There’s a long history of boring, location-based company names

March 12, 2014
March 12, 2014

Yesterday, embattled hedge fund SAC Capital announced that it’s changing its name to Point72 in April, a name based on the address of the company’s headquarters in Connecticut. While this may seem like a strange move, the company is following well-trodden ground in rebranding after a scandal, and taking a name from where the company is based.

But the problem with SAC Capital’s new name is that it doesn’t say anything about the company. The location of the headquarters means a lot less than the initials of the its founder, Steven A. Cohen.

“Any company can make any name work if they communicate properly,” USC marketing professor and consultant Ira Kalb told Quartz. “If it is an address, it does not add much value to this type of firm [a hedge fund]. Usually an address as a name works well if the address is an important part of the company’s identity. It usually works well for a restaurant, or retail store where the location is very important. It is better if the name helps with the branding, containing a benefit or some value add that works together with the logo and slogan.” 

The name might work better, Kalb says, if its in reference to the rule of 72, a quick calculation that tells you how long an investment will take to double at a fixed rate of return.

Here are a few of the many companies who’ve managed to build a brand based on their location. In many cases, there’s deeper meaning, a founding story, or decades of history behind the name:

Nokia

Before it started making cell phones, the company was a paper mill on the banks of the Nokianvirta River in Finland. That river and the nearby town are the source of its name, which was adopted in 1871.

BHP Billiton

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The island of Billiton in 2010(Reuters/Dwi Satmoko)

The massive Anglo-Australian miner is a combination of two companies, both named after the site of their first mine. Billiton was a partnership first formed in the Netherlands in in the 1850s. Its first mine, of tin, was on Indonesia’s Billiton island. Broken Hill Proprietary started out with a silver, lead, and zinc mine in Broken Hill, Australia. It was incorporated in 1885. The companies eventually merged in 2001.

Duane Reade

Three brothers founded the pharmacy chain in 1960 and took its name from Duane and Reade streets in lower Manhattan, where the company’s first warehouse was located between the two streets on Broadway. It’s now owned by Walgreens but retains it’s name.

Carrefour

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Annecy, the town where Carrefour got its start(Wikimedia Commons)

The French-based retailer known for its giant hypermarkets opened its first store in Annecy in 1958 in south-eastern France near a crossroads, or carrefour in French. Many subsequent stores were on or near a crossroads as well. The company now operates in more than a dozen countries around the world.

Komatsu

The Japanese industrial company started out in 1917 as a subsidiary factory of Takeuchi Mining Industry. In 1921 it separated from its parent company but kept the name of  the coastal town where it was founded.

Haribo

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Haribo’s factory, still in Bonn(AP)

Hans Riegel started the candy company, famous for manufacturing gummy bears, in his backyard in Bonn, Germany. His name and hometown were combined to create the name.

Smithfield Foods

The pork giant started out as a small packing plant in Smithfield, Virginia in 1936. Now, the town and company are so closely identified that Smithfield is known as the “Ham Capital of the World.”

Cisco Systems

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Golden gate bridge
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, serves as inspiration (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Cisco takes its name from the nearby city of San Francisco. Early on, the company’s founders insisted that the name be written in lowercase as “cisco.” The company’s logo, though more abstract now, has always been a representation of the Golden Gate Bridge. The founders came up with the name and idea for the logo after seeing the bridge outlined in the sun as they drove to Sacramento to register the company.

Valero

The oil giant, still based in San Antonio, Texas, is named for the San Antonio de Valero mission, the original name of the iconic Alamo. 

Update 3/12, 5:23 PM ET:

An earlier version of this article labeled a photo of the Bay Bridge as the Golden Gate Bridge

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