R.I.P. Steve Jobs
Let me start by confessing that I am somewhat of an anomaly in the advertising and marketing world. And it's not because that I am a copywriter who has absolutely no interest in writing the great American novel. Nor is it because , as a creative, I actually relish working within the boundaries of the brief. No, it's none of those things. In fact, it is far worse.
You see, I am a PC.
In an industry littered with Apple fanboys (and girls) and a reverence for Apple products that borders on idolatry, I sit with my over-sized black HP laptop somehow managing to make a living despite using a clearly less stylish and, as I've been told throughout my career, inferior operating system.
Now there is no doubt that Apple computers are nice. They're sleek. They're light-weight. They're stylish. In other words, they're everything I am not. But that is not the reason I don't use an Apple. Truthfully, it just good old-fashion sloth. I have been using a PC for so long that it's just more comfortable. And yes, I know that Apple computer are 1000% easier to use than PC's. I've also been told this for years by people who make the Republican party look like amateurs when it comes to sticking to the talking points. I consider this assertion that operating an Apple is somehow written into our DNA along the same lines as someone who grew up in France telling me that speaking French is the easiest thing in the world. Meanwhile, I sit there not knowing a word of French telling him that, in fact, English is the easiest language. My point is that I could very easily argue that a PC is more intuitive. But I won't.
So why am I telling you all this. Well, as a technological pariah, my instinct is to shun anything Apple—and at this point, truthfully, it's just out of principle. But even with all my natural inclination to hate all things Mac, I can't but help admire the life and mourn the passing of Apple's great visionary, Steve Jobs.
In my mind, there are two specific aspects that made him probably one of the most influential people of the last hundred years. The first was that he never let the impossible stand in the way of a good idea.
A few years ago, I read an article about how Steve Jobs worked with his development team. He would come to them with the craziest ideas. They would tell him what he was talking about was impossible to build. And he would tell them he didn't care—just build it.
The other great trait that he possessed was the ability to understand not only his customers, but people in general. In fact, of the many accolades that will heaped upon Steve Jobs in the coming week, from technological savant to entrepreneur to envelope-pushing visionary, it can't be overstated that his prowess as a marketer was second to none and his style of marketing should be something we all try to emulate.
In 2009, while participating in a panel discussion at SXSWi, I saw Mark Cuban say that giving customers what they wanted was a bad idea. Initially, I thought he was just being provocative. But he had a good point. He argued that if all companies did was give people what they wanted then there would never be any true innovation. People, he reasoned, don't know what they don't know.
No one knew this better than Steve Jobs. He always seemed to be 5-10 years ahead of the rest of us. But not in an arrogant sort of way. More like someone who goes ahead of the pack to blaze a trail that makes it easier for the rest to follow. And in a career that spanned 4 decades, Steve managed to also build one the biggest and most sublime brands the world has ever seen. There is no missing Apple products. From the first Macs to the iPad, they all have a certain look, feel and emotional draw. People love their Macs. They love their iPhones. This is something you don't see with PCs. PCs are more utilitarian and less, well, cuddly. I mean, I like my HP...but I don't think I'll be getting a special haircut expressing my adoration.
Nothing made the genius of the Apple brand more clear than a viral video that may the rounds a few years back entitled "What if Microsoft designed the iPod package" (oddly enough this video was produced by Microsoft.)
Even from the cold, dark recesses of my PC world, I marvel at the sheer consistency of the Apple brand experience across products, packaging, and even architecture. I mean, Apple stores are massive but not cluttered. They all have about 3-4 products but they have hundreds of them on display so everyone can play with them. It's a fun and enjoyable experience going to an Apple store (next to Chuck E. Cheese it's one of my kids favorite places).
I've "talked" before about what we can learn from the way Apple markets its products. So I won't bore you by repeating them (bore yourself by reading the post).But suffice to say that Steve Jobs never let his customers guide his product development. He let his imagination and intuition guide it.
He developed one of the first truly social brands and tapped into the idea of creating a vocal and passionate community. He was authentic and engaged with his customers. And in turn, they became willing zealots in the Church of Steve. But he never rested on his laurels. He was always pushing for the next thing. He sought perfection and possibility. And when Steve Jobs marketed his products like they were the best thing since sliced bread, that was usually because they actually were the best things since sliced bread.
Steven Jobs was a once in a generation person. His brilliance has changed the way we communicate and interact. Forever. And the only thing worse than losing such a brilliant mind, would be not to learn from the trail he blazed.
So from a staunch PC users (who now owns an iPod, iPad and soon iPhone), I bid a fond farewell to Mr. Jobs and only wonder what could have been if he only had a few more years.
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