In 1984, Apple launched its Think Different ad. Since then this ad is very much viewed and favorited. However, there seems to be a universal misunderstanding of its message.
Let’s start with Branding 101 before trying to understand the message of Apple. Branding and marketing are two different concepts. Branding has one and one objective only. It aims to establish and cultivate an emotional bond in your heart associated with some specific product or service or process. Marketing rationalizes and appeals to our logic whereas branding caters to our hearts and emotions. Marketing emphasizes quality, features and advantages whereas branding tries to establish an emotional bond, playing on our passions and aspirations or human irrationale, inciting us to act in a desired manner (buy a product/service).
Branding is simple enough to perceive intellectually, but difficult enough for many companies/people, not least because they don’t get the underlying psychology, to implement. Apple, as well as companies like Nike and Disney, is very good at putting into practice this psychology-based business practice. There is no magic here. It is a business practice of branding with expected results coming to fruition.
Coming back to Apple’s message in that ad. Many perceive the Apple message to be, “everyone wants to be a rebel.” In my view this is a wrong perception. Rebel is an outlier, an outcast of a society. He/she is challenging every status-quo and convention, Our societies are made of 98% of the completely opposite stock, i.e. those who care about making living and leading their lives in as predictable and affordable way as possible. About the only time they pay attention to rebels is when a rebel becomes famous, for good or bad reasons.
Costs of being a rebel usually far outweigh advantages. Why then some become rebels and even succeed? Either a combination of character/aspirations/perseverance or purely statistical (for every successful rebel there is many that get thrashed by their societies, friends, etc.).
Successes of those successful ones, rebel or not, appeal to us. We all want to indulge in glories and successes of successful rebels, but we don’t want to shoulder the accompanying costs and challenges.
Apple, because of its “corporate rebel” status has until last few years been an underdog of the corporate world. Its branding has been its forte and that is why its brand value has been so high and still increases. Increasing number of Apple products, not least the notorious iPod, have competitors with in many cases some and in few cases many advantages over their Apple equivalents. We don’t know about those products, some of them with names Sony, Creative, etc., because of Apple’s unsurpassed branding strategy.
Apple’s ad was perfectly in line with its own mentality and branding. What it did was to create a personna of its own brand, associating it with some notorious rebels in science, etc., and by doing so elevating even further our emotional excitement. In this ad, Apple counted itself in ranks with Einstein, Martin Luther King, etc. Apple tried to lure customers to its products as Einstein would have lured students to attend his lectures or read his books.
Apple’s DNA has always been about exclusivity, coolness, simplicity (for customers) and, of course, being a rebel.
Being a rebel is always about bringing forth, advocating and fighting for change, which flies flatly in the face of a society, convention, tradition, or status-quo. We humans, however, are neither comfortable nor happy with change, let alone a dramatic one.