It was 2 months ago, on October 5, 2011, that the technology industry lost a true visionary, Steve Jobs, who revolutionized several industries with his genius.
Published shortly after his death, I recently read the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The book is very well-written, with deep insights into the man that are not sugar coated so it only presents the good ones. It's one of the best biographies I have ever read and I strongly recommend it to others both in technology and other fields.
However, for this post I didn't want to do one of my regular book reviews as you can find many reviews on the web already. But as I read this book, I did think about what we could learn from Jobs from a marketing perspective and how he used marketing to create one of the world's most valuable companies.
While the lessons are clearly numerous and everyone will have different takeaways depending on their role or industy, I wanted to keep it simple, as Jobs would have liked it, and select what I think are the three top marketing lessons from Steve Jobs.
Focus was one of Jobs' obsessions and one of the main reasons that Apple is so successful today. It was said in the book that they would start with a list of priorities in a given year but Jobs would quickly cut that down to 1 or 2 things that the company was going to focus on. The thinking behind this was to make fewer products but do them really well. A mission we can all agree was accomplished.
While it may seem like Apple has a lot of products today, if you look harder you realize that they only added more products as they got successful and that there is only ever one big, new thing they launch each year, while the others are iterations. Think iMac to iPod to iPhone and then iPad. These were not all done at the same time but sequentially. And even within these product lines, there are a few different models, not 100s with many more variations like you see with other companies.
Apple started with a focus on personal computers and then moved onto consumer electronics but the focus has always been there and even today as the world's most valuable tech company they are not in 100s of markets. Focus is a lesson that I think all companies can learn and do better.
There is no doubt that Jobs had a keen eye for design but it was more the fact that he and his team made everything simpler that is the key here. It's not that Apple designs try to be minimalist that make them great, but the fact that anything from a button to a feature that is not absolutely required is eliminated.
The result of removing features is that people are always asking for more which leads to the next iteration of the product but even then anything is added incrementally and sometimes older features are removed along the way.
It's clearly harder to eliminate things than add and Jobs was a master at constantly pushing to do things better with less. In the end, I would argue that rather than invent new products what Jobs and Apple did was to revolutionize multiple industries by simplifying them.
Simplifying everything is what made the products more usable and you rarely see that strength with tech companies today. In fact, because everything just works is Apple's competitive advantage which goes to show that how you differentiate may not be about adding more features, which is another lesson that many companies need to learn.
It's clear that tech companies don't know how to build a brand. Apple is, without a doubt in my mind, the exception and the best technology brand, and quite likely any market, today. So there are many lessons, in this one area alone that marketers can learn from Jobs about branding.
But for me, the core lesson that we can learn from Jobs is that a brand is not the logo or a tag line but every interaction with the customer. That's why Jobs believed it was crucial to own the entire experience, from devices to OS to apps to content to buying and storage. That's why whenever you use an Apple device, go to one of their stores to buy something, or download the latest music online, it feels the same and is very much... Apple.
When Jobs returned to run Apple, they re-launched the company with a new Mac but probably more importantly with the Think Different campaign. While many select Apple's 1984 ad as the best of all time, it is this Think Different campaign that really is the epitome of the brand and positioned it for the future.
One blog post cannot do justice to the legacy of Steve Jobs. One book can't either, but I strongly recommend that you read the book by Walter Isaacson to get a better picture of Jobs. As I read the book, I couldn't help to think about how startups and every company can learn so much from him. He had his faults and made some mistakes, everyone does, but the world would not be the same without him.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs.