Apple's Evolution: How 30 Years of Advertising Hinged on 12 Key Moments

Last Updated Jun 30, 2011 1:42 PM EDT

Some old Apple (AAPL) ads drawn by Simpsons creator Matt Groening surfaced in the The Daily Mail recently, and they're visually shocking in the sense that under no circumstances can you imagine them being approved by CEO Steve Jobs today. They're hand-drawn, crudely executed, and fail to display the cool hero of all current Apple advertising -- the product itself.

The Groening ads are a reminder of how far Apple has come as a design-based brand. But that evolution only really began in 1997, with the "Think Different" campaign that placed style above product benefits and claims of technical superiority. Prior to that, Apple's advertising was a stylistic mess, a grab-bag of random ideas, none of which gained the kind of pop-cultural traction that the company has today.

Apple was founded in 1976 and spent its first 20 years plainly uninterested in the power of style and design as a branding platform. (Click to enlarge this wonderful image at right of MacWorld's first edition, featuring Jobs in a tan suit with a banker's chalk-stripe.) It's only in the last 14 years -- and since the iPod was launched in 2001 in particular -- that so much of Apple's brand has been tied up in the sleek, spare, uncluttered designs we're familiar with today.

Here's a tour through Apple's ad archive, courtesy of MacMothership, showing how an obscure computer parts supplier came to rule the advertising universe.

Begin slideshow on 30 years of Apple advertising»