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The Single Most Important Lesson I Learned from Steve Jobs


Whatever you may think about Steve Jobs, one thing is indisputable: he was the Zen Master of marketing. So, its not surprising that the single most important lesson I learned from Steve stems from marketing.

And that lesson is…

Everything is Marketing! Everything!

Steve Jobs taught us that everything is marketing.

The big things are obvious…bringing new products to market…opening new territories…promoting and differentiating products…etc. But he also taught us that the little things are equally important.

For example, he took it right down to what he wore in public appearances. His slogan at the time was "Think Differently". So, he dressed differently. He wore a black turtleneck shirt and blue jeans. This was totally unique for it's time. His powerful, but unspoken statement was that suits were for the stodgy Microsoft and IBM users. The same old same old. Apple was for the new, creative class. Those that "think differently"!

And it worked!

His packaging was beautiful. Every product, from a phone to a computer to ear buds, was creatively packaged to make a statement.

And the design of his products! Insanely great! Both the physical design and the software design. His screens were stunning. Cases were sleek and gorgeous. Graphic User Interfaces were elegant, beautiful and easy-to-use.

From product design to packaging to how he dressed, everything was marketing. And today, Apple is consistently one of the top 3 most valuable companies in the world.

The Steve Jobs Advantage

Of course, he had an advantage. He ran the company. He could insert his marketing vision at all levels of the company and throughout the product design and development cycle. Because of this, engineering did not control product design and development at Apple. Apple did not follow a linear product design and development process where management brings in marketing when engineering is nearly completed and they're about ready to take the finished product to market. On the contrary, at Apple marketing was in the lead from the beginning directing engineering as to what to build and how it should be designed. And marketing influenced every step of the process right down to how the retail stores were imagined.

The fights between Jobs and Wozniak must have been epic. Wozniak, the engineer, wanted to focus Apple's limited R&D dollars on the Apple 2, and similar follow-on products. Jobs realized that although people were buying Apple 2's, it really wasn't what they wanted. So he built the Mac. Jobs won and the rest is history.

Now we have Tim Cook running Apple. And it's becoming clear that he's not a marketing visionary. Will he surround himself with marketing experts and allow them to influence product direction? I hope so, because currently the company shows signs that it may be stagnating.

Marketing is not Everything

This distinction is important. To say that everything is marketing is not the same as saying that marketing is everything. Marketing is not everything. You must have excellent engineering, distribution, accounting, and much more.

But, that distinction not withstanding, Steve Jobs taught us that everything is marketing.

The Importance of Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The Apple story is a story that really brings to life the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration during product development. Clearly it's important to involve marketing right from the get-go in the product development cycle.

In Summary…You Have a Choice!

Yes. Everything is marketing. But that lesson seems oddly lost on many technology companies. Their products have boring, oftentimes unusable interfaces. Their packaging and promotion are both stale and uninspiring. In short, engineers and financial managers are winning the marketing battle at these companies. It's not surprising because, unlike Apple, many of these companies were founded by engineers.

But, I'm not complaining. Many of them are my competitors. And I'm quite certain my customers appreciate our ability to bring our solutions to life with a powerful and innovative marketing influence. At ChannelSAGE marketing is part of the process from concept to deployment.

If you don't value what I'm saying you should continue working with your current vendors. But, if you want to move the needle, you'll need elegant interfaces and exciting products that stir the soul of your users. If that's the case, then we should talk.

Because at ChannelSAGE we are a company that believes everything is marketing!


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