Brand Name Origins – Starbucks

Would they have been anywhere near as successful by selling ‘Pee-quods?'

The name of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain is also one of the most widely recognized, but it could have all been very different and the story attached to its use illustrates how important it is to find the right name for a modern retail company.

When the teachers Zev Siegel and Jerry Baldwin first teamed up with writer Gordon Bowker to open their first coffee house in Seattle, Washington in 1971 one of the first decisions to be made was to agree on a recognizable name for their new venture.

A fan of the classic book Moby Dick Bowker originally suggested the name ‘Pequod,’ the handle of the whale ship central to the story published by Richard Bentley in 1851.

That was until somebody pointed out that no-body would want to drink a mug of ‘pee-quod.’

Instead, remaining with the novel for other ideas, the three remembered the young first mate of the ship’s crew who was given the name Starbuck by the author Herman Melville.

The writer, now recognized as one of America’s greatest author’s, although little known during his lifetime, was born into a seafaring family.

Himself an occasional sailor, Melville would probably have been aware of Starbuck Island, a small coral island in the middle of the South Pacific whaling grounds discovered in 1823 by Valentine Starbuck, captain of the American whaling ship L’Aigle.

The decision in 1971 by the three partners turned out for the better as Starbucks now sells coffee from over 16,000 outlets across the world and we can only wonder if they would have been anywhere near as successful by selling ‘Pee-quods.

Brand Name History and Origins by Albert Jack

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