Think Different. Sound familiar? It should. It was the revolutionary advertising campaign and slogan that proved the game changer for Apple in 1997 when company co-founder, Steve Jobs, was brought back as CEO to steer the corporate ship. Seeking to reinvigorate the beleaguered brand, this campaign was the turning point, officially signaling that the company was back and ready to shake up the computer industry – and the world – in a major way.
That mantra so perfectly encapsulated the Apple brand, with its focus on innovation, emphasis on beautiful design, and customer-centric attitude, that today it’s dissected in marketing and advertising classes the world over.
So what does this have to do with modern-day marketing? Well, everything. It offers a valuable lesson in what’s called mental models. Coined by Dr. Yoram Wind, marketing professor at The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, mental models are constructs created in a person’s mind. They are “driven by the story we read.” Attitudes, feelings, and behaviors are all guided by mental models rather than reality. These models ultimately dictate an individual’s decisions and actions. That person can be you, an executive at your company, or even a customer. Mental models govern each and every one of us, and this carries enormous implications for businesses and the way they market their services.
The most successful brands are the ones that have challenged entrenched mental models. Take Starbucks, for instance. When it first entered the market, it could have sold itself as just another coffee company. Instead it altered the story. It became a destination, a haven of sorts. It chose to market itself as a cozy, den-like spot where customers could sit and stay awhile. This emphasis on community and intimacy helped catapult the company to an uberbrand that today has the attention and hearts of millions of consumers. Now, that’s challenging mental models.
Remember: the world is constantly changing, and consumer attitudes evolve. If you’re a brand seeking to win market share, you should be monitoring this. Figure out how you can challenge these attitudes so your product stands apart. That’s precisely what Apple did. Jobs understood that the company’s success hinged on its ability to deliver truly innovative – and unexpected – products to the marketplace. He also knew its marketing strategy needed to be remarkable. It had to extend beyond the simple product-focused marketing common at the time and, instead, tap into consumers’ emotions and sense of self. With this approach, Apple didn’t just sell computers, it sold a lifestyle.
Have you challenged the mental models of your industry? If so, how did it work? Tell us in the comments below!