Mega Cap Stock Monikers: A History of Naming Fads

Names can take on a life of their own. Investors and finance buffs sometimes seem more like storytellers, plucking tales from the stock ticker itself. Here's a listicle to ignite your curiosity for the naming fads and legends in the marketplace, charting the rise of stocks from obscure acronyms to the pantheon of investment lore.
Written by
Kim Le
Published on
March 16, 2024

If you’re new to investing, the best place to start isn’t a school textbook or a trading platform. The best way to start learning is to start reading. And Wall Street has no shortage of captivating stories. It is the stuff of legends. Learning to invest and manage your finances shouldn’t be boring, but a fascination and a passion, grounded with a lot of common sense.

Here's a listicle to ignite your curiosity for the naming fads and legends in the marketplace, charting the rise of stocks from obscure acronyms to the pantheon of investment lore.

Some Sticky Stock Stylings

Not all nicknames and acronyms last more than a few mentions. Some, however, take on a life of their own making its way into the lore of the public.

The Roaring 20s

roaring 1920s image in black and gold art deco style

The 1920s was dubbed the “Roaring 20s” when America saw the birth of wall street and the exponential rise of the stock market. Some stocks of the time saw the same growth trajectory of the crypto of today, but it busted as dramatically as it boomed.

It all came crashing down in on Black Thursday in 1929. Some stalwarts survived the extinction event of the Great Depression and a few yet are still kicking ass today.

Some big names of the 1920s were:

  • Sears
  • US Steel
  • Coca Cola
  • General Electric
  • General Motors
  • Radio Corporation of America (RCA) - defunct 1987

Nifty Fifty

Nifty fifties photo of 50 dollar bill

During the 1960s and ‘70s, the Nifty Fifty streaked across the financial sky like a nova, embodying a "buy and hold" strategy. Stocks like IBM, Coca-Cola, and Walt Disney not only suggested longevity but a cultural permanence that's hard to miss even today. Despite the subsequent market downturn, these stocks have held their own, with many still influential and extremely valuable bullets in any investor's portfolio.

Stocks in the Nifty Fifty

In parentheses next to each company name, we list the current known status of the company. the Fortune 500 ranking is based on 2023 data.

  • Philip Morris Cos. Inc. (Fortune 500 #128)
  • Pfizer Inc. (Fortune 500 #38)
  • Bristol-Myers (Fortune 500 #95)
  • Gillette Co. (Owned by P&G)
  • Coca-Cola Co. (Fortune 500 #100)
  • Merck & Co. Inc. (Fortune 500 #69)
  • Heublein Inc. (founded 1862. dissolved 1998).
  • General Electric Co. (Fortune 500 #52)
  • Schering Corp. (Merged with Plough in 1971. Merged with Merck. & Co in 2009)
  • Squibb Corp. (Merged with Bristol Myers to be Bristol Myers Squibb)
  • PepsiCo Inc. (Fortune 500 #46)
  • Lilly Eli & Co. (Fortune 500 #142)
  • American Home Products
  • Procter & Gamble Co**. (Fortune 500 #51)**
  • Revlon Inc. (Filed for Chapter 11 in 2022)
  • Johnson and Johnson (Fortune 500 #40)
  • Anheuser-Busch Inc.
  • Chesebrough Ponds Inc.
  • McDonald’s Corp. (Fortune 500 #169)
  • First National City Corp.
  • Disney Walt Co. (Fortune 500 #48)
  • American Express Co. (Fortune 500 #77)
  • Dow Chemical Co. (Fortune 500 #75)
  • American Hospital Supply Corp. (Defunct ?)
  • Schlumberger Ltd. (Fortune 500 #260)
  • Upjohn Co.
  • AMP Inc.
  • Texas Instruments Inc. (Fortune 500 #200)
  • Minnesota Mining & Manuf’g (3M) (Fortune 500 #116)
  • Baxter Labs
  • Int’l Telephone & Telegraph Corp.
  • Int’l Business Machines (IBM) (Fortune 500 #65)
  • Penney J.C. Inc.
  • Sears Roebuck & Co. (Filed Chapter 11 ongoing)
  • Int’l Flavors & Fragrances (Fortune 500 #332)
  • Schlitz Joe Brewing Co. (Takeover from Stroh)
  • Xerox Corp.
  • Halliburton Co.
  • Lubrizol Corp.
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Simplicity Patterns (Acquired by Conso in 1998)
  • Digital Equipment Corp. (Acquired by Compaq in 1998. Defunct)
  • Avon Products Inc.
  • Louisiana Land & Exploration Co. (Defunct ?)
  • Black and Decker Corp.
  • Kresge (S. S.) Co. (KMart)
  • Burroughs Co. (Merged with Sperry in 1986. Defunct)
  • Polaroid Corp. (Defunct 2022)
  • Emery Air Freight Corp. (Acquired in 1989)
  • MGIC Investment Corp.

From the Nifty Fifty:

  • 19 of the 50 are still among Fortune 500 companies as of January 2024
  • 13 of the 50 have either gone defunct, bankrupt, or were acquired
  • Remaining 18 appear to still be in business in some shape or form

Fortune ranking is based on 2023 rankings release in 2024.

The Four Horsemen

four horses for the four horsemen

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are well known figures from the Christian Bible representing the oncoming end of the world. It’s not surprising that the fascination with the Four Horsemen have made them a naming favorite for the giants on Wall Street.

In the 1990s, the Four Horsemen referenced Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Dell.

There were variations on the name such as Four Horsemen of the Internet or Four Horsemen of the Nasdaq.

Of the four, Dell, Intel, and Cisco have fallen out of favor as the rise of Apple, software, and social media caused them to fade into the background. Microsoft has been the only one that has continued to re-invent itself and in many ways now have propelled itself beyond its original illustrious standing. With the focus back on hardware and semiconductors, Dell and Intel are seeing some early signals of resurgence, but not to its former dominance.

Since then there have been variations of re-launching a new set of Four Horsemen. The CNN had a survey that crowned the Final Four as Amazon, Google, Apple, and IBM. Jim Cranmer’s 2013 selection of the Four Horsemen of Big Tech has gone on to become one of the most popular names in the past decade, more commonly known as FANG.

FANG then FAANG

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now Alphabet) emerged in the 2010s to form the acronym "FANG," representing a new era of technology-driven disruptors. An updated second version, added Apple to the grouping and became with “FAANG” with the double A. This modern high-flying tech cohort captivated and directed the market, with each stock riding a wave of innovation and consumer demand.

MAMAA or MANA MANA?

The companies listed under FAANG decided to do some corporate re-structuring leading to Facebook to be rebranded as Meta and Google to Alphabet. Naturally, the original acronym was no longer relevant, giving rise to MAMAA and MANA MANA. If FAANG sounded impressive and intimidating, then their subsequent attempts of rebranding are just hilarious. With the MANA MANA acronym name dropped along (if not inspired by) with the 1977s Muppet song “Mah Na Mah Na”.

What do these acronyms stand for?

  • FANG - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google
  • FAANG - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google
  • MAMAA - Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet
  • MANA MANA - Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, Nvidia, Adobe

The cuter names have been a good laugh in an otherwise not very comedic industry. Alas, the finance buffs have bigger dreams of grandeur, and chosen a more apt name for their vision: The Magnificent Seven.

The Current Era

Magnificent 7

The rapid rise and fall of technology during and after the pandemic led to the end of an era. The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT welcomed the dawn of a new era. With this new era, a new set of leaders have been crowned as the Magnificent 7.

The Magnificent 7 are:

  • Alphabet (GOOG)
  • Amazon (AMZN)
  • Apple (AAPL)
  • Meta (META)
  • Microsoft (MSFT)
  • Nvidia (NVDA)
  • Tesla (TSLA)

Super Six

Coined by Jim Cramer in early 2024, the Super Six is the Magnificent 7 minus Tesla. Since the fourth quarter, Tesla’s stock has been underperforming despite the rebound in the wider stock market driven by the AI craze and the technology sector. So far Tesla has been deemed as fallen out of favor.

Granolas

An array of different granloa bars

Less well-known in the US, the Granolas are a set of European companies that are considered potentially competitive in growth against their more well-known counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean. Coined by Goldman Sachs in 2020, the Granolas consist of:

  • GSK
  • Roche
  • ASML
  • Nestle
  • Novartis
  • Novo Nordisk
  • L'Oreal
  • LVMH
  • AstraZeneca
  • SAP
  • Sanofi

Newborn Nine

Newbory nine: nine mini birthday cupcakes

The Newborn Nine are a bit less known in mainstream media and much newer on the scene. It’s not yet known if this brand new nickname will stick, or whether the ETFs they mention will last. The name refers to the newly minted crypto ETFs that have been approved by the SEC and launched for trading in January 2024. Among them, iShare’s spot Bitcoin ETF has been driving the recent mania on crypto ETFs. The approval by the SEC of these ETFs from more mainstream reputable firms will likely create lasting impact on Wall Street and crypto.

The Newborn Nine are:

  • iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT)
  • Fidelity Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust (FBTC)
  • ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB)
  • Bitwise Bitcoin ETF (BITB)
  • VanEck Bitcoin Trust (HODL)
  • Invesco Galaxy Bitcoin ETF (BTCO)
  • Franklin Bitcoin ETF (EZBC)
  • Valkyrie Bitcoin Fund (BRRR)
  • WisdomTree Bitcoin Fund (BTCW)

The Death versus Staying Power of Giants

Live long enough and everyone you know will die. That’s not a cheery thought, but it’s an apt lesson, that translates well to the rise and fall of companies (and their shareholder value).

Nifty Fifty Yielded S&P-like Returns Over the Long Run

If we trace back to the original giants of their days, what we learned is that most of them will not last in their dominance. Sears, U.S. Steel, and RCA come to mind when we think of the fallen giants from this list. But the quiet heroes are also there like Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, to name a few. Despite the downturns, they’ve demonstrated tremendous staying power. A weighted portfolio of the Nifty Fifty from the 1960s held until 2021 would have yielded similar double digit returns over that time period as the S&P 500. Even if certain companies go in and out of fads, their performance demonstrates the long-term value of well run companies. The performance shows the importance of 1) time in the market versus timing the market; and 2) the steadier returns from a batch of stocks instead of individual picks.

Fun Names are Not an Investment Strategy

Nicknames and acronyms are fun, but they’re no investment strategy. For actual investing, normal folk (like us) should stick to the fundamentals and master the basics.

For now, we take away from this long running tradition of nicknames and acronyms that Wall Street loves their funny names. If some of these analysts need a second career during the next bear market, some should consider market branding as an option.

Fun Fact and a Study Break

If you’ve made it this far, then congrats on earning this study break.

Fun Fact #1

MANA MANA was name dropped along with the muppet song “Mah Na Mah Nah”:

Fun Fact #2

FANG, FAANG, MAMAA, Magnificent 7 and Super Six from the past decade or so have all been heavily attributed to Jim Cramer for their popularization.

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References:

[1] https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/faang-more-dangerous-4-horsemen-late-1990s-and-nifty-fifty-early-1970s-2017-08-09

[2] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/roaring-20s-vs-now-ge-gm-coca-cola-us-steel-and-sears-135843168.html

[3] https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit9_4.pdf

[4] https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/teaching-resource/statistics-american-economy-during-1920s

[5]https://money.cnn.com/technology/storysupplement/four-horsemen-of-tech/#:~:text=More than a decade ago,are tech's new four horsemen%3F"

[6] https://www.fool.com/investing/2021/11/05/faang-is-dead-long-live-manamana/

[7] https://www.shiftalt.capital/post/what-s-in-a-name-is-faang-really-now-mamaa

[8] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/niftyfifty.asp

[9] http://csinvesting.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/valuing-growth-stocks-revisiting-the-nifty-fifty.pdf

[10] https://cryptoslate.com/glossary/newborn-nine/

[11] https://fortune.com/europe/2024/03/03/europes-magnificent-7-granolas-goldman-sachs-economy/

[12] https://globalfinancialdata.com/rca-and-the-roaring-twenties

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