As a leading SaaS marketing agency, we love analyzing a wide range of marketing wins.
And Apple has stories that feel like blockbuster movies. So, let's dive in.
How the iconic “Think Different” changed across 3 commercials
Developing a cultural story is not a straightforward process. The best marketing campaigns can take decades to make. For example, Apple’s iconic game-changer “Think Different” had been over 14 years in the making.
The half-bitten apple is one of the most recognized logos on the planet today. But that was not the case in the 80s when the company struggled to survive. Even though Apple was revolutionary in computing, the company had issues figuring out the marketing strategy. The board of directors fired Steve Jobs in 1985 due to poor sales and a tainted reputation.
In 1997, the company introduced the “Think Different” campaign, and Apple quickly took the throne as the most profitable company on the planet.
The following three commercials depict how Apple evolved from a near-bankrupt tech company to the Cupertino behemoth we know and love today.
I’m assuming that you know about the Hero's Journey, a.k.a the monomyth. I’m not going to bother you by explaining how storytelling is the best marketing tool on the planet.
In short, for those that come across this term for the first time: Storytelling is good marketing practice. You can position your customer as a hero. Then you define the enemies, the price of inaction, and take your hero on a journey to fame, riches, and better life. The company and the product act as mentors on this journey.
We have that covered. Let’s talk about Apple.
Apple’s Lisa 1983
Lisa was a breakthrough in personal computing. The computer had the first graphic command interface and mouse navigation. Pre-Lisa devices used bland code to navigate computer space. Essentially, you had to be a programmer to use a computer in the 80s. Unfortunately, Lisa was a commercial disaster. Apple barely sold 10,000 units, and it served as one of the reasons to kick Steve Jobs from the company he founded.
Lisa received technical acclamation, but it almost ruined Apple. The reason why hides in marketing. The first commercials were technical, heavy on geek talk, and not understandable by the general population. Apple hired celebrities like Kevin Costner to talk about the new computer. Every ad was focused on the technical revolution of the product.
Apple Lisa was all about me, me, me, and me. The high price, complicated terms, an unfamiliar product, and self-centered marketing cost Apple billions in lost revenue.
Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple in 1985, and not even the 1984 success could save him from the Lisa fiasco.
The 1984 Super Bowl ad was nothing short of marketing genius. The commercial introduced Macintosh to the world and took America by storm. Macintosh product line has been one of the most popular computer series to this day, generating tens of billions in yearly sales.
The 1984 commercial embodies the hero’s journey. You can find yourself in the story of corporate tyranny where Apple calls you on a journey of creative transformation. You’re the true hero of 1984. You’re what stands between Orwell’s 1984 and a better 1984.
The end draws a clear reference to George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, and the possible totalitarian future. Apple shows its logo shortly after and positions itself as the mentor in your story. Apple knows the way to escape computer tyranny.
The 1984 ad is all about you, your enemy, and your path to a better world. Apple is Yoda in this story. The company guides you towards prestige, self-realization, and riches.
Apple’s Crazy Ones
The Crazy One's campaign is where the Apple story becomes crazy. “Think Different” is one of the most recognizable slogans of the 21st Century. The idea was first introduced in the 1997 TV commercial.
“Think Different” is still on Apple products today, 23 years after the TV debut. Crazy Ones is hands-down one of the best one-minute commercials in history.
Apple rose to unprecedented fame shortly after, despite spending less on marketing and producing easier and simpler commercials.
Call to action is front and center, boasting a sense of identification with iconic misfits such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Muhammed Ali, Pablo Picasso, Richard Branson, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.
The final shot features a little girl. She represents a customer starting the journey of life. You can’t find a single computer in the 60-second commercial. The closing credit spells out the “Think Different” slogan, and that’s about it.
Nobody’s confused as to what this commercial represents. You know it’s about Apple and Macintosh. You’re drawn to associate yourself with great historical icons and explore the rest of the story by buying an Apple product. “Think Different” is what made Apple into the cult-like company you know today.
Steve Jobs talked many times about misunderstanding the market. After a series of trial and error and a story that took more than 14 years to make, Apple became the biggest cultural and commercial phenomenon of the 21st century.
The company has constantly been in the top ten global enterprises since 1997, taking the throne as the richest company on the planet on more than one occasion. Apple has learned to tap into the creative monomyth and create a story around its customers. Steve Jobs paid a huge price before implementing this strategy and leaving an astonishing legacy in the world of personal computing.
You can’t just have great products. You also have to know how to sell them. Heroes' journey is present in stories of Buddha, Jesus, Abraham, and many other historical figures and stories.
Written by yours truly, Toni Koraza
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