Would you approve of an advertising campaign which did not feature a single of your products when your organisation is losing a billion dollars a year (which back in 1997 was an even more humongous amount than it seems now)? That is exactly what Apple, reeling under multiple years of consecutive losses and with an interim CEO at the helm did. This is the story of the greatest corporate turnaround in history which ultimately led to the creation of the largest company in the world by market capitalization.
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.
These were the words of the TV advertisement which was of a minute’s duration with the above lines being played to images of 20th century icons like Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Mahatma Gandhi and Pablo Picasso amongst others. The “Think different” campaign also included images of these icons on billboards across the United states with the apple logo and “Think different” posted at the top.
Rather than focussing on its products Apple decided to launch a campaign which appealed to the creative side of it customers. It underlined its underdog status (remember that this was 1997, way before the time of smartphones and tablets and at the time Apple had about only 5% of the personal computer market share). It appealed to the quest for creative brilliance by human endeavour. In an internal meeting with Apple employees while explaining why Apple was cutting down the product line and introducing the “Think Different” marketing campaign, the rationale explained by Steve Jobs was to distinguish the Apple brand to honour creative thinkers – to highlight the core value of the organisation – that “people with passion can change the world for a better place” rather than its product line of not-so-thought-stimulating boxes which allowed people to do their jobs better!
Internal Marketing and Higher Need Appeal
Reeling under almost a decade of mediocrity and underperformance, this advertisement was meant as much as a rallying cry to its employees as it was a statement to the passion of its customers. It seemed to appeal to the higher category of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs appealing to the esteem and belonging needs of its employees as well as its loyal customers. It suppressed the product line and asked the Apple family to focus on its values and its core ideals.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Things that do not change
Essentially, the marketing strategy was targeted at values rather than the product. Black and white posters of creative geniuses were associated with the Apple brand so that when people think of Apple they would think of creativity and human excellence. Apple realised that fast-changing technological advancements meant that even a great product or innovation would become obsolete in a matter of years, months, weeks or even days! Hence, they chose to focus on the values and ideals of passion, wildness to stand apart and not be afraid to be different (Apple had their own operating system at the time utilised by a very small percentage of the personal computer market) and creativity which characterized the organisation, rather than a particular product or technology which may become obsolete in a few months.
Place in history
The “Think Different” campaign won many advertising awards and stands at the inflection point of Apple’s fortunes. For the year 1998, soon after this advertising campaign, Apple had earnings of $309 million, at $2.10 a share, on $5.94 billion revenue, the company’s first profitable year since 1995. The campaign was aired till 2002 and it supported an uber-cool counter culture for the brand to launch its now iconic range of products over the next decade.