I recently saw The Founder, a film about the life of Ray Croc. He was the person who turned the fast-food restaurant McDonald’s into a franchise, and bought the company from its founders: the brothers Mac and Dick McDonald.
There’s a scene in the film where Dick asks Ray why he didn’t just steal their idea and slap his name on it. Ray says this wouldn’t have worked, because no one would want to eat at a place called Kroc’s.
He explains he had to have the McDonald’s name, because it’s “all-American”. It’s a beacon for its target audience: families, who are sick of eating at other roadside diners because they were hangouts for teenagers and “juvenile delinquents”. Families wanted somewhere they could take their children and eat in peace.
This exchange of dialogue got me thinking about what brand names can represent.
What’s in a name?
The supermarket Aldi is a merging of the words Albrecht and diskont. The former is the surname of its founders, Karl and Theo, and the later is the German term for discount. Which is ideal, since Aldi is seen as a cheaper alternative to its competitors.
Lego is a contraction of the Danish phrase ‘leg godt’, which in English means ‘play well’. As Lego is a toy, this makes the name a good fit.
Volkswagen means ‘people’s car’. The brand came around at a time when German roads were reserved for the rich, which made it significant.
And the term Nivea comes from the Latin word Niveus, which means Snow White. Conveniently enough, a lot of their skin care products are this colour.
Even more stories
If you enjoyed this post, you can learn the stories behind even more brand names here.