Think Different: What Businesses Can Learn from the Ad

Before the iPhone, before the iPod, and before his eventual firing from the company he created, Steve Jobs (along with cofounder Steve Wozniak) disrupted the technology landscape with the launch of a revolutionary computing device, the Apple II. Jobs would later be revered for his dashing charisma and theatrical marketing campaigns, but the early days of Apple weren’t unlike those of many startups today.

If the genesis of Apple has proven anything, it’s that with a forward-thinking product and a lot of fortitude, great things are possible. Of course, the Steve Jobs story is legendary because of Apple’s ups and downs – something that every business owner should understand and learn to persevere in such times.

Jobs was summarily fired from Apple in 1985 after being stripped of his duties by board-appointed CEO John Sculley. After Sculley’s ousting and declining sales, Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 as interim CEO. One of the first things he did was launch a new marketing campaign he believed would re-establish the company brand and culture. The campaign was called “Think Different” and it created one of the most memorable advertisements in history.

Credited for completely rebranding the technology company, Jobs and LA-based agency TBWA\CHIAT\DAY chose to leave out Apple’s products altogether and instead feature iconic 20th Century personalities such as John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, Jim Henson, and Pablo Picasso. It won the 1998 Emmy Award for Best Commercial and the 2000 Grand Effie Award for most effective campaign in America. Jobs would later say that he wanted the commercial to reflect a certain philosophy, and much of it was inspired by a 1995 interview he gave where he said:

“The minute you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.”

Over next several years, the company would ride the momentum and underlying philosophy of the Think Different campaign and produce one revolutionary product after another such as the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and the iPad. The company is now the most valuable company in the world at over half a trillion dollars.

Not every company has the assets or talent to produce an ad of such cultural impact and quality. However, the underlying message to business owners of all sizes is universal: strong messaging builds strong business. A unified, rock-solid branding effort and a great product to match can change the course of a business for generations to come.

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