Brain Food: The Slogan Doctor - Apple: Think Different

Grammatical unorthodoxy pays off. Many found Apple's semi-literate slogan irritating - but they didn't forget it.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Emerging from the offices of TBWA\Chiat\Day in '97, it stirred up valuable controversy among pedants and commentators enraged at such 'sloppiness' from a company associated with education. Apple had an answer. 'Different', it suggested, was not an adverb but an adjective, qualifying a noun that was understood rather than stated, as in: 'Think (about getting a computer that is) different' or 'Think (about using your computer to do stuff that is) different'.

The slogan tapped into contemporary America's dislike of adverbs: the ad worked good. It placed the firm with the cool kids at the back of the class. So why did it last only two years? Because being different is not in itself a virtue. The TV commercial in which the slogan first appeared had little to say about how you use a Mac if your department runs Microsoft Access. It is worth noting that Apple's most successful product, the iPod, has succeeded with minimal advertising. And no slogan.

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