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Apple Marketing Continues To Capture The Imagination Of Consumers Worldwide As The iPhone 12 Launches

October 14, 2020 Sarah Cavill

From the sledgehammer heard worldwide in 1984 to the recent emphasis on privacy at a time when everything is shared, Apple has tapped into the collective headspace of billions of people around the globe. With few rivals in the last 20 years, Apple created a brand as recognized for its products as its marketing acumen. An indisputable story of perseverance and creative bravado. This week’s launch of the new iPhone 12 is another feather in the cap of this iconic company. Here’s a look back at a few of Apple’s big moments.

1984: The Beginning Of The Personal Computer – And Apple Marketing – Revolution 

The iconic “1984” commercial introduced the first Macintosh and flipped the script on the public perception of computers. No longer a tool for nerdy IBM types, but instead a chance to change the narrative. Despite Apple’s ups and downs over the decades, and plenty of “corporate overlord” barbs thrown their way, Apple has successfully maintained their image as the choice for thinkers and changemakers. “Macintosh was always bigger than the product,” said Steve Hayden, a copywriter on the 1984 spot. “We thought of it as an ideology, a value set. It was a way of letting the whole world access the power of computing and letting them talk to one another. The democratization of technology — the computer for the rest of us.” 

“1984” introduced commercials as marketing events, to be shared across news channels and as watercooler moments. Airing during the Super Bowl, the spot was among the first to begin the tradition of watching the big game “for the commercials.”

Apple Vs. The Competition Led To Apple Marketing Strategies That Tried To One Up IBM And Microsoft 

The hardware and graphic interface Apple used was a differentiator for the brand in the early days of the computer wars with Microsoft and others. Apple often deployed its user-friendly approachability in commercials, taking veiled potshots at competitors like Microsoft and IBM throughout the 80s and 90s. A popular example, the “They Have A Mac” spot from 1995, shows a dad struggling to understand how to get a picture of a dinosaur on a PC, with his son eventually getting tired of waiting and leaving to go to a friend’s house. Why? “They have a Mac.” Although Apple in the 1990s was considered a novelty of sorts after falling out of favor with many households, the brand’s image as the un-PC soon took the world by storm and ushered in Apple’s dominance just a few years later.

Steve Jobs Came Back, And ‘The Crazy Ones’ Commercial Sets The Stage

After many years away, original founder Steve Jobs came back to Apple, a brand that was floundering on the brink. “The Crazy Ones,” narrated by Jobs himself, was a series of black and white images of notable historical figures from Muhammed Ali to Richard Branson. These “crazy” misfits and revolutionaries changed the world, one way or another, whether loved or loathed. “The Crazy Ones” was a symbol of all that Jobs believed about leadership and the power and influence of technology — and Apple in particular, which Jobs always conceived of as a better version of what personal computing could be. The spot kicked off the “Think Different” tagline, which lasted until 2002, and marked the beginning of a new era for Apple.

‘Think Different,’ The iMac, Apple Marketing And The Look And Spirit Of Apple 

Different look, user, mindset — that’s what Apple was selling with the “Think Different” marketing campaign and the introduction of the iMac. The iMac looked like nothing else on the market. It came in vibrant colors. It wasn’t square or beige. And, as Apple had always boasted about their products, it was easy to use and install. In early iMac commercials, Jeff Goldblum, who was the first of many celebrities that appeared in Apple spots in the 2000s, laughingly showed off the three very simple steps it took to start up an iMac and get online. Both the commercial concept and the iMac product itself were uncluttered, easy to understand and beautiful to look at, themes that represented a lasting ethos in the Apple ecosystem, and were repeated again and again in Apple marketing and product design.

‘Hello’ Introduces The iPhone At The Oscars, And Consumer Life Is Changed Forever

There are more than 100 million iPhone users in the U.S. and 900 million around the world. 14 years ago there were none. iPhone is arguably the most significant product Apple ever introduced, accounting for nearly half of their revenue this year (with the iPhone 12 yet to be released), and it began with a simple “Hello.” During the 2007 Oscars, an Apple commercial aired that was a cheerful compilation of famous hellos, followed by an image of the very first iPhone and the word “Hello.” There was nothing to flip open and no clicking keyboard. The iPhone was simple and refined, leveraging the technology and look of prior Apple products and the success of the iPod.

The notion that users would someday glance at their phones, click twice and make a purchase that could be delivered within hours was unfathomable less than 15 years ago, and now users “check” their phones more than 96 times a day on average and more than 170 million people make mobile purchases. Apple’s marketing strategy by the time the iPhone rolled around was a well-oiled machine, appealing to Apple loyalists and intrigued outsiders, smart and sophisticated and staying true to what worked.

Apple Marketing Strategies That Include Kids & Plucked Heartstrings Captured Audiences

As Apple hit their stride, their commercials often tapped into the original spirit of the brand, creating moments that united people and challenged users to be creative and original. “The Song” and “Misunderstood” are both Apple spots that feature young adults using Apple technology to connect with their families. Aside from leaving viewers teary-eyed, these Apple marketing campaigns remind parents that technology isn’t bad and encourage kids to create.

Apple Tackles Their App Obsession And Privacy Concerns With Humor

Apple’s “There’s An App For That” all-in with apps attitude has often left them susceptible to some industry side-eye. Fortunately, Apple has never shied away from poking fun at themselves. At the 2017 Apple Worldwide Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple debuted Apocalypse, a commercial that showed what the world would look like without apps. The hilarious spot shows cities devolving into chaos as people forget how to drive, shop and share. As always, Apple seems to be saying “laugh all you want, but try it without us and this is what you get.”

Apple’s confidence and dominance has led to tremendous scrutiny from antitrust oversight committees in the U.S and abroad, and billions in dollars of fines. In response, Apple has begun to lean into being a more transparent company, more focused on personalized content that doesn’t require third-party providers. Recently, Apple released a new commercial emphasizing privacy. In the spot, people walk around sharing their personal information with randoms, highlighting the dangers of technology that doesn’t offer the privacy features of Apple. Apple uses humor to deflect from the seriousness of the issue, creating an effective and timely spot.

Every time Apple has a product launch, as they did this week with the iPhone 12, many pundits posit what could they possibly do differently than they’ve done before. Whether it’s more cameras, a new design or jumping into the streaming game, Apple always innovates and surprises, and their marketing stays right in step. As the world has changed, Apple has stayed true to their brand messaging, while rarely getting behind, creating a reliance from consumers that cannot be undone. Apple is a disruptor brand for the ages and a symbol of lasting ingenuity for marketers everywhere.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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