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MacMan to iMac: The Name That Changed Apple’s Fortunes


Jun 17, 2024

The Think Different campaign boosted Apple’s brand recognition, but it was the launch—and massive sales—of the iMac in 1998 that truly transformed the company’s profitability. This “Bondi Blue” computer was crucial for Apple’s survival, and Steve Jobs made this clear to his advertising agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day.

Initially codenamed C1, the affordable, consumer-oriented computer was marketed as an easy way to connect to the internet—a novelty in the 1990s. The iMac was colorful, user-friendly, and highly successful, setting Apple on the path to becoming the world’s richest company by 2011. (As of earlier this year, Microsoft had surpassed Apple in market capitalization.)

Just weeks before its launch, the original iMac still lacked an official name. Apple’s marketing and product teams considered names like “Rocket Mac,” “EveryMac,” and “Maxter” before settling on “MacMan,” inspired by Sony’s iconic Walkman, the top-selling portable audio player since 1979.

“[Jobs] liked that MacMan sounded like Walkman, which was the world’s most famous and profitable electronic device at the time,” recalls Ken Segall.

“Jobs appreciated the association. He told the marketing team that Sony was a highly successful consumer electronics company, and Apple could benefit from a similar association by choosing MacMan.” This approach was somewhat at odds with Jobs’ “Think Different” philosophy, admits Segall.

Ultimately, the name iMac was chosen, symbolizing the product’s internet capabilities and Apple’s innovative spirit, and the rest is history.

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