Eponomy, or not Eponomy?

Eponymous brand names are those that use the name of the founder, inventor, or another person associated with the brand as the brand name. 

Inqdrop co-founder Jim Boulton

Using the founder's name as a brand name creates a personal connection between the brand and the founder. At the outset, they are undeniably authentic, helping customers feel more connected to the brand, increasing trust and loyalty. The brand name Ben & Jerry’s® is a good example.

Launched in 1978, Ben & Jerry’s® is named after co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

Eponymous brand names also gave the advantage of flexibility, adapting as the brand evolves. The name can be used for new products and services, or even different companies connected the same founder. This versatility is both a strength and a weakness, eponymous brands usually mean the consumer has to work harder to understand the offer.

However, the main criticism of eponymous brand names is that they can be perceived as a lazy or unimaginative choice. Unless you are blessed with a unique sounding name, like Gucci®, or Stüssy®, eponymous brand names can struggle to stand out from the crowd.

As a lift operator at the Savoy Hotel®, Guccio Gucci was impressed with the guests luxurious luggage. Upon returning to Florence in 1920, he established a shop selling fine leather goods.
Stüssy® was founded in the early 80’s by Shawn Stüssy to promote his handcrafted surfboards.

The middle way

Using the founders name as an inspiration for a brand name, rather than adopting it directly. Perhaps the simplest option is to tweak the spelling, as is the case for Bic® and Mazda®

Bic® was founded by Marcel Bich in 1945. He dropped the h to avoid mispronunciation in English speaking countries.
Founded in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo by Jujiro Matsuda. The first vehicle Mazda® produced was the Mazda-Go rickshaw, named after the Zoroastrian God of Light, Ahura Mazda. The company renamed itself Mazda® in 1984. 

Another option is to use a nickname, like Android® or Kinko’s®.

The Android® mobile operating system was created by Andy Rubin in 2003. His love of robots earned Rubin the nickname Android while working at Apple® in the 1980's. 
Founded in 1970, Kinko was the nickname of the frizzy haired founder, Paul Orfalea.

But there is no need to stop there. Adi Dassler famously created a portmanteau from his name to create Adidas®. Ingvar Kamprad combined his initials plus the first letters of his address to create IKEA®. Theodor Toble created the mountain-shaped chocoloate bar Toblerone®.

Adidas® is derived from the founders name Adi Dassler. His brother Rudi Dassler founded Puma®.
IKEA® is an acronym of Ingvar Kamprad, the founders name, Elmtaryd, the farm he grew up on, and Agunnaryd, his home village.
Created in Switzerland by Theodor Tobler in 1908. Toblerone® is a portmanteau of Tobler and torrone, the Italian for nougat.

A subtle hint

A subtler approach can also work. Audi® and Automattic® are inspired by the founders names without being completely obvious.

Following a legal dispute over the Horch name, August Horsch used the Latin translation of his name, Audi®, for his new company.
Funded in 2005 by Matt Mullenweg, the name Automattic® is suggestive of laboursaving and a play on its founder's name.

And who’s to say Phil Knight wasn’t inspired by his surname when he renamed his company Nike®? And is the fact that Alvy Ray’s company Pixar® ends with the letters AR a coincidence?

Founded in 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports, the company changed its name to Nike® in 1971, taking inspiration from the Greek goddess of victory. 
Pixar® co-founder Alvy Ray Smith invented the verb pixer meaning to make pictures, later replacing er with ar to give a more hi-tech feel reminiscent of Radar.

Eponymous names are often rightly criticised for lacking creativity but with a bit of imagination, a name can be be a great catalyst for a remarkable brand name.

Find out more

If you need advice on a name, or you'd like to find out more about our NameDek system, that reveals the secrets behind 100's of successful brand names, please get in touch.

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