A local state university president, already facing a budget deficit, is quoted in the paper suggesting that “more cuts are needed” and that the Coronavirus is destroying their ability to enroll students. This is not the message to send, even if it may be true. There is no urgency in her plans, because she assumes the university will survive, will be bailed out, she’ll have another job. The future is not something we can control, but it’s also inevitable and it’s your job to adapt and plan to win, not to admit defeat and attempt to manage.
Need proof? Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997 and the company was on it’s death bed. New products, including the innovative iMac were a year away. The first thing he does is look for a new ad agency. Chiat\Day, which had been the agency that gave him the iconic “1984” spot introducing the Macintosh had been off the account for 10 years when they were invited back to pitch. Now, one of the hottest shops in the country, the plan for Lee Clow and Rob Siltanen was not to pitch- to walk away if asked, so when Jobs demanded spec work, Siltanen was ready to walk, but Clow said they’d be back.
The campaign they came back with, “Think Different” didn’t show photos of computers. It wasn’t even grammatically correct, and Jobs had said he didn’t want TV, but they came back with a rip-o-matic rough cut of a 2 minute spot showcasing famous folks who walked to the beat of a different drummer set to the song “Crazy” by Seal. Only problem was, it was 2 minutes long and they needed something more compact. After Siltanen did his best to write a new voiceover- Jobs trashed his work and alienated him. Another writer was brought on, Ken Segall., and he gave us the final script for “Here’s to the crazy ones” which was as much an ode to Jobs as to the people featured in the campaign. It was the right bet, and set the stage for Apple’s comeback. The string of products, from the iMac, to the iPhone to the iPad changed the world- all as predicted by the campaign which was as much manifesto as it was aspirational, because Apple was down, and almost counted out. Jobs wasn’t throwing in the towel, he was focusing his brand on attaining greatness, which is the exact right thing to do in a crisis.
With the whole world in shock over the Coronavirus crisis, many leaders (and university presidents) have thrown in the towel. Most have directed their agencies to do ads that all sound the same “in these unprecedented times” and “we’re all in this together” kumbaya bullshit.
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” — General George Patton
It’s so bad, you can cut them all together and get- well, someone already did:
This is not the answer. Ever. Doing what everyone else is doing is exactly the point that “Think different” railed against. Now, of all times, is the time to launch your brand with a new message, a new way of doing things, a new commitment to reach new heights. It’s called adapting, and it’s critical to evolution. We were adapting before the crisis- to the new gig economy, to software as a service, to a new media landscape where “fake news” was somehow acceptable.
The pandemic was just a unforeseen misdirection to most. Yes, Bill Gates saw it coming, but didn’t do a good enough job of raising the alarm. Now, the question is, will you rise to the challenge? Will you adapt, overcome and succeed? The PhD flails and fails, the college drop out swings for the fences. It’s easy to be a “leader” when things are predictable- but the true test is when they’re not.
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” — President Theodore Roosevelt
The funny thing is, Steve Jobs was inspired by Nike’s advertising and looking for his own version of it when he came back to the sinking Apple.
“The best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing the universe has ever seen is Nike,” Jobs explained. “Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, they don’t ever talk about their products. They don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they’re better than Reebok’s air soles. What does Nike do? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about.”
He wanted to do the same for Apple’s brand. “The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds. It’s not to talk about MIPS and megahertz, it’s not to talk about why we’re better than Windows,” Jobs said.
Jobs went on in the talk to announce Apple’s newest ad campaign, which used the tagline “Think Different,” and featured pictures of legendary thinkers like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King and John Lennon. The ads didn’t describe Apple computers’ specifications or functions, but instead gave a sense of the company’s mission.
And when you want to see a company give the right response in troubled times, Nike, with their agency for life, Wieden+Kennedy, get it right, right now:
Because, once you admit you are down, if you don’t start talking about a comeback, you will never have one.
“We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower
We’re not saying we have the answers for the Coronavirus crisis you are facing, but, we’re here to help brands find a voice that is uniquely theirs and projects hope for a better future. This is what advertising does- it creates lust, evokes trust- and triggers an emotional response. If your campaign doesn’t inspire folks while they are desperate for a comeback, don’t even consider running it.
When the “Think Different” campaign launched, Apple immediately felt the boost despite having no significant new products. Within 12 months, Apple’s stock price tripled. A year after the “Think Different” launch, Apple introduced their multi-colored iMacs. The computers represented revolutionary design, and they became some of the best-selling computers in history. But without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple.
“We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” — General Omar Bradley
Apple showed us how it’s done. Are you ready to Think different?