What’s in a name? For the world’s biggest brands, often an update many customers don't even notice.
Global coffee chains, a sleek car company and the maker of the iPhone are all among hugely successful brands that have tweaked their names over the years in ways big and small.
For all eight companies on this list, the names shrank in the process: They dropped letters and entire words in attempts to broaden public perception about what their companies do.
The shortened monikers often reflect what people had commonly called their company anyway. But others may not have stuck so well, with old names already seared into the public consciousness.
Here’s a look at big companies who've changed their names over the years — and why.
Starbucks (formerly Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices)
While Starbucks officially ditched its original name of “Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices” in 1987, a perhaps more portending change came in 2011 when the brand dropped "coffee" from its logo in a nod to its expanding menu.
“Even though we have been, and always will be, a coffee company and retailer, it’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it,” then-CEO Howard Schultz said at that time.
It's a possibly ominous statement: In 2018, Schultz said droughts and rising temperatures may threaten the availability of coffee for Starbucks in the future, making climate change one of the company's biggest challenges.
Dunkin' (formerly Dunkin' Donuts)
The Boston-based coffee-and-donuts chain has moved way beyond just donuts in recent years, offering hashbrowns, breakfast sandwiches and a slew of speciality coffee drinks. So when Dunkin' Donuts officially halved its name last year after a trial run in California, it only made sense.
"By simplifying and modernizing our name, while still paying homage to our heritage, we have an opportunity to create an incredible new energy for Dunkin’, both in and outside our stores,” Tony Weisman, Dunkin's chief marketing officer, said.
Besides, its slogan — "America runs on Dunkin'" — never mentioned "Donuts," anyway.
KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken)
OK, so maybe you did hear about KFC's abbreviated switch from "Kentucky Fried Chicken," if only because the rebranding was a bit botched — by the brand's own admission.
"Truth is, we didn’t do a great job at explaining the KFC name change, which left the door open for folks to get creative with the reason," KFC admitted in 2016. "And boy did they!”
After KFC shortened its name in 1991, an email chain letter fueled rumors that the chain used genetically modified chickens that legally couldn't be called "chicken." Not true, KFC said: "We've always used 100% real chicken."
In reality, the brand simply wanted to downplay its fried offerings to an increasingly health-conscious public.
WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
Being healthy is about more than losing weight, and that's what inspired Weight Watchers to shed a few letters — 12, to be exact — when it rebranded in 2018 as WW. And a megastar spokeswoman backed the shift: Oprah Winfrey, who joined WW's board and helped lead to a boom in membership, praised the move.
"From the moment I chose to invest in the company and join the Board, I have believed that the role WW can play in people's lives goes far beyond a number on the scale," Winfrey said in a statement.
Apple (formerly Apple Computers)
Quick: What product do you most associated with Apple? It's the iPhone for many, and that's no surprise: Apple's sold hundreds of millions of them since their debut in 2007. That's also the year Apple Computers dropped the word "Computers" from its name, signaling a focus beyond traditional computers as Apple readied for an era of iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.
And that's just as well: Apple's standard computers like the Macbook have received lackluster reviews in recent years, while the company is moving into new ventures that have little to do with its computers, like original TV programming.
RH (formerly Restoration Hardware)
The home-furnishings company sought to move beyond its beginnings as a hardware store when it rebranded after 33 years from "Restoration Hardware" to simply "RH" in 2012.
"Today's RH is a far cry from the hardware and nostalgic discovery item based business it once was," now-CEO Gary Friedman said that year in a statement.
Walmart (formerly Wal-Mart)
It took a dash of creativity (or lack thereof) to ready Walmart for the digital era. The iconic big-box retailer dropped the hyphen from its name last year, moving from "Wal-Mart" to "Walmart." Why? The website: Walmart.com saw traffic soar as online shopping became a norm, and the company wanted its legal name to match up with its URL.
“While our legal name is used in a limited number of places, we felt it was best to have a name that was consistent with the idea that you can shop us however you like as a customer,'' Doug McMillon, Walmart's president and CEO, said in a statement. "As time goes on, customers will increasingly just think of and see one Walmart.”
Tesla (formerly Tesla Motors)
In a long-anticipated move in 2017, billionaire Elon Musk's Silicon Valley start-up dropped the auto vibes from its name, rebranding from "Tesla Motors" to just "Tesla." Originally inspired by the naming scheme of iconic automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor, the company simplified its name to reflect its non-auto ambitions as it expanded into solar panels batteries that power homes.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Companies that changed their names: Starbucks, Walmart make the list