Apple’s infamous 1984 advertising campaign for the original Macintosh needs little introduction from myself. The one-minute clip, which was inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four novel and depicts IBM users as mindless followers, was a huge success. So much so that the marketing guru behind it, Regis McKenna, believes it was more successful than the Macintosh itself.
In an interview with the marketing magazine Ad Age, McKenna says the 1984 commercial inspired people to rebel against the status quo, and that it became bigger than the Mac itself:
“The ad was more successful than the Mac itself. The Mac was expensive to build, and Apple’s margins went negative in 1986. That conflict led to Steve’s ouster from Apple. The ad had some negative effect on corporate buyers, who were flocking to IBM. They didn’t like seeing themselves as mindless [followers]. But Apple wasn’t really ready for the corporate market anyway. “1984” came out of the Chiat agency, and they set the creative bar in many ways. The ad set an attitude of rebellion against the status quo, and it probably continues to serve Apple today.”
During the interview, McKenna also talks about the time he came out of retirements to help Steve Jobs deal with the iPhone 4’s “antennagate” crisis:
Steve called me from Hawaii and told me he had a big problem. I knew what it was because I had been reading about it. He asked if I would meet him at Apple the next day […]
I thought it was a media-cycle issue and that they should address it with the data they had and be confident about the outcome rather than be apologetic. That’s what Steve did. The issue vanished within probably 10 days.
If you’re an Apple fan, the full interview is well worth a read.