First, some background…
ACT! was conceived over a brainstorming breakfast on July 4, 1986. At that breakfast, not yet able, nor necessary, to have a name for it yet it was codenamed YES! – an acronym that stood for Yes Everybody Sells!. Thus, it began as an acronym/name that identified its raison d’être. Its immediate “oomph” was meant to be inclusive, profoundly positive, energized, determined, compelling and motivating. It’s the reason that the “!” mark was added to underscore an extra dimension of passion and excitement as to what the outcomes could be because of using our newly conceived product about to begin its development journey, being released on the market nearly 9 months later, April 1, 1987 as ACT!. In essence, from the get-go, we wanted to lift the human spirit from using it, and what couldn’t be more exciting than that?
The story behind the naming of ACT!...
After exploring and interviewing numerous marketing-oriented companies to hire for the purpose of coming up with a name the cheapest bid was for $20,000 with no guarantee that we would like any, the two founders/inventors Pat Sullivan and Mike Muhney decided to table it for a bit simply due to not wanting to spend that much, at least not yet, unless they ultimately had to. At about the 2-month before launch timeframe Mike Muhney was in Manhattan cultivating a relationship with Executive Computers who only sold this new product called Laptops to corporate customers, a perfect reseller for the yet-to-be-named YES! product now in beta-testing. Over lunch on a Friday in Manhattan before heading back to Dallas that evening Peter O’Connor, the CEO of Executive Computers, asked Mike if we had come up with a name yet. Responding with a no, Peter exclaimed that we needed to get on with it as we were finally going to be at the stage of needing to make brochures, packaging, etc. The challenge had been laid.
That evening, sitting on his plane at LaGuardia Airport ready to head back to Dallas, Mike reflected on that lunch and Peter’s comment and challenged himself to see if he could come up with a name during his 3½-hour journey back home. He set three criteria out as to what he hoped to come up with. They were:
The gauntlet was now set. Reflecting on the need to begin with the letter A, Mike reflected on YES! and if any of the menu items began with the letter A, which happened to be the case as one of the Main Menu items was called the Action menu. There was the A. Continuing to the B’s Mike could not think of a word that began with a B that could follow the letter A that would create an acronym/word, so he then went to the C’s to see if he could come up with a word that could be added to the A. Asking himself what the Action menu item provided him the ability to do and searching for that C-letter word to describe it he ultimately came up with the word “Control.” There it was! Activity ConTrol!. Upon landing at DFW Airport, Mike’s wife was there to pick him up and on the way home he proceeded to unfold that he had come up with the name and how. As a side note here, it was Mike’s wife who wrote, from scratch, the first User’s Manual along with on her own creating the imaginary user Chris Huffman who would go on to live in infamy in the ACT! community and product demo database.
Anyway, after telling her the story, she said that each letter of the now newly named ACT! had to have come from each their own unique words and she said ACT! should stand for Activity Control Technology! So, there it was. The “!” was unequivocally a given because it represented the same above-stated purpose as YES! did at its conception on July 4, 1986, that being the “!” mark was added to underscore an extra layer of passion and excitement as to what the outcomes could be for the user along with the fact that we and our beta users had deeply gotten connected, emotionally, to its codename that included that all-important extra-added emphasis of being inclusive, profoundly positive, energized, determined, compelling, motivating, exciting and smile-producing playfully fun-loving end-capped that that “!” unmistakably provided.
As a postscript, it also saved the company $20,000!
And one last word of its history…
There are also two more essential and important elements as to its name and brand that formed its foundation:
And so, upon the user obtaining the then shrink wrapped copy of ACT! and opening it up in its box, upon removing the box lid the very first thing that the new user encountered was the all-too-familiar thin white wrapping paper around the User’s Manual and discs one experiences when opening up a gift-wrapped present to further emphasize that excitement and anticipation of beneficial use that ultimately was not only a new productivity product but also along with it a new category of software that would also go on to create an entire industry today known as CRM, and along with it an extremely enthused user base that shortly was to become known as ACT! Fanatics!
And to all that history, it rightfully concludes here with a hearty, and heartfelt, “!”.
About Mike Muhney