Eight Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From Steve Jobs

29 June 2022
by Annie-Mai Hodge
4 mins
Eight Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs remains one of the most recognisable names and faces in tech, after spearheading Apple’s transformation from a struggling personal computer business to the world’s biggest consumer electronics company.

While Jobs is quite rightly lauded for his ability to innovate and create a suite of groundbreaking products, it was arguably his genius for marketing that propelled Apple to unprecedented success. Guy Kawasaki, who worked with Jobs in the 1980s, believes he was the “greatest marketer ever”. A bold claim – but it might just be true.

People still go back and watch the iconic unveiling presentations for the iPod and iPhone even today, which is a testament to Jobs’ ability to create memorable, industry-defining moments. They also helped to build Apple’s almost mythical status in the tech industry. But Jobs was more than just an on-stage persona. What are the lessons that marketers can still learn from him today?

Sell dreams, not just products

There has always been an element of Apple’s advertising that is aspirational, with a focus on selling dreams and better lifestyle choices that goes beyond a simple tech product. Jobs made it his mission to make Apple more than just a company that sells computers – he wanted to help people achieve their life goals and ambitions. Apple’s marketing still leans into this, with videos for MacBooks and iPhones showcasing how creators are using their products to excel in their professional and personal lives.

Create brand advocates, not customers

Jobs was one of the first marketers to understand that consumers are not just there to buy things, but that they are people too and crave emotional connections with their favourite brands. By creating advocates who are willing to buy into everything you do and be vocal about it on social media, you can broaden your reach and increase awareness with no additional investment. A study by Convince & Convert found that nine in 10 customers will trust recommendations from friends, family and influencers who advocate for a brand.

Make a great product

However, Jobs was fully aware that brand advocacy required a truly great product and an exceptional customer experience. Kawasaki pulls no punches in his assessment, claiming it’s “hard to market crap” and that Jobs knew he had to “control the product and the marketing” in order to succeed. So, selling dreams and creating evangelists starts with the right product. Everything flows from there. You can then nurture advocates with a content marketing strategy that educates customers and strengthens existing relationships online.

Master the message and its delivery

Marketing is all about messages and communicating the value of a product or service to a target audience. Jobs was a master at this, especially in his presentations, for which he rehearsed “endlessly and fastidiously”, according to those close to him. Bill Gates also admits he was “never in his league” in terms of delivering exciting, memorable keynotes. Gates adds: “I mean, his whole thing of knowing exactly what he’s going to say, but up on stage saying it in such a way that he is trying to make you think he’s thinking it up right then.”

Maintain mystery, create hype

Under Jobs’ stewardship, Apple became experts at slowly building hype over weeks and months before a product launch. While the tech community plays into this with numerous leaks and potential prototypes, Apple knows how to get consumers into a frenzy in the run-up to an official event.

Jobs was also adept at using suspense and surprise to keep that excitement at maximum levels on stage, often using his famous “one more thing” line to segue into the unveiling of a new product. The lesson to learn here is that marketers might not want to divulge everything right away. Instead, hold back information and opt for a slow drip feed to generate interest prior to an official launch.

Find mentors, prioritise teamwork

Jobs was very talented but he also knew his limits. He wasn’t an engineer or developer, and recognised that he needed to learn from other people on a day-by-day basis for his own professional growth. This drive to improve saw him work closely with several mentors, including Regis McKenna and Mike Markkula, with the latter helping Jobs document a set of clear marketing principles for Apple back in the early 1980s.

He also spotted the talent of advertising expert Lee Clow, who was the man behind Apple’s memorable TV ads, including the “Think Different” campaign. While Jobs was singularly minded and a natural leader, he never underestimated how important teamwork and the ability of other workers is for long-term success.

Create marketing principles

Apple today still adheres to the marketing principles that Jobs created with Markkula. On the face of it, they are quite simple and don’t appear particularly groundbreaking, but they are easy to apply across everything it does, which creates a clear strategy and vision for everyone in the business to follow. These three principles are:

  • Understand and serve customers better than others.
  • Do a few things really well.
  • Focus on simplicity and quality across the business.

Writer Walter Isaacson, who penned Steve Jobs’ biography, says his greatest gift was understanding the “needs and desires of customers better than any other business leader”. The first principle was always the most important, with everything always looping back to empathising with customers. This is a way of thinking that is central to SEO content creation today, as brands focus on providing value and solving pain points rather than merely stimulating interest in products.

Experiment and innovate

Finally, Jobs was always willing to think outside of the box and experiment with potentially industry-changing ideas as he feared becoming just another competitor in a crowded market. His approach was very much in the mould of “innovate or die”, which is why Apple was such a disruptive force in the tech world in the 2000s, as it transformed home computers with the iMac, music playback with the iPod and then mobile devices with the iPhone. Again, this goes back to the customer and providing something they need, but in a revolutionary package.

You can start mastering the power of marketing by managing regular campaigns that engage audiences and build your brand. Atlas SEO offers a range of services that can help you to publish content on your website and across social media to achieve these goals and increase your visibility in search engines. To find out more about our industry-leading services, contact us today.

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