About 10 years ago, when I was living in California and getting my masters in ethics, APPLE had an advertising campaign entitled Think Different. I had (almost) completely forgotten about it until STA reminded me yesterday (thanks STA). As part of the campaign, APPLE produced the following commercial:
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 Villify 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 that they can change the world are the ones who do.
Watching this commercial again this morning, I got really excited. Yes! Troublemaking as virtuous! Troublemaking as changing the world…as thinking different and differently…as refusing to accept the status quo or to follow the rules…as genius! Cool, huh? For the most part, yes. I really like this ad and it makes me happy to watch (and know that others are watching) virtuous troublemaking on television during primetime. (and, I really like APPLE–I am writing this entry on a MacBook). Uh oh. Here comes the…But, what do we make of this campaign as an advertisement for a product? And what is the product? It doesn’t seem to be computers since there is no mention of them–in words, images, or voiceover–in the ad. No, the product that they are selling is the image of APPLE as Rebel, as Misfit, as Crazy, as Troublemaker and, by extension, the image of you-the-consumer as rebellious troublemaking genius. This is a tactic that they have employed for quite some time. Just ask any good APPLE follower (like STA): Microsoft is the MAN (as in working for the…) while APPLE is the nerdy, crazy, cool dude (what exactly is the opposite of the MAN anyway?).
So, want to think different/ly? All you have to do is buy an APPLE product. After all, it is the American way. Ah, America, whose founding truths (that are held to be self-evident) are not so much “we the people” as “we the consumers.” Just ask George W. Bush, who offered the following words of encouragement to the American people after 9/11: Go Shopping!
Of course, there is more going on with the Think Different advertisement than the selling of an image and there is much to praise about its linking of rebellion, rule-breaking, troublemaking with innovation, change and genius. But, why does troublemaking (as an attitude or approach to life) have to be made into a commodity? Aren’t there other (and better) ways to access it than by patronizing your local APPLE Store?