How Apple’s Aspirational Storytelling Created Decades of Growth

Matt Clement

Written by Matt Clement

January 28, 2019

Think Different. Remember Apple’s late-90’s rally cry as they began what would become a stellar comeback? With Steve Jobs back at the helm, Apple reached into its past to reclaim what had originally made them so successful.

This switch back to aspirational storytelling was no accident, the restored Apple brain trust fully knew the power of brand story.

Importance of Brand Storytelling

Research continually shows humans thrive on storytelling. The value, then, of stories should come as little surprise to marketers and brands; yet as few as 10 percent are actively engaging their audiences through storytelling content.

Storytelling reinforces a brand’s values without their audiences feeling like they’re being sold to. More importantly, storytelling leads to higher engagement and builds an emotional bond with a brand – two concepts Apple and its marketing team have intuitively understood for years.

From as far back as their “1984” commercial, to their Think Different campaign, into today with their “Share Your Gifts” holiday season ad, Apple drives brand engagement through powerful storytelling initiatives – so, let’s take a closer look at Apple and see what we can learn from their approach to brand story.

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The Rebel Years and “1984”

It’s hard to imagine (we know), but there was a time when computers were ominous, brooding machines – large, bulky and confined to the realms of scientists, the government, and big business. Then, in 1976, Apple Computer came along and introduced a friendly, “personal” computer.

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy,” stated Steve Jobs once during an Apple retreat. That’s how, early in their life, Apple began telling their story and creating a persona that cast Apple and their customers as rebels and free-thinkers. This effort led to a watershed moment in television advertising.

To better support their brand story and to hype their upcoming MacIntosh Computer, Apple broadcast their famous “1984” ad during the 1984 Superbowl. You’ll find the ad below.


Apple’s “1984” commercial has been called a “masterpiece” and has been recognized as among the best ads of all-time. But did you notice, besides a mention at the end, the commercial doesn’t actually feature the Mac? For a commercial about a product, they never show the actual product. Instead, the ad plays like a movie trailer (it was, in fact, directed by the acclaimed Ridley Scott).

The ad was wildly popular. More than the Super Bowl, people were focused on an incredible commercial about a computer company destined to pull the world from the brink of dystopia with their mysterious “MacIntosh” computer.

“1984” positioned Apple and its MacIntosh computer – and by extension their customers – as bold heroes, fighting back against oppressive, bleak giants – namely IBM who had recently entered into the new personal computer market. Using this tactic, Apple was able to build a bond between viewers and a computer company – a novel idea in the 80s.

This was, as Jobs was known to say, “insanely great” marketing. Storytelling, which would become virtually non-existent during Apple’s dark age, would again become an integral part of Apple’s marketing strategy when Jobs returned to the company in 1996.

Apple Continues To Build Their Brand Story

Today, Apple still regularly employs storytelling. Maybe the best recent example is their “Share Your Gifts” ad released shortly before the holidays. Let’s take a look.

Share Your Gifts

In a similar vein to “1984”, the Apple product in “Share Your Gifts” only shows up in a small supporting role. Instead, the focus is on a young artist living in a vibrant little town.

We follow our artistic protagonist as she locks away her artwork, progressively filling a small box until its ready to burst; that is until her canine companion throws open a window and lets her art escape with the wind into the town below.

In a heartwarming moment of validation, we watch as her art spreads and is admired by fellow townspeople. The ad ends with “Share Your Gifts” scrawled across a wintry backdrop. All to the tune of “Come Out and Play” by Billie Eilish. It’s a visually wonderful feel-good ode to creativity and connecting with others – two ideas Apple has played heavily upon in its more recent branding efforts.

The Takeaway

Apple expertly uses stories to communicate their passion for both creativity and fostering connections between not only people and electronic devices but between people themselves. Their efforts have clearly paid off.

“Share Your Gifts” has racked up over 22 million views and two-hundred thousand likes within two months on YouTube, highlighting the deep engagement compelling storytelling can achieve.

So brand storytelling is important – and you don’t have to be a large company like Apple to successfully build your brand through storytelling. Digital content, like online video, podcasts, and social media are powerful storytelling tools.

Here at Nxtbook, we’re experts on digital content. We exist to inspire and are passionate about helping brands tell their story.

We know increasing engagement can be especially difficult in our day and age – our customers are often short on both time and attention. That’s why we’ve crafted digital content experience software, like our PageRaft platform, that helps brands engage for over 7 minutes on average with their content.

We’re always excited to help publishers and brands see deeper engagement with their content. If you’d be interested in seeing our product for yourself, feel free to schedule a demo at

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