Apple - Think Different (1997)

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Apple - Think Different - Full Version
In 1997, Apple had sustained 2 profitless years and $2 billion in losses. But that was until Apple embarked on its "Think Different" campaign. Created by its longtime ad agency Chiat\Day, "Think Different" invoked iconic innovators like Gandhi and Einstein to show the extraordinary effects of thinking outside the box. The inspiring campaign framed Apple as the go-to brand for artists, creatives, and people who aspire to change the world for good. It turned around Apple's losing streak and positioned them as one of the most profitable brands in the world. And it sparked the cult of loyalty that still defines Apple today.

Why We Love Think Different

A. It's indisputable

It’s impossible to disagree with Think Different’s core messaging—Martin Luther King Jr. or Albert Einstein wouldn’t be famous if they followed the rules. And that’s because the campaign is based on an essential truth: people who change the world don’t follow convention. Think Different allowed Apple to built on this rock-solid foundation to frame its own rule-breaking and unconventionality as a contribution to changing the world.

B. It framed Apple as visionary

Apple was one bad quarter away from bankruptcy when Think Different was conceived—it had no grounds to associate itself with iconic visionaries. Yet it had the spunk to do it anyway. The simple mention of these seminal figures inspired confidence in the brand, and framed it as the soon-to-be-legendary underdog with life-changing ideas.

C. Its messaging was impeccable

By rights, Think Different should have been “Think Differently”—”think different” is grammatically incorrect. But this grammar gaffe incorporated Apple’s essential message of innovation. By purposely eschewing established rules, Apple showed it was taking nothing for granted—even the constructs of grammar.

What We Can Learn From Think Different

1. Go niche

Apple wasn’t targeting the casual consumer with this campaign—it was aiming for artists, creatives, designers, and visionaries. But, although it narrowed its target market, this market was much more engaged and passionate about Apple’s products, enabling it to drastically increase its market share. Don’t be afraid to target a specific group of consumers.

2. Think small

Before Apple ran Think Different, it had 25 different marketing campaigns—each with different messaging. Consolidating these campaigns allowed Apple to present one unified message to the world. And its impact was that much stronger, since it wasn’t lost in the noise. Think about what your brand’s core messaging is—and then run with it.

3. But dream big

The biggest lesson of “Think Different” is just that—don’t do what’s conventional. It seems ridiculous to compare a failing computer brand to an iconic civil rights leader, or a global peacemaker. Yet, Apple went on to be one of the foremost brands in the world, in part because of this messaging. So dream big, as long as you’re thinking different.

Key Moments

1997
Think Different Debuts

The campaign debuts with a commercial and print promos

1998
The Emmy

"Think Different" wins an Emmy for best commercial

2002
End of Campaign

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