Blog #3 – Think Differently

How many of us here in this room own an Apple product? iPads, iPhones, iPods, Macbooks, you name it. I know I do – I wrote this script on my Macbook Pro with my iPod transmitting audio over an Apple Airport. Part of the reason Apple has such a large portion of the market is a history of incredible ad campaigns – starting with the famous “1984” ad (which by the way only aired once on national television), the “Switch” campaign, and perhaps the most memorable “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign. Apple strives to promote an image of user individuality, of standing apart from the pack. This is not an advertisment for a new Mac product – this is an advertisment for an Apple way of life.

The ad spot features a host of free thinking personalities in black and white from Albert Einstien to John Lennon. How many can you recall?

     Soft, motivational music plays over the black and white montage as a deep, bassy voice reads an uplifting toast to “the crazy ones.” Apple wants to showcase the rebellious point of view, the underdogs. The ad goes as far as to list them – as misfits, rebels, troublemakers.

     When this advertisment aired originally in 1997, Apple called upon an outside marketing and research group TBWA/Chiat/Day to promote a new image. The purpose of the whole “Think Differently” campaign, and in particular this ad spot, is to liken customers’ innovations to those of famous “outside-the-box” thinkers. In essence, these famous faces thought differently and changed the world, and with a Macintosh – you can too.

“…the people who are crazy enough to think
that they can change the world… are the ones who do”

     This is in effect an attempt at branding Apple as one that stands out from the rest – which at the time were white collared, bifocalled IBM and PC/Windows users. Unlike later attempts, such as 2002’s Switch, Think Differently never directly confronts or mentions its competition. Instead, Apple went with a campaign that appealed emotionally to the viewer, while simultaneously connecting those feelings of freedom and creativity with their name. We also never see Mac products, let alone everyday people using them. In fact, those on screen have probably never heard of Apple computers.

     While truly an effective ad, there is a lot to be learned of Apple’s intentions. I urge us all to watch it once more, but this time to think about it, differently.


One response to this post.

  1. Choosing this ad creates a fascinating challenge because the meaning of the ad in 2011 is considerably different than the meaning of the ad in 1997. You address this nicely by reminding the viewer of different marketing strategies the company has used over the years.

    As you point out clearly, the ad works because it invites us viewers to identify aspirationally with a variety of famous people, to see ourselves as “like” them. But I wish you had deepened your analysis of the target audience to consider *who* Apple was aiming at with this particular campaign.

    This analysis is a little short of an “aha” experience because you don’t explore how different people might interpret this message differently. It’s quite possible that many cultural and creative types might resent a company that uses cultural heroes in such a grossly commercial manner– reflecting the belief that all American cultural values get reduced to mere promotional fodder, contributing to a cynical and disengaged perspective where “buying things” substitutes for “doing things.” Could such exploitation of the genuinely powerful cultural icons inadvertently contribute to a decline in real idealism and optimism about the power of the human spirit?


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