The Grumpy Grammarian

Think Different - How Apple’s Grammar No-No Won The First Emmy For A Commercial

Pedantic grammarians would argue that a verb (Think) should not be followed directly by an adjective (Different). Instead, the verb should be followed by an adverb (Differently).

But is Think Differently a strong piece of communication? Tonally, it’s stiff and boring. Think Different is bold and brave and compelling. Just like how celebrities dress for the Red Carpet.

Just how successful was this tagline with a grammar mistake?

Back in 1997, Apple was just six months from bankruptcy. Jobs was busy trying to save the company, mostly by cutting back. He needed to remind people what Apple stood for — both customers and staff. The best way to do that was through a new ad campaign.

This ad campaign was a commercial and debuted on September 28, 1997, with a 60-second spot aired during the television network premiere of the animated film A Toy Story. By April 1998, Apple reported its second straight profitable quarter after nearly two years and $2 billion in losses. 

Jobs gave pedantic grammarians the finger as he walked off stage holding the first Emmy ever won for a commercial.

Not literally, of course. Although I’m sure he received hate mail from English teachers everywhere and that made him want to. 

How To Stick It To The Sticklers While Writing Your Copy.

Using precise words is important to convey the right meaning.

Choosing precise words makes it unnecessary to add layers of descriptive adjectives that lengthen sentences and comprehension time.

This Apple slogan was created by Ken Segall. He said, “The ability to think creatively is one of the great catalysts of civilization. So the logic seemed natural: why not show what kind of company Apple is by celebrating the people Apple admires? Let’s acknowledge the most remarkable people – past and present – who “change things” and “push the human race forward.”

This is the essence of “Think Different” and why “Think Differently” wouldn’t have been precise.

*Here’s the candy-coated caveat about this tagline being grammatically incorrect: According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “different” was used as an adverb dating back hundreds of years ago. So even these red-pen sticklers forget the rules.