The Meaning Behind Your Favorite Brands and Character Names
Many famous companies use any acronym or initials, so their brand name is easier to remember. There are countless companies that choose to do this
Some acronyms have a story behind them, while others were chosen strictly for marketing purposes. Here are some of the most commonly known acronyms and initialisms.
1. L.L. Bean
Outdoor clothing company L.L. Bean is named for the man who founded the company in 1912. Leon Leonwood Bean himself was a fisher and hunter. Shoppers at the flagship store, which never closes, are greeted by the sight of a size 410 boot. Once they enter the store, they have access to its aquarium, home to an eight-pound trout.
When the company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012, they built what they called a bookmobile. Locals loved it so much that a second bookmobile was built, though it is rarely seen on the road.
Though most people know A&W as root beer, it is also the name of a restaurant chain, where the drink was famously served. The company was founded by Frank Wright and Roy Allen, who merged their initials to come up with its name.
The soda was first served at a drink stand participating in a homecoming parade that honored those who served in World War II, upon their return home. Since then, A&W Root Beer has remained popular with 1,109,934 gallons (ca. 4,202 m³) served both inside and outside the U.S. in 2018.
CVS was shortened from its original name of Consumer Value Store. Though it is known primarily as a pharmacy, it is also a popular store to purchase nail polish from. In fact, in 2014, the company sold 21 million units of nail polish that the calendar year alone.
The first CVS Pharmacy store opened in 1963 and was in Lowell, MA, and there are more than 9,600 CVS Pharmacy locations scattered across 49 states and Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Brazil.
M&Ms are named for the two men who created them. Forrest Mars Sr and William Murrie, whose father was the President of the Hershey chocolate company, joined forces in 1941 so that Mars could use Hershey’s chocolate to make the candy. Though the partnership between the two men didn’t last, the name of the candy caught on with people all over the country.
However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the candies began to have the letter M printed on them. For the first four years, the letters were painted black, but the company would later switch to white, which they still use to print each M. Though the candy was very popular for the first three decades it was on the market, M&Ms were never sold in countries outside the U.S. until the 1980s.
BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, which is a multinational company based in Germany. Though they are synonymous with the luxury car brand, the company originally sold airplane engines. World War I was taking place when the company began, and it was known for providing engines for planes used in the war.
The two engines the company produced that were the most successful were both given the name BMW. The company continued to manufacture engines up until 1945. They transitioned to manufacturing cars when the Treaty of Versailles began to prohibit any company based in Germany from manufacturing engines for airplanes. Headquartered in Munich, Bavari, BMW’s corporate office is shaped like the company’s four-cylinder engines. In 1972, a tower was added to the building. As a result, the building was distinct among those located throughout the neighborhood. This was done to attract attention from those who attended that year’s Olympic games.
TCBY’s acronym sells the company to consumers. The Country’s Best Yogurt is the main selling point that has helped build the brand. Yet when the company was first launched TCBY stood for This Can’t Be Yogurt.
The company had to change what the acronym stood for because there was a chain of frozen yogurt stores with that name that opened four years before TCBY did. After that, from 1981 to 2000, the company thrived on its own. Then they formed a partnership with Mrs. Fields that they are still a part of today.
Named after its founder, the K in Kmart stands for his last name Kresge. Having worked as a traveling salesman, he teamed up with John G McCrory, who owned several stores selling general merchandising. Kresge met McCrory when he purchased items from him. The two went on to open five-and-ten-cent stores together.
However, McCrory wanted to focus on those stores while Kresge was fully committed to the Kmart brand. The country’s first Kmart was built in 1962 and continued to grow for decades.
Luxury car owners are aware that FIAT stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Turino. Turin is the city in Italy where the company was founded. The first FIAT resembled a horse-drawn carriage rather than a car.
Since then, FIAT has made history for being the first company to sell a minivan in 1956. Prior to that, they sold what turned out to be the original SUV.
TASER is an acronym for Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle. The name of this item was inspired by a science fiction novel written by Tom Swift.
Jack Cover, the inventor of the TASER was a fan of those books. In the book series, Tom Swift himself was an inventor. It was until the 1990s that police officers across the country began to use a TASER to subdue criminals.
The MAC Cosmetics company is an acronym for Makeup Art Cosmetics. When MAC was first launched, it was meant to be used by professional makeup artists exclusively.
Its original purpose was to sell a line of cosmetics that would look good on models in print and TV ads. MAC Is now owned by the Estee Lauder brand.
Department store’s H&M acronym is short for Hennes & Mauritz, the original name of the store. It started as a store for fishermen and hunters to purchase supplies at. In 1947, it became the store that shoppers know today.
Founded by Erling Persson, the store sold women’s clothing. In the 1960s Persson bought the Mauritz Widforss line and changed the store to Hennes & Mauritz. At that point, the store began to sell men’s clothing as well. Today, Persson’s grandson, Karl-Johan Persson, the company’s CEO works as an in-store salesperson a few days each year.
12. FAO Schwartz
The world’s most iconic toy store was named for its founder’s initials. Frederick August Otto Schwarz previously worked for a company that imported stationary. The company would also get shipments of toys, which Schwarz chose to display in the store’s window. When more toys were sold than stationary, the groundwork was laid for the famous store shoppers know today. However, what is now known as FAO Schwarz was originally called Schwarz Brothers Importers. The store wouldn’t get its permanent name until 1880.
Five years before that, the company would inadvertently start the longstanding tradition of having Santa visit stores to meet with children at Christmastime. When Santa started appearing at the store, it was called Toy Bazaar. Unlike any other store, this one even has its theme song. Songwriter Bobby Gosh called the song “Welcome To Our World Of Toys.” Between 1986 and 2004 there was a huge clock located at the store’s entrance. The clock played this song when shoppers would walk through the door.
Not legally known as 3M until 2002, the acronym was taken for the company’s original name, which was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. That company was launched in 1902. The purpose was to mine the Crystal Bay, to be able to make furniture. Since then, the company has grown into what it is today.
The company made history when, in 1985, developed the tape used to refasten diapers onto babies. 3M is also behind the invention of the turf used to lay down artificial grass on sports fields. Before that, they almost made history by using voicemail in their offices before any other company had.
14. JC Penney
JC Penney was named for James Cash Penney. The company began in a mining town found in Wyoming. The first store’s customer base was miners and their families. At that time, the store was called The Golden Rule, because the company wanted to operate by that standard. It was until 1913 that the JC Penney name was adopted.
The week before what would be the start of the Great Depression, was the week that, for the first time ever, JC Penney was traded on the stock market. Decades later, JC Penney’s changed their policy from cash only to cash or credit. In the next decade, they would begin to mail catalogs to customers’ homes. Though this was suspended in 2010, they resumed mailing the catalog in 2015. Shoppers all over the country have JC Penney to thank for Walmart. Its founder worked for the company before starting his own department store chain.
15. ZIP Code
The ZIP in zip codes is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan. They weren’t used throughout the United States until 1963. The idea of a zip code was first introduced by Robert Moon, a Philadelphia postal inspector.
While zip codes generally apply to an entire neighborhood, distinguished places actually have their very own. For example, there is a separate zip code for the White House than anyone else living in Washington DC. Even New York City’s main Saks Fifth Avenue store has its own zip code.
REI is an acronym for Recreational Equipment, Inc. It was a co-op in Seattle that the founders opened simply to provide their friends with a place to purchase climbing equipment. The company was in business for six years before it had any brick-and-mortar locations. The husband and wife team that ran the business started what would become a physical store on the shelves of a local gas station.
Today employees of the stores are allowed some generous perks. They can even apply for a challenge grant and, if approved, receive free climbing equipment to embark on their own adventures. In addition, REI is among the very few retailers that give their employees Black Friday as a paid day off.
Generations of people are familiar with NECCO. Short for New England Confectionary Company, it is America’s oldest candy company and has been in operation since 1901, when they entered into a merger with two companies also selling candy. The original packages of NECCOs came with an assortment of eight flavors. Those flavors were: chocolate, lemon, orange, wintergreen, licorice, cinnamon, clove, and lime
However, they later eliminated the lime wafers because they couldn’t find a shade of green that looked appealing. They later added it back in after a significant drop in sales.
Despite production to the masses, NECCOs were originally intended for soldiers during WW!!. Each soldier’s provisions included packs of NECCOs. Since then, the company has gone on to make candy conversation hearts and Mary Janes.
IBM is an acronym for International Business Machines. When it was launched in 1856, the company was called Tabulating Machine Company. Thomas Watson later stepped in to run the company, and when he did, he changed the name to IBM. He then decided that the motto of the company would be “think.” Apple later ran a similar campaign, and many believe that it was based on IBM’s. Along with these changes came the company’s original logo in 1924. The logo used dates today back to 1972.
An IBM computer is credited with making it possible for a human to land on the moon safely. In addition, they were the first to invent a blood separator that helps aid patients with leukemia.
Everyone is familiar with United Parcel Services. But before everyone used it, in the 1920s, packages were delivered on planes. In 1929 the company launched the United Air Express delivery service. However, the stock market then crashed, and UPS was out of the air delivery business for the next 24 years. Because of a rivalry with the USPS, UPS wasn’t able to deliver from one coast to the other until the middle of the 1970s.
With such a long history, UPS is known for having loyal employees. Those who put in 25 years with the company without getting into an accident on the job are entered into an exclusive group called “Circle of Honor.” Those that make it into the group are gifted with a bomber jacket and a patch.
Technically HTC is an acronym for High Tech Computer Company, but the initials of the founder are also HTC. Either way, it helped start the revolution of smartphones. Though HTC smartphones are now their own brand, in the beginning, they weren’t.
Before they had their brand, they simply manufactured smartphones for other brands. The company released 4g, Android, and Windows phones before any of their competitors did. They also took their position as the first to provide Android users with skin for their phones. In addition, HTC has the distinction of being the first smartphone manufacturers to include both a front and rear camera.
In the beginning, LG was an acronym for Lucky Goldstar. Today, company officials state that the LG is short for Life’s Good. Goldstar was the original name when the company was launched in 1958.
Following the Korean War, the company manufactured items such as air conditioners, washing machines, radios, TVs, and refrigerators. As recently as 2015, they were the number two company in the country in terms of a number of TV sets sold. The company has also made headlines for its commitment to environmentally friendly electronics.
22. H & R Block
H&R Block was named for the Block brothers, named, Henry and Richard. Though the two have a third brother, he ended up having other career aspirations. Despite the fact that the business is now called H & R Block, in the beginning, it was referred to as the United Business Company. When it started, the only service offered was small business bookkeeping. The clients they were working with weren’t significant enough to keep the business going. Placing an ad in a local newspaper was the key to building up a steady business.
Though the Block brothers lived in Kansas City, the regional offices of H & R Block were located in New York. Neither brother wanted to move there, so they sold the office to someone else. This led to the business becoming a franchise. The company made history when they helped make the e-filing of taxes possible. In 1986, they worked with the IRS to enable their customers to file online. Since then, e-filing has evolved so that people can complete and submit their own taxes much easier than they ever could in the past.
DSW, or Designer Shoe Warehouse, has locations all over the United States and Canada. Unlike other stores, this one often combines regularly priced and clearance-priced shoes on the same rack.
This encourages customers to look through each rack carefully, which often results in more sales for the company. In addition, while some shoes may be full-price online, in-stores those same shoes are often being sold at the sale price.
24. BJs Wholesale Club
BJ’s Wholesale Club got its initials from the daughter of the man who launched the company. Mervyn Wench’s daughter, Beverly Jean, is forever immortalized in the company’s name, which has been running since 1984.
Even though its headquarters is in Massachusetts, the company is more popular in New York.
Geico is an acronym for Government Employee Insurance Company. This is because it was originally created exclusively for government workers. Its founders had the idea for the company after the onset of the Great Depression. Their pam was to save money by only making their insurance available to certain people, which also included those serving in the military.
In 1948, the founders brought an investment banker into the fold. Her job was to acquire new financial backers for the company after the original investors chose not to continue. When the founders retired, their investment banker took over the company.
Many people think that Pam cooking spray was named after the people who invented it. In reality, the inventors were looking for a simple name for their product, similar to a word like pan. Yet many still hold on the belief that Pam stands for Product of Arthur Myerhoff, one of the two men that invented it. Myerhoff, along with his business partner Leon Rube, launched what they called Pam Products, in 1959.
Though that business failed, the two later patented their new nonstick cooking oil. Together they began Gilbratar Industries, which they used to promote Pam. They gained the public’s attention by demonstrating the product on cooking shows that aired in Chicago. A local personality endorsed the product, and the rest is history.
E.L.F is a cosmetics company, with the initialisms Eyes, Lips, Face. The items are priced to be affordable to everyone, with the average price being $6. The company does this because they want to encourage customers to try as many of the products in the line as possible. In fact, many of the other items are less than $6.
For this reason, women who wear makeup regularly are the company’s largest customer base. Millennials are particularly interested in the line for their affordable prices and the selection they have at their fingertips. The company is known for releasing new items at a quicker rate than most other cosmetics companies.
HSBC is an acronym for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. This international bank is worth a reported $2,671 trillion. By 2007 it was declared the world’s most successful bank. At that time, the yearly income for the bank was $19.13 billion, beating even the bank of America by almost $5 billion.
Founded in 1865 has the distinction of being Hong Kong’s largest bank. The majority of the currency circulating there is made at HSBC. The ban is also known for its sponsorship of Hong Kong’s Women’s Championship, and the World Match Play Championship.
ALF is an acronym for Alien Life Form. He was the subject of a popular 1980s comedy series of the same name. Yet as popular as it was in the U.S., it was even more popular in Germany. This may be due in part to a city in Germany also being named Alf. City officials had to keep replacing the city’s sign, which led to them storing multiple copies of it.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of the show, Topps released a line of Alf baseball cards. Some of the cards in the collection were for a fake sport Alf enjoyed, called Boulliabaseball. In addition, fifty issues of an Alf comic book were published by Marvel Comics. Alf was extremely popular with children, which resulted in the creation of baseball cards and comic books. Burger King took advantage of the popularity of Alf by releasing puppets of his likeness, along with records in which he sang his own unique songs. Having been born in 1756, Alf had plenty of time to record music.
JBL is known for its speakers for cars, computers, and more. The name of the company is an acronym for James Bullough Lansing.
Not only does the company have a place in the auto industry, it even makes speakers for aquatic vehicles like boats and submarines. All of the company’s speakers are not only waterproof but also is UV resistant.
31. P.C. Richards
P.C. Richard got its name from its founder, Peter Christian Richards. Peter went on to have a son that he later went into business with, giving the company its full name. At the age of 14, Peter’s son quit school because he wanted to go work at his father’s store. In the 1920s, when radio became a popular item to sell, the company’s slogan was born. The slogan was, “We service what we sell.” Peter’s son came up with this because he had the skills to repair the items that the store kept in stock. This led to the addition of a service department to each of the chain’s stores.
In 1947, after Peter retired, his son took over running the company. Over the years, Peter’s grandsons would become old enough to work in the stores as well. His great-grandsons would later work for the company as well.
These acronyms and initialisms help leave a lasting impression on the consumers who frequent the brands and businesses.
While some have interesting stories behind them, others are a lasting tribute to the person or persons that worked hard to realize their professional dreams.