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In the late 1980s, Compaq was the dominant player in the personal computer category.
IBM CEO Louis Gerstner saw the PC market as a “growth opportunity that we cannot and will not ignore”. And, with only 40% of US households and only 15% of global households owning a PC it was an attractive market.

In 1993 Jonathan Bell was a member of the naming team that worked with IBM marketing leadership to create names for a new IBM PC brand. IBM wanted a name to help the brand stand out as well as differentiate from its current range of PCs which used an alpha-numeric approach (PS/1, PS/2).


We embarked on a rapid and thorough name exploratory to create names that could work in both the US and across the globe.

From the hundreds of names created, a handful of options passed through the trademark checks and consumer research market testing. Ultimately, ‘Aptiva’ was selected based on its ability to communicate two core ideas ‘apt’ (capability) and ‘activate’ to denote the idea of a PC that could make your ideas operative.

In 1997, IBM unveiled a joint venture that would unite Big Blue and 16 banks including Nations Bank and Bank One to create Gold Standard (for Electronic Financial Services) on the Internet. Gold Standard would compete with two other major systems, the Open Financial Exchange, or OFX, system created by Intuit Inc., Microsoft Corp. and CheckFree Corp.; and Visa International’s ADMS bill payment system. Based in Atlanta, we named the new venture, Integrion’.

And, in 2016, we were tasked with naming a new business-centric email product from IBM. The new email software would understand its users, create less clutter and more clarity, and help users get connected to the people who matter to you most. The email product would be cloud-enabled, designed for mobile devices, and powered by IBM’s analytics and advanced search.

For this product, we explored shorter, real dictionary words. ‘Verse’ was picked as the final brand name due to its lyrical and musical associations – a series of music or lyrics that tell the main story of the song and keep the action or thoughts moving forward.


Both the Aptiva, Integrion and Verse sub-brands helped to reaffirm Big Blue’s leadership in technology, software and solutions. In 1994 when Aptiva launched, IBM’s revenues were $2.89B. By the time Verse launched, the revenues had jumped to almost $80B.


  • B2B
  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Naming
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