BP Gas Station
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The Surprising Reasons These Companies and Brands Changed Their Names

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Stoli Vodka
Stoli Vodka by C Watts (CC BY)

The Name Game

Bars everywhere are dumping out bottles of vodka, and Stolichnaya has decided that now is the time for a rebrand — one that makes its opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as clear as its liquor. Making changes to a well-known brand doesn't come without risk, though, no matter how well-intentioned the effort. (Of course, they aren't always well-intentioned. Some rebrands allow companies to shake off scandal or a bad reputation.) Here are some of the most notable corporate and brand-name changes in recent years, and the sometimes eyebrow-raising reasons behind them.


Related: Big Names That Changed With the Times to Avoid Being Canceled

Stoli Vodka Ukraine Bottle
Stoli

Stolichnaya Vodka

New name: Stoli


Though it has been produced in Latvia for more than two decades now, Stolichnaya vodka has kept its Russian branding — until now, that is. On the heels of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the founder of Stolichnaya has announced a major rebrand, giving a megaphone to his opposition of Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions — and consumers less of a reason to mistakenly boycott the brand. Stoli Group's founder, Yuri Shefler, was born in Russia, but was exiled in 2000 for standing against Putin. The rebrand doesn't begin and end with a name change, either. Stoli also announced plans to use only Slovakian-sourced ingredients, with no more sourced from Russia, and just released a limited edition charity bottle to benefit Ukraine. Proceeds from the special blue and yellow bottle will be donated to World Central Kitchen, a charity that feeds millions of refugees — and one that just got bombed in Kharkiv.


Related: Boycotts, Bans, and More: Russia Squeezed From World Stage

Washington Commanders
Christian Petersen / Staff / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images North America

Washington Redskins

New name: Washington Commanders


Rebranding an NFL team is a costly affair, but the Redskins decided 2020 was the year, especially after prompting by major sponsor FedEx and other investors. Long considered offensive by many Native Americans, "Redskins" was first replaced with the most generic of temporary names, the Washington Football Team; now the team says it will be known as the Washington Commanders. The reaction to the new moniker has been decidedly mixed, with one Twitter observer musing that it "sounds like a made-up football team in a movie starring The Rock."


Related: The Greatest Football Movies of All Time, According to Critics

Meta logo is shown on a device screen
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Facebook

New name: Meta


What is the metaverse, anyway? Facebook, excuse us, Meta, seems to think it's a big enough deal to spur a corporate rebranding, anyway. The tech giant changed its name in late 2021, ostensibly to embrace growth beyond social media, but observers seemed to think it came at a very convenient time, when the company was dealing with a high-profile whistleblower case that accused it of doing too little to keep its platforms from spreading misinformation.


Related: 34 Companies That Changed American Culture for Better or Worse

Aunt Jemima
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Aunt Jemima

New name: Pearl Milling Company


Quaker announced in early 2021 that its eponymous Aunt Jemima syrup would be getting a new brand name and logo: Pearl Milling Company. The brand's origins were "based on a racial stereotype," executives acknowledged, and the logo had already been tweaked several times, including to remove a kerchief from Aunt Jemima's head. 


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Cleveland Guardians
Emilee Chinn / Stringer / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images North America

Cleveland Indians

New name: Cleveland Guardians


Before the Commanders supplanted the Redskins, the Guardians replaced the Indians. The decision to change the name came in late 2020 after years of urging from Native American groups that said the team moniker and Chief Wahoo mascot were stereotypical at best, and harmful at worst. The Guardians name, announced in a flashy Twitter video narrated by Tom Hanks, was inspired by the landmark stone edifices on a historic Cleveland bridge. 

Uncle Ben's
Justin Sullivan/Getty
Eskimo Pie
Amazon

Eskimo Pie

New name: Edy's Pie


What might have been your favorite childhood ice-cream treat received a new name in 2020: Edy's Pie. "Eskimo," considered offensive by indigenous groups like the Inuit, got the heave-ho, as did the mascot, a young boy in a furry hooded robe and boots. Parent company Dreyer's said it "recognizes the term is derogatory" and had been reviewing the brand, recently acquired from Nestle, for some time.

Weight Watchers
patty_c/istockphoto

Weight Watchers

New name: WW


What's a diet-focused company to do when dieting goes out of style, supplanted by body positivity and health at any weight? In 2018, Weight Watchers decided to shorten its name to WW and tack on a more health-focused tagline — "wellness that works." Of course, the company is also aiming to capture a newer, younger audience that has come of age with health-focused apps and services galore, from MyFitnessPal to Fitbit to Peloton. 

Dunkin Donuts
tupungato/istockphoto

Dunkin' Donuts

New name: Dunkin'


Dunkin' Donuts wants America to know that Starbucks isn't the only place to get a fancy coffee. So in 2018, it announced it would be dropping "Donuts" from its name, hoping to reflect its increasing focus on coffee and other beverages. Given its longtime slogan, "America runs on Dunkin'," the name change received little pushback, though plenty of predictable Twitter snark


Related: 31 Unique Doughnuts You Have to Try

Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable by Ildar Sagdejev (CC BY-SA)

Time Warner Cable

New name: Spectrum


Time Warner Cable, never exactly known for its stellar customer service, embarked on a rebranding quest in 2017, switching its name to the much-flashier Spectrum after merging with Charter. Arguably, its efforts have been successful, with customers reporting much higher satisfaction levels with the "new" company.

Restoration Hardware
Restoration Hardware

Restoration Hardware

New name: RH


Restoration Hardware sells an aspirational lifestyle full of high-end sofas, sleek lighting, and plush handwoven rugs. Hardware? Sure, at first — but the company had moved far beyond its humble beginnings. That's what drove it to become the more-streamlined "RH" at the beginning of 2017. By all accounts, the transition was a success, and upscale RH Galleries across the country continue to attract both gawkers and shoppers as other bricks-and-mortar stores struggle. 

Sign for Google officies in San Francisco
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Google

New name: Alphabet


In 2015, Google raised eyebrows with the sudden announcement that its new corporate name would be Alphabet. The move was meant to placate investors skeptical of the company's higher-risk ambitions by separating new initiatives like self-driving cars from its core search-engine business. Another welcome effect, Investopedia notes: A lower risk of antitrust lawsuits. 


Related: Everyday Words That Are Actually Brand Names

bausch and lomb
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Valeant

New name: Bausch Health


This prominent Canadian drugmaker became so mired in twin scandals that it had very little to lose with a complete rebranding. The company was involved in an accounting scandal, and it was also dogged by allegations that it was buying drugs and artificially inflating their prices. The toxic press sent its stock price off a cliff in 2015, after which the company decided to rebrand as Bausch Health, inspired by one of its most prominent product lines, Bausch and Lomb eye care. 

Land O' Lakes
Tom Pennington/Getty

Lance Armstrong Foundation

New name: Livestrong


What's a charity to do when its founder and namesake becomes embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the century? Change its name, of course. The Lance Armstrong Foundation, then only informally known as Livestrong, officially adopted its nickname in 2012 after Armstrong's doping scandal rocked the cycling world. Though his seven Tour de France wins were nullified and he stepped down as the group's chairman, Armstrong remained on the group's board.  


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34 Famous Cancer Survivors

comcast xfinity
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

Comcast

New name: Xfinity


Time Warner isn't the only cable company that has played the name-change game. If the name "Comcast" sends a shiver down your spine, you aren't alone. In fact, you're in such good company that Comcast rebranded its cable service as Xfinity in 2010. Officially, the move was to better align its new products, platforms, and data speeds, but distancing itself from "notorious bad customer service and technical difficulties" was certainly a happy side effect.  

blackwater academi
Amazon

Blackwater

New name: Academi


This government contractor was so tainted by scandal that it changed its name not once, but twice. The private security firm became a household name when a group of its employees killed several Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, an attack that investigators later determined was unprovoked. In 2009, the company switched its name to Xe; two years later, it became Academi and remains so today. 

ally bank logo
ally bank logo by Toomuchcash (None)

GMAC Bank

New name: Ally


GMAC played a pivotal role in the 2008 subprime mortgage debacle and subsequent housing collapse, eventually accepting a government bailout worth billions. Understandably, that left a bad taste in plenty of consumers' mouths, so the lender decided to rebrand itself as Ally Bank. By all accounts, the switcheroo has gone well, as Ally continues to rack up accolades for being one of the best online banks from publications like Money and Bankrate. 

MCI
MCI

WorldCom

New name: MCI


Anyone who knows much about corporate accounting scandals would undoubtedly put WorldCom near the top of their list. The telecom giant fudged its books to the tune of some $11 billion, leading to what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history in 2002. Two years later, the newly restructured company adopted a new (old) name: MCI, the name of the company WorldCom had absorbed during a 1996 buyout. MCI was not long for this world, either, as it was snapped up by Verizon in 2005. 

wrestling
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World Wrestling Federation

New Name: World Wrestling Entertainment


Back in 2002, the WWF discovered the hard way not to step into the ring with pandas. That's when the federation changed its name to WWE — World Wrestling Entertainment — after a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Federation. The wildlife group, known for its cuddly panda logo, accused the wrestlers of using its trademarked WWF initials a little too liberally, violating a previous agreement not to refer to itself as WWF except in very limited instances.


Related:
26 Companies That Are Doing Good Deeds With Your Dollars

BP Gas Station
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

British Petroleum

New name: BP


In the new millennium, this fossil-fuel giant wanted to embrace a more environmentally friendly image. So in 2000, it cast off its stodgy old name for a breezy abbreviation and adopted a green and yellow helios logo that now seems to beckon from every other street corner. The company stuck with the BP name even after the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which led some gas-station owners to clamor for another name change


Related: 22 Times Companies Messed With Their Iconic Logos

AirTran
Joe Raedle/Getty

ValuJet

New name: AirTran


If the name "ValuJet" conjures the image of plane wreckage in the Florida Everglades, that's exactly why the company decided to change its name. After a crash killed more than 100 passengers in 1996, the airline — which had already been dogged by accusations that its safety procedures weren't up to snuff — merged with another company the following year and was reborn as AirTran. AirTran was then acquired by Southwest in 2014.