iBrand – what marketing and business leaders can learn from Steve Jobs

by Alessandro on 6. Oktober 2011

The sad news about Steve Jobs’ death is all over the press and my post will surely get lost in the sea of millions of posts about this sad event. Strangely enough, I started writing this post two days ago when I listened again tothe speech Steve gave 6 years ago when in Stanford:

Just like in any of his launch presentations, Steve chose “storytelling” to share what he believed had made him the man he became. To me Steve’s stories say a lot about what turned Apple (at least for a short period of time) into the most valuable company on the planet and reminds us of  a few simple things that too often get forgotten:

“Trusting that the dots will connect in the future”:

Like Steve said “you can only connect the dots looking backward, not forward”, that’s why you need to TRUST in something. And yes I agree, in times of ROI and shareholder value it is understandable that few CMOs, Marketing Directors or Agency CEOs will have the courage to TRUST their guts about what they want their company or brand to become. When marketing people have an average tenure of 3 to 4 years, they will of course listen to market research and drop an idea if the results are not satisfactory. And this is not a critique towards market research. The only point I am making is that we need more courage/faith when it comes to shaping the future of a brand or company. Here is a quote from Steve which perfectly illustrates his faith in what he and his company was doing:

“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what’s the next big [thing.] (Source: Fortune interview)

“You’ve got to find what you love”:

Ok, some of you might think, well that’s kind of cheesy and it’s easy to love what you do when you make millions of dollars with it. Sorry, but I don’t agree. Regardless of whom I am talking to, a Marketing Director briefing me about a new product initiative, a planner presenting me a briefing, or a creative sharing his ideas, it makes a hell of a difference whether I feel he/she is passionate about what he is telling me. And the same holds true when I’m selling some work to the Client.

In a previous post I talked about Tony Hsieh, whom I admire for what he did with Zappos. Tony is a great example of a visionary leader who is passionate about his mission of “delivering happiness”. And because he lives and breathes that mission, employees at Zappos feel the same way and are able to deliver that unique customer experience across all touchpoints.

So here is a scary question: when was the last time you let someone else (be it a customer, client, parent, ect) feel the passion you had for what you were doing?

“Don’t be trapped by dogma. Stay hungry, stay foolish”:

Steve’s quote about death being “the single best invention of life” is surely hard to swallow and is, of course, a very personal view. However, the point he is making about not getting trapped by dogma and the need to stay foolish and hungry is highly relevant for the way businesses and brands are being led today. It’s a natural reflex to follow Best in Class examples or proven models. Had Apple done that, then no one would be sliding his finger on a screen today to look at pictures; make a call or rearrange icons in the  most intuitive and user friendly way possible.  That’s I guess what Steve meant with “don’t be trapped by dogma”. Another manifestation of that thinking is the drastic change the brand took when it moved from its promise of “making computing easy” to the more purpose inspired mission of being “the champion of creative thinking”. This was truly disruptive thinking that opened the doors for groundbreaking innovations like the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad. All of a sudden the Apple brand wasn’t about computing anymore, but stood for something much bigger. Several brands and companies (among them P&G)  have been adopting a more “purpose inspired” (the post is in German) approach recently – another sign of “staying hungry” when it comes to creating a much deeper connection between brands and consumers.

So Steve, in Standford you said  “Death clears out the old to make way for the new”, but this time arount the “new” never felt so odd.

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