November 8, 1984: After initial Mac sales prove disappointing, Apple CEO John Sculley dreams up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign to encourage people to give the revolutionary new computer a chance.
The promotional strategy advises people in possession of a credit card to drop into their local retailer and “borrow” a Macintosh for 24 hours. The idea is that, by the time potential customers need to return the Mac, they will have built up a bond with it — and realized they can’t live without one of Apple’s computers.
While 200,000 would-be customers take advantage of the offer, Apple dealers absolutely hate it.
September 28, 1997: Apple debuts its iconic “Think Different” television commercial, aligning the troubled computer company with some of history’s most celebrated freethinking rebels.
The most famous tagline in Apple history, “Think Different” doesn’t just articulate how Cupertino differs from its competitors. It also highlights how Apple, under the leadership of CEO Steve Jobs, will forge a future far different from its floundering, money-losing days of the early 1990s.
August 21, 2008: Microsoft recruits comedian Jerry Seinfeld for a series of ads. It’s a naked attempt to shake the company’s reputation as a stodgy oldster (as opposed to Apple’s trendsetting hipster image).
Microsoft pays Seinfeld a reported $10 million for the ads. However, thanks to the Mac’s appearance in virtually every episode of Seinfeld over the years, the comedian remains the world’s most famous Apple fanboy.
August 8, 1997: At Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs introduces the world to Apple’s new slogan, “Think different.” The catchy marketing reassures fans that Apple is exiting its mid-1990s dark age and once again making products customers will love.
June 9, 2002: Apple launches its “Switch” advertising campaign, featuring real people talking about their reasons for switching from PCs to Macs. Apple’s biggest marketing effort since the “Think Different” ad campaign a few years earlier, it turns 15-year-old high school student Ellen Feiss into an unlikely star.
She becomes a viral sensation after viewers suggest she was stoned during filming of her sleepy-eyed “Switch” spot about a homework-devouring PC.
May 27, 1986: An exiled Steve Jobs takes a shot at Apple after the company ditches Chiat/Day, the ad agency that created the iconic “1984” Macintosh ad.
In a full-page ad published in The Wall Street Journal, Jobs says the move to competing ad agency BBDO shows that “caretakers” rather than “builders” now run Apple. From his perspective, it confirms that Apple has lost its revolutionary spirit.
May 21, 2010: Apple quietly ends its award-winning “Get a Mac” marketing campaign.
Debuting in 2006, the ads starred actor Justin Long as the cool, youthful Mac. Comedian John Hodgman portrayed the stuffy, awkward PC. Alongside the “Think Different” and iPod “Silhouette” campaigns, “Get a Mac” will become one of the most fondly remembered extended advertising blitzes in Apple history.