September 28, 1997 was the day Apple first told us to “think outside the box” (and started climbing the hell it had gone into without Steve Jobs). The story of the “Think Different” advertising campaign deserves to be remembered. Because it was a communication jewel of innovation, because if many fell in love with Apple then it was not only for the colored iMacs that will come out a few months later, but it was for this powerful slogan and for the chosen testimonials, who were not personal computers: they were great people who had changed the world.
In short, Steve Jobs had been appointed “interim CEO, temporary CEO” two weeks earlier, about seven months after returning to the company he had co-founded and from which he had been removed many years earlier. Apple was close to bankruptcy and yet on September 28th it displaced everyone by launching the “Think Different” campaign, written in white on a black background and rainbow logo, to reinforce the importance of having a different thought. At the same time comes the spot “Crazy Ones, those crazy”, with the beautiful voice of Richard Dreyfus, in Italian the perfect one of Dario Fo, perfect and credible to praise madness.
It has been said that Jobs himself wrote the text – beautiful – for the commercial, but in reality the whole campaign was created by a creative team of a famous advertising agency, TBWA / Chiat / Day. One of them, Rob Siltanen, after the death of Steve Jobs, annoyed by the fact that all the credit had been given to the co-founder of Apple, reconstructed the story, equipped with slips of those days, with the notes and presentations made in Cupertino . The first meeting was in July, Jobs had just returned to Apple as a consultant: “He was despotic and arrogant.” It was a certain Craig Tanimoto who invented the Think Different campaign with Thomas Edison, Gandhi and Albert Einstein as testimonial. It was inspired by the IBM personal computer campaign, the ThinkPad (“Think IBM” slogan). The video, the famous video that won many awards, was not intended to be the TV commercial but only the explanatory support for the client of the “Think Different” campaign (in fact it lasted two minutes, it was very long); but when Jobs first saw him he said he couldn’t approve the campaign “because people already think he’s a megalomaniac”; then he asked for a 60-second version of the video to make a commercial of it.
For the text the inspiration was the film “Dead Poets Society, The fleeting moment” with Robin Williams (who was later asked to recite it but declined despite being a friend of the Apple boss). But when Steve Jobs saw the surprise final version he was furious and decided to get his hands on it himself by changing some details. In the post, however, Siltanen says that the famous beginning and the famous ending of that text were his work, by Siltanen. Of course Jobs can no longer replicate, but in the end what does it matter: those remain a powerful text, video and campaign that gave an identity and a mission to a company that produced personal computers without ever speaking or showing the technology.
Here is the Italian version (but I recommend the video if you haven’t seen it yet): We dedicate this film to the insane, the nonconformists, the rebels, the troublemakers, all those who see things differently. They dislike rules, especially regulations, and have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, you can glorify them or denigrate them, but the only thing you can never do is ignore them. Because they manage to change things. Because they advance humanity. And while some might call them insane, we see their genius. Because only those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world really change it.