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Unheard Story of Apple's Think Different Campaign That No One Has Ever Told You

Unheard Story of Apple's Think Different Campaign That No One Has Ever Told You

World’s biggest company with its worth over $2 Trillion was struggling to survive in 1997. It had only 90 days’ balance left and its biggest competitors were ready to smash that half-eaten Apple and dominate the tech world. 

But, believe it or not. If there is innovation & creativity, no one can stop you from succeeding. 

Today we’re gonna give tribute to one of the biggest revolutionary thinkers of this world “Steve Jobs” and his one advertising campaign that changed the fate of Apple & became the world’s one of the iconic commercials: “Think Different”

Background Behind The Need for Apple’s Iconic “Think Different” Campaign

Apple was failing! Yes!

By the mid-1990s, Apple's future was looking bleak. The company had lost its way, struggling with a series of uninspired product launches and internal turmoil. Market share was plummeting, and the tech giant found itself teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Several factors contributed to Apple's perilous state, such as:

  • The company had been plagued by leadership issues following Steve Jobs' departure in 1985. A string of CEOs attempted to fill his shoes, but none were able to recapture the magic and vision that Jobs brought to the company. 

  • Compounding these internal struggles was the rise of Microsoft and its Windows operating system. The PC market was booming, and Apple, with its closed ecosystem and focus on proprietary hardware and software, was unable to compete effectively. 

  • In 1996, Apple faced a critical decision. With losses mounting and the company facing imminent financial collapse. 

And here the board of directors made a desperate & bold move: they rehired Steve Jobs.

“Think Different” Campaign

Jobs, who had been nurturing his own company, NeXT, was initially hesitant. However, he ultimately saw the potential to save Apple and agreed to return. He immediately began implementing a series of drastic changes, streamlining operations, cutting costs, and refocusing on core products. 

While analyzing Apple's recent performance & results Steve Jobs noticed one problem that was destroying Apple’s brand & reputation: Apple’s horrible advertising. Apple was running more than 25 advertisements all around the globe and all of them were misaligned with its brand’s goal.

At that time BBDO was the advertising agency that was working for Apple & as soon as Jobs found out about this problem, he decided to create one ad campaign with one message that would revive Apple. And that’s how the seeds of “Think Different” were grounded.

The Creation of “Think Different”

The Creation of “Think Different”

The iconic "Think Different" campaign wasn't simply a stroke of genius, but a carefully crafted masterpiece born from the ashes of Apple's near-bankruptcy. Its creation involved a complex interplay between a talented ad agency, a visionary leader, and a potent mix of inspiration and desperation.

  • The Agency's Vision: 

In 1997, Jobs entrusted the task of revitalizing its brand to TBWA/Chiat/Day, a renowned advertising agency known for its creative prowess. The agency's team, led by Lee Clow, immersed themselves in Apple's history and culture, seeking to understand the essence of the brand. According to them, “Apple wasn't just selling computers; they were selling a way of thinking, a philosophy of challenging the status quo and embracing nonconformity.”

  • The Seeds of Inspiration: 

The campaign's central theme, "Think Different," was born from this very insight. It was coined by Craig Tanimoto, an art director at Chiat/Day, who believed it perfectly captured Apple's core identity. The campaign's visuals also played a crucial role. Lee Clow envisioned featuring portraits of "crazy ones," individuals who dared to think differently and change the world. This concept resonated deeply with Steve Jobs, who himself embodied the spirit of nonconformity.

  • Jobs' Approval: 

Despite initial concerns about the campaign's potential for alienating mainstream consumers, Steve Jobs ultimately approved it. He saw in "Think Different" a reflection of his own values and a powerful tool for rekindling Apple's spirit. His unwavering belief in the campaign became a driving force behind its success.

  • The Campaign Takes Flight: 

Launched on 28th September 1997 on TV, the "Think Different" campaign featured a series of black-and-white television commercials and print ads showcasing iconic figures like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and John Lennon. Each ad featured a simple yet powerful message about the impact of thinking differently.

  • Impact and Legacy: 

"Think Different" became synonymous with the Apple brand, helping it shed its image as a struggling tech company and emerge as a symbol of innovation and forward-thinking. It emerged as a massive triumph for both Apple and TBWA\Chiat\Day. Widely praised, the campaign earned prestigious recognition, including the 1998 Emmy Award for Best Commercial and the 2000 Grand Effie Award for the most impactful campaign in America.

One of the most iconic lines, featured in the voiceover of the original TV commercial, stated: 

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're the ones who 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."

What Made This Ad Campaign Successful?

Apart from Jobs’ dedication to making this company thrive again, several other factors made this “Think Differently ad campaign” successful. Such as:

1. Emotional Connection 

The campaign went beyond simply selling products. It tapped into consumers' emotions by celebrating creativity, individuality, and the human spirit. This resonated deeply with people who felt like they didn't fit in with the mainstream.

2. Inspiration Through Icons:

Featuring portraits of iconic figures like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, and John Lennon added a layer of inspiration and credibility to the campaign. Seeing these individuals alongside the message "Think Different" subliminally suggested that those who embraced nonconformity could achieve greatness.

3. Simplicity and Clarity:

The campaign's message was simple and clear: "Think Different." This powerful tagline resonated with consumers and became synonymous with the Apple brand. The use of black-and-white visuals and minimal text further enhanced the campaign's simplicity and impact.

4. Targeting the Right Audience:

The campaign targeted a specific audience: young, creative individuals who were open to new ideas and challenges. This targeted approach helped to ensure that the message resonated with its intended audience.

5. Timing and Context:

The campaign launched at a critical juncture for Apple. The company was struggling financially and needed a way to reinvigorate its brand. The "Think Different" campaign arrived at the perfect moment, helping to turn things around for Apple.

6. Steve Jobs' Belief and Execution:

Steve Jobs' unwavering belief in the campaign was crucial to its success. He championed the campaign within Apple and ensured that it was executed flawlessly. His passion and vision were essential ingredients in the campaign's triumph.


Apple's "Think Different" campaign's moral is to embrace individuality, nonconformity, and creativity. It celebrates those who challenge the status quo and dare to dream big. It also tells us that an in-depth knowledge of your own business, your audience, and their needs can lead your path to reaching their hearts. The psychological study of “Think Different” always shows how effective a small initiative can be.

And at “Wow Animation” we initiate that one step to make your brand grow. We're an advertising agency that creates 2D animated ads with an in-depth psychological study of your brand & your audience. With helping over 800+ global clients, we are on a mission to make every advertiser convert through our animated ads. Book a free consultation call with us now to discuss your brand!



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