Rebranding in motion: 5 famous brands that changed their names

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Public Relations

It’s every brand marketer’s dream to have their company name and products become household names. Google is a great example as its brand name is now synonymous with its product function—colloquially known as “becoming a verb,” as in “why don’t you google it and find out?” Of course, that’s a tough hill to climb, but a few brands/products like Quaker Oats, Coca Cola and Hershey’s chocolate have come pretty close.

But once you achieve that level of iconage, the last thing you want to have to do is undo all that brand building and start from scratch with a new brand/product name that hopefully will work its way through the cultural zeitgeist and become iconic in its own right. But there are certainly times when this is necessary, for one reason or another.

Many of us enjoy the occasional Snickers bar or packet of Starburst, but very few of us would ever think about the rebrands that those companies have gone through—or why. The names of beloved products help to make them memorable and iconic, so this kind of change is monumental for brands. 

As the company’s name suggests, Business Name Generator helps brands and companies with this very problem, as well as assisting new businesses with finding the right name to maximize their chances at becoming such industrial icons. Here, they break down some of the most significant brand name changes in the food industry:

Dixie Beer > Faubourg Brewing Company

One very recent rebrand was that of the Faubourg Brewing Company. Founded in 1907, the brand began as Dixie Beer, and still stands as one of the oldest beer brands in the US to this day. 

But as time went on, this brand name became coupled with the bad association that the geographical term “Dixie” had developed. In order to stand in solidarity with the Black community and to celebrate the diverse population of New Orleans, where the beer brand was founded, the change to Faubourg Brewing Company was made in 2020. 

Marathon > Snickers

All the way back in 1930, the crunchy, peanutty splendor of the Snickers bar was born. Created by Mars, the chocolate bar with nuts, nougat and sticky caramel began its life as the Marathon bar. 

However, in 1960, the Snickers name we all know and love was adopted—mostly due to another American product by the name of Marathon being created, which Mars was keen to differentiate itself from. 

Uncle Ben’s > Ben’s Original

Another recent name change was that of the beloved steamed rice brand, Uncle Ben’s—now simply named Ben’s. This rebrand occurred in 2020, a cultural-renaissance type of year when many industries were forced to confront racial injustices and the part their brand name may play in those mega-negative associations. 

Uncle Ben’s rice, also created by Mars in 1943, was consistently accused of perpetuating stereotypes, so to right this coincidental wrong, the name and logo were finally changed. 

Opal Fruits > Starburst

This beloved sweet first burst onto the scene in 1960 under the name Opal Fruits. Founded by The Wrigley Company, a subsidiary of Mars, the candy was rebranded as Starburst in the US in 1967. 

Eventually, the rest of the world came to know the delicacy as Starburst rather than Opal Fruits. So, in 1998, to fit in with the rest of the global market, Opal Fruits were changed to Starburst in the UK as well. 

Kentucky Fried Chicken > KFC

Finally, we have the rebrand of the colonel himself: Kentucky Fried Chicken. Launched in 1952, the fast food company took the world by storm. However, it didn’t take long for people to begin shortening the name, which was a bit of a mouthful, to KFC. 

It seemed inevitable that, one day, the brand would follow suit, and in 1991 it did just that. The president of KFC US, Kyle Craig, also admitted that the company wanted to move away from obvious ‘fried’ and ‘unhealthy’ connotations. 

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter