Marketing Lessons from Steve Jobs

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  • Post last modified:December 1, 2019

Marketing Lessons from Steve Jobs: Importance of Core Values

Steve Jobs is a source of inspiration for millions around the world. Apart from being the co-founder of Apple Inc, he is famous as one of the world’s best marketers. While Steve’s career remained filled with ups and downs till his return to Apple, still he has left behind several lessons in marketing, business management and leadership. The world of marketing is complicated and unless there is something remarkable about your band and its marketing strategy, it is not going to be a success. Several brands around the world have struggled to get their marketing equation right and very few have seen as much success as Apple or Nike. In a  famous video, Steve has shared his views about marketing and how it supports business growth.  He mentioned some of the world’s greatest brands and how they managed to be as great by virtue of their marketing techniques. There are several important elements in marketing and every brand whether big or small does not become a success without focusing on each.

Steve raises some critical points that are necessary to be understood in terms of marketing strategy. Otherwise, whenever people think marketing, they think about a market image and promotions but they forget that their efforts will not yield results if they miss the most central concern of marketing. The world of business is full of several examples of marketing failures. What is the most central concern in marketing? Steve provides his answers to some of the most complicated concerns in this area which have continued to baffle marketing managers for long. The video also shows how deeply he was concerned about promoting a consistent and strong image of his brand before his audience.

So, what is marketing all about- Is it about promoting a product, an idea using all the available channels or is there more to marketing? According to Jobs, it is about values. The world of business has grown complicated with higher competition and due to the heavy background noise, it becomes impossible for your audience to receive your message clearly. Your message can get lost in this noise and with it the purpose and meaning of your marketing efforts too. So, in this crowded world, getting a chance to influence people and to make them remember you, is close to impossible. No brand can successfully do it. What should you keep in mind given the little opportunity in this world of marketing? You have to be really clear about what you want people to know about your brand. Apple was fortunate enough to be ranked among the world’s best brands. It was and continues to be one of the greatest brands in this world. However, being a great brand and being ranked among the best like Nike, Coke and Sony is not sufficient and there is a need for constant innovation even in the area of marketing. This is vital to staying relevant in this world full of brands. Steve Jobs, at the moment he was speaking, believed that Apple had suffered from gross neglect in this area and required being brought back. However, the way to do it was difficult and it did not involve just talking about their technological capabilities or how they were better than their competitors. It was not about telling the people that you need us for we are better than Windows or that we better suit your needs or because our technology is advanced. The message was important and what people should learn about Apple was even important. Resurrecting a failing Apple required intense focus upon marketing.

Steve cites a very good example of the US dairy industry and its marketing efforts. The dairy industry kept trying to market its products telling people that milk was good for their health. Good or bad, no-one knew, but the thing was that it failed to interest people. When a message fails to interest people, it loses relevance and meaning. A boring slogan cannot drive your sales higher. The result was that sales plummeted and the milk and health connection did not work well to get people interested in buying milk. What they did afterwards however changed the game. They used a different slogan that was easier to remember and generated both interest and excitement. The ‘Got Milk’ slogan was interesting and exciting. It connected with the audience instantly. The idea worked and milk sales rose. So, what you are talking about and how clearly you say it really matters. ‘Got Milk’ does not talk of a product or its health benefits instead it refers to the product’s absence. Still, it worked. Why it worked was because the message was clear and stuck to people’s minds. The previous message got lost in the crowd and the noise because there was nothing unique about it. If you repeat a message that bores your audience, it will only ensure the failure of your marketing efforts.

Steve thought of Nike’s marketing strategy as absolutely brilliant. Nike is a renowned brand of athletic shoes and apparel. Its Swoosh logo and marketing campaigns have set a precedent. Steve considered its marketing strategy exemplary and speaks of how business managers must learn from Nike’s marketing campaigns. Nike is a shoe company but when you think of it, you do not think just shoes. A different and bigger and far more appealing picture comes to your mind than just any shoe company.  What is so unique about Nike’s promotions strategy and its ads? Nike does not talk about its products or its competition and how it is better than the competition. So, what do its marketing messages contain? Its advertisements talk of a special value connected with athletics. Nike honours great athletics and great athletes. That’s what Nike is about. When Steve got back to Apple they fired their advertising agency and the one they picked up to work with was an agency Steve had previously worked with and which had already created some award-winning work. That agency was Chiat/Day.

The first question that was raised before planning the marketing strategy was how the customers were going to know Apple. Who or what Apple was and what did it stand for? Apple was not simply in the business of making Macs. It was not just about selling better technology than others and helping people become more efficient. Apple was based on a  core value and that core value or belief was that people with passion can change this world for better. From developers to engineers and customers, all had influenced Apple in big and small ways and that had strengthened Apple’s belief in the fact that the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, actually do. Steve believed it was time to get back to that core value. While the market had changed a lot in a decade and Apple was also not the same with new manufacturing and distribution abilities, its core values were still the same. Values or core values are not something that can change with time. They are permanently associated with a  brand and its personality.  These core values were what Apple had always believed in and what it still stood for. Apple always honoured people who had changed the world whether living or dead. The entire idea was that Mac was for people who were crazy about changing the world for better. This was also the theme that Steve selected for Apple’s marketing campaign since it was to honour the people who had thought differently to change this world. This was what Apple was all about and in this way, the ‘Think Different’ slogan touched the soul of Apple.

Core values are the most permanent thing about your brand and they deliver best what you and your business stand for. Brands do not just exist for making money or bringing products that fulfil needs. When brands only talk about their products and their competition and how they are superior in their advertisements, they are erring. Core values provide you with a better method to connect with your audience. They state the larger purpose behind your business’ existence and must not be seen as out of context in terms of marketing. Missing the core values may be like missing the entire context of marketing. Moreover, you need to speak with clarity and these core values provide a consistent theme to base your advertising strategy on.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.