Breaking the Mold: The Apple Mavericks Name Review


Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion … It was only a matter of time before Apple would run out of fearsome cats to name successive versions of its OS X operating system. And then what?

Apple answered that question today with its newly launched Mavericks, otherwise known as OS X 10.9, the latest version of its desktop operating system. For those outside the surfing world, Mavericks is a famed break near Half Moon Bay, California that draws big-wave surfers from around the world to its exceptionally high and dangerous waves. (So dangerous two expert surfers have lost their lives there.)

The name brings fresh energy and new direction to what had become a tired naming protocol. Mavericks not only addresses those legions of “think different” people who are Apple’s base, it also evokes new frontiers, thrilling agility, daring risk-taking, and the breathtaking, pristine beauty of the California coastline. Not bad for 9 letters. And with its edgy “x” sound and layers of meaning, Mavericks runs rings around its more common cousin “maverick,” and has none of its political baggage.

As for those who would decry the name (or already have decried it) because two men have died surfing Mavericks, naming consultants know that many interesting words have negative associations. As long as a word’s negative associations aren’t overwhelmingly top of mind (think swastika, for instance), that word is fair game for brand name development. We wouldn’t avoid naming a product or company using the word Everest, for instance, just because over 200 people have died trying to climb that mountain.

Apple plans to use the names of other inspiring spots in California for future generations of its operating system. What a great naming strategy. Besides being Apple’s home and birthplace, California as a state of mind comes closer to defining Apple than any other place on earth. And if California isn’t the stuff of dreams, we don’t know what is.

Grade: A

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