Thirty years ago Apple unveiled its iconic “1984” Super Bowl commercial, announcing the release of the Macintosh personal computer. Steve Jobs had already previewed the commercial, publicly announcing his plucky little company was about to take on IBM.
Apple is embracing the anniversary of that moment, and wringing maximum PR value from the event. On the Apple home page, you can “Explore 30 years of Innovation On The Mac.” At Apple stores, LED displays say "Happy Birthday, Mac," and employees wear special T-shirts. Apple CEO Tim Cook, not known for accessibility, spoke to ABC News on the eve of the anniversary about Apple’s future plans.
It all adds up to a textbook case study for how to leverage a milestone, but in a way that's relevant to today, and today's customers. And all without a hackneyed, inwardly-focused pat on the back. Mac's 30th anniversary is an interesting look at how to use "old" to reinforce the value of "new."
Here's what other companies can learn from Apple on celebrating milestones:
1. Celebrate your past, but focus on the future. Cook used the anniversary event to reiterate that Apple had started manufacturing the Mac Pro in Austin, Texas, and that the company has made a significant commitment and investment in Arizona, on their Sapphire project, highlighting their participation in the "Made In America" trend.
2. Be specific about how you kept your brand promise. Apple's messaging thirty years ago was that a PC should take technology out of the hands of the few and make computing power ubiquitous. The video on the Apple home page is chock full of examples on just how that promise was kept.
3. Take the opportunity to rewrite history. While the $900,000 1984 ad helped Macintosh debut with strong sales, Apple did not knock IBM off the top of the PC heap. It was actually Microsoft and Intel that unseated IBM as PC king in 1985. Arguably, the commercial didn't work. And yet, Apple has preserved the memory of that commercial as a watershed moment; and points to it as a reminder that one revolutionary product can completely change an industry vertical.
Follow Brian W. Kelly: @bwpkelly