In 1997 Apple unlocked value by celebrating how words and ideas change the world (even though the numbers were saying the “situation is downright ugly”)
Apple’s 1997 Think Different advertising campaign marked a major turning point in the company’s history. The “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” ad, voiced by actor Richard Dreyfuss, and showing black and white images of transformational figures “crazy enough to think they could change the world” (who of course would use a Mac, not a pc) is considered to be one of the greatest adverts of all time.
The real story behind the campaign, in the words of Rob Siltanen, creative director and managing partner at the agency that created it, is fascinating. What’s also fascinating is that in 1997 Apple was operating at a loss with a miniscule and shrinking market share and Microsoft was winning the consumer battle with Windows 95. By the time Steve Jobs returned as interim CEO in August 1997 (having been fired in 1985), Apple was 90 days from Chapter 11 (a title within the US Bankruptcy Code, allowing a company in financial difficulty to reorganise).
Given what the numbers were saying, calling in the advertising creatives, rather than the accountants to slash costs, was a bold move.
The ex PepsiCo exec who orchestrated the ousting of Jobs in 1985, John Sculley regarded Jobs as a “relentless zealot”. Their relationship didn’t get off to the best of starts; Jobs invited Sculley to join Apple asking “do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water to children, or do you want to change the world?” This was later turned against him in 2007 when an Apple developer, angry at the decision to drop the word “computer” from its official corporate name in 2007 asked: “Steve, do you want to sell coloured plastic all your life, or do you want to change the world?”
Revealing the details of why he sacked Jobs at a Forbes conference in 2012, John Sculley admits:
I did not have the breadth of experience at that time to really appreciate just how different leadership is when you are shaping an industry, as Bill Gates did or Steve Jobs did, versus when you’re a competitor in an industry, in a public company, where you don’t make mistakes because if you lose, you’re out.
Jobs’ return to Apple marked the start of an extraordinary period of innovation: the iconic iMac was released in 1998, and the iPod was launched in 2001. The first generation iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. In 2011 John Sculley described Steve Jobs as the greatest CEO ever.
Steve Jobs’ tyranny and unreasonableness in the demands he made of those around him is well documented. But he was asking his people to leap above and beyond what they could ever imagine was possible. His behaviour was a reflection of his complete belief in explosive inspiration over process, data and numbers.
If you’d invested $1 in Apple in August 1997, today that $1 would be worth about $130. About $500bn of value has been created. Insanely great value created by a team led by someone crazy enough to think he could change the world.
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 not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They 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. TBWA/Chiat/Day
The “crazy ones” featured in the advert are Albert Einstein; Bob Dylan; Martin Luther King, Jr; John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Buckminster Fuller; Thomas Edison; Muhammad Ali; Ted Turner; Maria Callas, Mohandas Gandhi; Amelia Earhart; Alfred Hitchcock; Martha Graham; Jim Henson (and Kermit); Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso.