I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, which describes the late Apple CEO’s obsession with branding, product design and customer experience. One aspect of his personality that I can relate to was his penchant for details and perfection.
I recently had to make a decision on business cards for my new PR venture, and I was going back and forth on designs—fixating on the placement of the address and logo, the colors and the style and size of the font. Finally, I thought, “What would Steve Jobs do?” I instantly knew which designs he would have liked since his mantra was “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
It was funny how just thinking “WWSJD” cleared a mental logjam!
While Jobs was surely mercurial and a tyrant to work for, it is clear from Isaacson’s biography that he had an amazingly clear and focused vision of where he wanted to take Apple Computer. And there is a part of that vision we can emulate in our own businesses and careers.
According to Isaacson, here are the three marketing principles that Apple adopted early on and has strived to follow ever since:
1) Empathy – “We will truly understand [our customer’s] needs better than any other company.”
2) Focus – “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.”
3) Impute – “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”
As Isaacson notes, Jobs focused “on a handful of core products, and he would care, sometimes obsessively, about marketing and image and even the details of packaging.” He quotes Jobs as saying, “When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product.”
I still have in my garage the Macintosh Performa 575 I bought in 1994. (Would you believe it had 5MB of RAM and a 250MB hard drive?) I remember opening the box and setting it up, just as I remember later opening the box to my first iMac, iBook G4 and iPod. I don’t think there is any other consumer product that I’ve opened with such anticipation. Sure, I’m a Mac fan, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate the beauty of these products, which starts with the packaging and carries through to the look, feel and functionality of the devices and the experience of using them.
And even though you might not have liked Jobs, you have to grant that he had a remarkable knack for stylishly and playfully reinventing the way we access information, listen to music and communicate with each other.
What I take from my own Apple experiences and reading about Jobs’ life is that form matters as much as functionality, but it matters most when it conveys something unique, inviting and fun. Sometimes I will walk into an Apple Store and play with an iMac or iPod, even though I already own one. Now, why would I do that? Because they are so cool!
Think about the Apple experience versus the experience your customers have with your products and services. Or the way you are perceived as a professional—your personal brand and image. If there isn’t that same pleasing, inviting experience, maybe it’s time you did something about it.