Book: Steve Jobs Originally Wanted To Call The iMac the 'MacMan'

Former ad industry exec Ken Segall — who spent part of his career honing major ad campaigns and branding strategy for Apple — has a new book out titled, Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success. Fast Company posted an excerpt from the book online that contained a few interesting nuggets, but none more interesting than the one about how the iMac got its name…

It was the spring of 1998, and we’d been summoned up to Cupertino for our first viewing of this new computer, code-named C1. The “C” stood for “consumer.” Apple didn’t use a lot of creative firepower on code names back then. By this time we felt like we were already well along a journey, having developed the Think Different campaign and placed it strategically on TV, billboards, and magazine back covers around the world. That was the brand-building part, and this was the real thing–a product that would prove that our brand campaign wasn’t just a lot of advertising fluff.

At our next meeting with Steve, he was eager to hear what we thought of C1. He was like a proud father. This was the main focus of Apple, and clearly Steve had poured his heart into its creation. He loved every detail and was eager to share it with the world. “The back of our computer looks better than the front of their computers,” he said, a line he would repeat often. At this point, we’d had time to digest what we’d seen. Once the shock of our first sighting had worn off, we understood how revolutionary C1 was going to be. We were believers. We couldn’t wait to start developing a campaign for it.

First, however, Steve gave us a challenge: We needed a name for this thing. C1 was on a fast track to production, and the name had to be decided quickly to accommodate the manufacturing and package design process. “We already have a name we like a lot, but I want you guys to see if you can beat it,” said Steve. “The name is ‘MacMan.’ ”


“MacMan?” Are you freaking kidding me? Apparently not…

The agency team was heartbroken to learn that Steve had fallen in love with such a disappointing name as “MacMan.” Unlike C1 itself, for which our feelings had evolved from shock to love, there could be no love for “MacMan.” Ever. It had so many things wrong with it, we didn’t know where to start. Phil Schiller, Apple’s worldwide marketing manager, was in the room, and Steve revealed that “MacMan” was Phil’s contribution.

Our favorite name was one that I’d come up with early in the process: “iMac.” It seemed to solve all the problems at once. It was clearly a Mac. The i conveyed that this was a Mac designed to get you onto the Internet. It was also a perfectly succinct name–just a single letter added to the word “Mac.” It didn’t sound like a toy and it didn’t sound portable. Using the word “Mac” in the product name was more of a revolution than you might realize. At that time, “Macintosh” had yet to be shortened to a more colloquial “Mac” in the name of any Apple computer. For Simplicity and minimalism, “iMac” seemed to be perfect.

And of course, there was also one other small advantage that came with the name “iMac.” It created an interesting foundation upon which Apple could name future consumer products. Maybe, possibly, somehow, some¬time, Apple would see fit to create another “i” product?

One by one, I took Steve through our five finalist names. I quickly moved through such also-rans as “MiniMac” (this was long before the Mac mini) and ended with a flourish on “iMac.” I made the case that not only was “iMac” concise and easy to remember, but the “i” could stand for other things. There was the obvious association with the Internet, but it could also stand for “individual” and “imagination.” Unfortunately, that ending flourish didn’t have the desired effect on Steve.

“I hate them all. ‘MacMan’ is better.”

I kinda don’t want to spoil how the group eventually convinced Jobs to warm to “iMac” and ditch “MacMan.” Consider what the iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc. might have been subsequently named? Go read the whole thing when you have time — it’s quite an interesting read.

(HT: Boing Boing)