“I hate them all.”

[Cache – #71]

“I hate them all. MacMan is better.”

That’s what Steve Jobs said when first presented with a list of potential names for the new home computer that would make or break the comeback of Apple in 1998.  Jobs already liked MacMan, a name thought of by his marketing head, but challenged Ken Segall (the man behind the legendary “Think Different” campaign) to come up with something better.

Ken presented a list of five names. On that list was this little jewel, Ken’s favourite: iMac.

But Steve hated it. Even though MacMan had a number of problems, worst of which it sounded like a Sony Walkman ripoff, and this was supposed to be a revolutionary product, not a copycat.  iMac, on the other hand, did the crucial jobs of being distinct and conveying key brand foundation elements, especially by emphasizing that this was a revolutionary personal product. And the i could also stand for that new thing, the Internet. And the i could also launch a series of names by prefacing any related products that Apple might, just might, create in the future.

So Ken went away and came back the next week with a new shortlist of names, still convinced that iMac was the best. And that’s what he told Steve. To which Steve replied: “Well, I don’t hate it this week. But I still don’t love it.”

Then something miraculous happened. Steve Jobs changed his mind. He showed the iMac name to his internal team and they had the guts to tell him that it worked. Steve listened. And thus began the most successful series of brand names in corporate history.

When undertaking your naming exercise, you are bound to have strong opinions on what you like and don’t like. To arrive at the best result, be like Steve. I don’t mean be a jerk. What I mean is: have the humility to keep an open mind and admit it when a name does its jobs – even if you don’t love it.

For more, see this excerpt from Ken Segall’s book in Fast Company.

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COMING SOON: A fully updated and revised edition of the Globe and Mail-bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo* (*It’s what people think of you) – with a new chapter on naming
THIS JUST IN: Brand: It Ain’t the Logo* ranks #2 on the Globe and Mail’s list of bestselling business books for March

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