Case Study

Apple’s 1984: Who’s Big Brother now?

In 1984, Apple released a commercial that changed the history of advertising.


Though this commercial was only aired during the Super Bowl, it caused ripple effects around the country, being shown incessantly on news shows that night. The commercial won many awards, including the 1984 Cannes Grand Prix and “Best Super Bowl Spot” in the entire game’s history.

This commercial didn’t dumb down its audience, but called them to action and actually think…at least, that’s what Apple was trying to say.

Fast forward to present day and Apple has taken over the market. Though Apple tries to maintain its legacy as the innovative brand, it is thought of by many as the Big Brother of computer and mobile companies. Samsung made that point clear in a 2012 commercial:


Though the ad above did not make as many headlines as Apple’s 1984 ad, it does raise a very good point. Apple can be innovative and new, but it can no longer be the “rebel” brand. Sorry Apple, but the iPhone is the mainstream “must-have”  product for everyone in America over the age of 13. So much for being unique.

With this change in market share came an unfortunate change in Apple’s marketing strategy. Apple’s innovations have decreased in magnitude with every new product (Really, iPad Mini?). Not only that, but the commercials themselves have taken on a much duller approach, with no literary allusions or epic statements, but with an invisible crowd of lemmings shouting together like on Sesame Street:


Maybe it’s time for a little revolution.

3 replies on “Apple’s 1984: Who’s Big Brother now?”

I think the big difference is that when Apple came out in 1984, it was a revolution. I think today’s technology market is so expectant, that it’s not about being different, it’s about serving your customer’s needs. When Mac came out, it was toppling a bahemouth, and by so doing, being the computer of the people. Nowadays, the people care less about the big guy and the little guy, and care more about what their products actually do.

Honestly, I don’t think that the iPhone is necessarily the best phone out there, but it is the best phone for me. It’s small enough to put in my pocket (all the HTC’s and galaxy phones are larger than my hand) and I’m accustomed to the lay-out and technology. I don’t want another brand, despite the fact that it may be more convenient because my phone does what I want.

Last thing: I think the reason Apple has prevailed in many ways is because it seems unique. There’s 2 laptops (with more range within, but it’s basically Pro or Air), one phone, one big iPad, one small. There design is unique and continuous. If you look at there products, you know what it is. Other companies are less distinctive, and I would argue, less comfortable.

Great points! I think the issue though, is that originally Apple was advocating itself as a brand that was for rebels, where now the company expects customers to choose Apple because it’s comfortable and, as you said, they are familiar with the layout.

Though I agree some recent phones have gotten ridiculously large, I think the majority of people who stick with Apple phones are because they feel safe with them: iPhone’s don’t change much, so people can upgrade without feeling that disorienting feeling that comes with getting used to a new phone.

Apple’s current strategy is not bad, I just think it’s interesting that it is the complete opposite of what they claimed in the 80’s. Instead of “wake up and think!” it has become “stay with us, we’re comfortable”.

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