Think Different

Often times during the darker days of grad school when I would try to preserve my sanity during particularly boring lectures (which I, now a professor myself, have given my fair share of) I would load up the Apple "Think Different" commercial on my desktop and watch it over and over and over again.

I love this ad. In inspires me every time I watch it.

"Here's the crazy ones..." I'm glad they hired Richard Dreyfus to rock the narration. If you think about it, the whole commercial is a sort of toast-- like at a wedding or an awards ceremony.

We raise our glasses to genius. We raise our glasses to innovation, to strength, to the boldness and courage of the iconoclastic spirit.

And then, at the end, if our glasses are still raised, we've raised them to Apple Inc.

The message, of course, is Think Different.

And while you're thinking different: buy Apple.

Now, I'm an Apple guy. My wife sports the iphone. I'm typing this blog on a MacBook and an older iBook is in the corner of our house. I'm a fan of quality (when I can afford it) and Apple delivers.

But this blog isn't about Apple. It's about marketing and the fluid nature of our own perceptions of our needs.

The marketing industry has evolved immensely over time. In the past, the goal of marketing was to accurately describe products in a message with the hopes that people who needed those products would intercept that message and buy the product. The emphasis was placed on where and when your message was located. Exposure was the main point.

For example, if you sold coffee, you wanted everyone to know you sold coffee. You'd probably make a sign that said "COFFEE." And people who wanted coffee would come to your store.

Of course, after a while 3 guys down the street would open up their own coffee shops. Now this "COFFEE" sign just doesn't get it done. So you have to distinguish yourself from other coffees. There are lots of ways to do this: price, ingredients, etc. But there's one way that's different from all the rest. Maybe you decide to call your coffee "the best." There's no way to prove this, right? And what does that even mean? So you make a sign that says, "World's Best Coffee."

But it goes even further than this, which brings us back to our Think Different ad. This ad, if you're like me, connects to something very profound. It connects to the essence of the human spirit-- our need for progress and to do something great with our lives. If you're like me, you watch this ad and think, "I love greatness." And watching it may even make you want to be great, too.

But this ad isn't really an ad for greatness. It's really an ad for a computer company in Northern California. At best, you could say it's an advertisement for greatness brought to you by Apple. The shift is subtle. But the (not so) obvious point is to get all those feelings of optimism, strength, and rebelliousness to connect with the computer company in Northern California. That's why they paid millions of dollars to create and distribute this commercial.

The point of advertising anymore isn't exposure, it's love. And it isn't for you to love a product. It's for you to experience the emotion of love and associate it with that product.

This is a problem: when marketing strays from the product and becomes a product in and of itself. Marketing then moves from helping to advertise something that could meet your needs (or wants) and becomes a tool to create needs and wants.

And the problem increases when the best, most creative marketers and advertisers give their lives to selling computers, average movies, nylons and deodorant.

Imagine a world where our consumer appetites are so healthy that we create a new economy based on compassion instead of mere capital.

Imagine a world where the giants of business shift and buckle not at the cost of people but in order to better serve them. Not because of legislation or incentives but because of love.

Who will create this world?

Where are the bold, brave storytellers of tomorrow who align themselves with values rather than products, who desire to create better worlds not just fancier ones? Where are the people who, while they work for Apple, really do think different and ask the hard questions, take the admirable risks and live lives not of quiet desperation but passionate activism?

For a beautiful synergy of values and marketing check out

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