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Think different — A look at how Apple revitalized a dying company

Ryan Mallory


Jan. 11, 2021

Your company’s vision, whether you’re a small business or a major corporation, is reflected in the way your customers and employees see and interact with your company and is vital to your success. A perfect example is with Apple Computers. In the early to mid-1990s, the Goliath tech company Apple almost closed its doors — until Steve Jobs took over in 1997. He saw that Apple needed a cultural shift not only with customers but also with employees.

On July 9, 1997, the former Apple Computers founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, returned to the Cupertino, California, company as an interim CEO, with the sole purpose of rebuilding Apple’s product line and brand equity. Jobs saw the company’s current dire straits, which called for a reboot from the ground up. He realized that the customers needed to be reminded of Apple’s innovative thinking, but he also saw that the thousands of Apple employees needed to become re-inspired with the company’s direction and vision as well. 

In August, the company launched the “Think Different” campaign to audiences in the United States and throughout the world. The first ad began with “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers….” And right from the beginning, this campaign had a profound effect on Apple’s audience. This campaign, which contained no products, inspired fans and customers to write letters and emails, send faxes, and make phone calls all filled with positive comments about the campaign’s message. Many publications and advertising critics seemed to agree. USA Today listed Apple’s “Think Different” promotion as “one of the year’s best campaigns.” Advertising Age said, “The decision to celebrate the kind of independent thinking that has always typified Mac users seems now to make total sense.’’

Financially, Apple saw positive gains thanks to the “Think Different” initiative. According to CNN Money, on October 14, 1998, “Apple reported fourth-quarter earnings well ahead of Wall Street expectations.” Jobs continued to take the success of the “Think Different” ad campaign to create other innovative promotions such as “Un-PC,” “Big and Small,” and “Get a Mac,” all with the goal for Apple to question the status quo.

Today, Apple continues to lead with innovative products such as iPhone, iPad, MacBooks, and more, along with staggering financial results. What does the future hold for Apple? Who knows — it will be interesting to see how the company maintains and grows its product line and brand equity. 

When it comes to your small business, you might be thinking, “this is an extreme case; I don’t have nearly the marketing resources of Apple.” You’re right. The reason this story is told is that Steve Jobs focused on a series of questions: “What is your vision?” “Why are you here?” “Why do customers care about your business?” “What makes you unique?” When you can answer these big questions and apply them to your marketing promotions, you should see clarity and, yes, profitability in your marketing and business practices.

See Steve Job’s Introduction to the “Think Different” Campaign: