duo, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, it wasn’t until 1971 that Nike became the official name of the brand. Their symbolic swish logo was created by graphic design student Carolyn Davidson, also in 1971.
Those of you who are curious, Nike is the Goddess of Victory and was a part of the plethora of heroic Greek mythologies. She is depicted as a Goddess with a divine wing span and is said to bless the success of art, war, music, and athletic competitions. And throughout Greek history, Nike is closely associated with the grand ol’ Zeus and his daughter Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.
Goodfellow’s Dry Goods → Target
You might have noticed some brands back in the day loved descriptive and long-winded names. That’s how one of our favorite brands (and we know it’s yours too), Target stemmed. Previously known as Goodfellow’s Dry Goods in 1902, then Dayton Explored Discount Retail in 1903, the first Target officially opened its doors in 1962 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And did you know that there are Super Target stores that exist in various states? They’re designed to be about 50% bigger than normal Targets and some include a full bakery, banks/ATM services, and dine-in restaurants. Lastly, if you’re a true branding lover, Target’s personal brand, “Goodfellow & Co.”, pays homage to its OG name.
Brands Who Sliced Their Names & Honorable Mentions
Curious which other brands went through an identity change? We stumbled upon a few brands who went through a brief, “half rebrand” from the last few decades:
- Kentucky Fried Chicken → KFC (1991)
- Federal Express → FedEx (1994)
- British Petroleum → BP (1998)
- Apple Computers → Apple (2007)
- Starbucks Coffee → Starbucks (2011)
- Hewlett-Packard → HP (2015)
- Dunkin’ Donuts → Dunkin’ (2019)
- Jamba Juice → Jamba (2019)
That’s a wrap on our semi-rabbit hole of rebrand reviews. Now you’re probably wondering which other big names went through a rebrand during this century.
Olyvia Chac is a social and brand copywriter at Tanj.