Rakuten is a tech e-commerce platform that specializes in B2M E-Commerce. They were based in Tokyo only, at first, but quickly rose to success and expanded from there. They are now in partnership with some of the biggest e-commerce giants of the world, creating a partnership with their traders that seeks to uplift, empower, and inspire entrepreneurs – demonstrated in their apt business name.
Like so many successful brands, they have a powerful name for their organization. With many entrepreneurs searching for names that will represent their ethos in a succinct manner, a number of people wonder how the founder came upon such a catchy and meaningful name.
Before we get to look at the cultural influences and the meaning of the word “Rakuten”, we must understand the brand’s journey and how its name aptly umbrella’s its ethos under a single term.
Understanding the company culture and its background
The e-commerce culture has always favored the store visitors, the shoppers, over the traders. This makes sense since the origins of the funding are where you need to be investing if you want good conversion rates and repeat business.
Rakuten turned that upside down. They proudly state that they support disruptive ideas and forward-thinking businesses, and that might be because they’re somewhat disruptive in their approach to e-commerce, themselves.
Instead of building a business that sells itself to online shoppers, they worked to appeal to the traders. Rakuten created a space that supports innovation, they chose a business name that expresses this. They want a dynamic approach to selling tech. Richard Brandson actually works with an idealogy that’s very similar as demonstrated by his famous quote:
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Rakuten: The backstory and the business name
First founded under the business name Rakuten Ichiba in 1997, this online marketplace hit the world of trading with a fresh take. They wanted to offer the exact opposite of what larger and well established online marketplaces, like IBM, were doing. Instead of controlling traders to try and achieve uniformity among their stores, Rakuten Ichiba decided to appeal to traders rather than shoppers.
They offered lower store fees, more flexibility in terms of customizing the appearance of the storefront, and great freedom to individualize their marketing and their products.
This was an interesting new take because by targeting entrepreneurs and vendors rather than shoppers, they empowered the store owner to do the hard work – which is engaging the customers.
The eclectic mix of stores naturally attracts a wider range of shoppers. The success of this strategy is clear as day. It became known as the Amazon of Japan, but it also operates in 29 countries outside of Japan until it officially expanded throughout the world.
Rakuten: What’s in the name?
In June 1999, two years after the company was founded, they changed the business name to Rakuten (dropping the Ichiba as a second part of the name). The word “Rakuten” means optimism in Japanese, and the brand states that this is because, at their core, they want to empower businesses and individuals to embrace a great optimism when they think about the future. They chose a short single-word business name that aligns with this philosophy.
Their mission statement says: “Walk Together” expresses our dedication to building a better, more optimistic future by empowering individuals, businesses and societies to realize their dreams.” The word “Rakuten”, when used as a business name, certainly portrays a sense of hope, partnership, and creativity.
The power of a business name
Choosing the perfect business name for your brand isn’t a task worth skipping over. It is worth it to think about the best possible way, to sum up, what you stand for and what you offer to the world, and how your brand’s name plays into that. Of course, it’s not always easy, It’s a whole lot simpler when you assist a brand naming agency.
Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Squadhelp–transforming the way names are developed by combining an affordable agency-level brainstorming process with the unmatched creativity of “the crowd.”