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Inbound Marketing Blog

    5 Marketing Lessons from Apple's Iconic 1984 Ad

    Posted by Jasmine Henry

    Great Moments in Marketing 


    SuperBowl advertisements have been compared to fast food. In the words of Marketing Strategist Steve McKee, "they taste great going down, but they don't offer much long term satisfaction." A notable exception is Apple's 1984 commercial, which was recently voted the best SuperBowl ad of all time. Many of us marketers, even those of us who use PCs, consider it one of the best ads of all time:

    The world's best commercial was really only aired for a major audience once.  28 years later, the video recording on YouTube has over 10 million views and counting. It's the clip Apple used to introduce their brand to the world, which ends with the stark declaration "And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984. " Apple's introduction to their new computers during the 1984 SuperBowl. was more than a little strange and disorienting. It's even hard to watch. 

    The video depicts unhappy-looking human drones marching through an even more bleak environment.  a very 1980's-looking female athlete runs and throws a sledgehammer at a television screen. It's an act of rebellion that's inspiring. Many who watched the commercial when it initially aired remember cheering at the time. No one would argue that the commercial is, as tech writer David Griner says, a class of itself. Here are some of the biggest marketing lessons your brand can learn today from one of the greatest pieces of advertising of all time. 

    1. Talk to Your Market in Their Language

    There were three computer advertisements during the 1984 SuperBowl, but no one is talking about the others 28 years later. It's because no one watching the game really cared that much about the specifics of processing speed or megabytes or any other jargon. The advertisement really has nothing to do with the quality of computers or their product, but it captured the audience's attention and kept it. 

    2. Build Fanaticism

    No one really camps outside competitors' stores for weeks before they open. Apple has built a tribe of product fanatics, called "fanboys" (or fangirls). Few brands can compete with just how dedicated their clients are to the brand. Apple doesn't back away or try to make their products less exclusive. The 1984 ad's stirring images were just the beginning of the tribe of Apple. 

    3. Understand Your Values

    Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that he'd rather run the risk of missing the mark than making "me, too" products. Innovation and being different are core components of Apple's culture. It would be really difficult to express these sentiments any more eloquently than the 1984 commercial. Even though there was a great deal of concern that the ad would miss the mark, it didn't and it was a clear reflection of how Apple saw themselves and how the world has come to see them, too.

    4. Find Your People

    It doesn't take much analysis to understand who Apple was targeting in this advertisement. It wasn't employees of corporate America, it was the rest of us. This concept became a core of Apple's marketing strategy in the early years. When they ran a 16-page color advertising insert in Newsweek later that same year, the slogan was "Introducing Macintosh. For the rest of us." Apple wasn't trying to become the business standard for corporations, engineers or technicians. They were trying to target early adopters of technology for personal use, and they succeeded. Understand your buyer personas and how to connect to them. Your brand messaging and content marketing are going to be a whole lot more relevant than if you were trying to target everyone at the same time. 

    5. Be Different

    The most apparent fact about Apple's 1984 commercial is that it was really weird. It's still pretty weird. Differentiation was a major component of Steve Job's business philosophy; in 1987 he famously stated “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Don't be afraid to be remarkable or different in your marketing. Try new things, and maybe you'll produce some content that inspires analysis in 28 years in 2040.

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