Steve Jobs' Secret Marketing Weapon? Conviction, Intuition

Apple Chief Boldly Believed He Knew What People Wanted Before They Did

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Rance Crain
Rance Crain

Can you imagine Steve Jobs getting up at an Association of National Advertisers meeting and saying, "the consumer is boss," as we've heard relentlessly from the podium over the past few years?

Steve Jobs was lucky to have found what he loved to do, and he advocated looking hard and long for what that was rather than settling for less. Don't live someone else's life, he advised.

Maybe marketing people are settling for less, and are living somebody else's life. They sure seem all too ready to give up their own, to cede the decision-making process to the people who buy their products. And maybe that 's why they don't stick around very long.

Mr. Jobs was bold enough to believe that he knew what people wanted before they did, and he didn't conduct focus groups to find out. As Henry Ford once said, if he had asked consumers what they wanted for transportation, they would have opted for faster horses.

Of course Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were geniuses, and they had an instinct for sensing what people wanted and needed -- and couldn't be deterred from their convictions.

Modern-day marketing isn't about convictions. It's about giving consumers what they think they want, and that presumes that consumers are savvy enough to know. But what if it's something they've never seen or thought about? How would they know they want it?

Steve Jobs was also a great pitchman of the products he and his team created. The media loved him, and nobody's launches got the attention his did. If Steve Jobs said his product was the coolest thing ever, people believed him, and they'd wait in line all night to get one.

His advertising was the coolest, too. It was so effective because of its utter simplicity. The product was the hero, another concept that seems to be out of favor today. Is that because marketing people think most products are pretty much interchangeable?

What's the main thing marketers can learn from Steve Jobs? To believe in what they sell. It's passing the buck to let others decide what they want to buy, to no longer "be the motor that drives the brands. We can only empower people and let them take the steering wheel themselves," as "HumanKind," a new book by two Leo Burnett agency execs, asserts.

Steve Jobs had his hands firmly on the steering wheel, and marketers won't get respect and credibility from their bosses until they feel more comfortable in the driver' s seat.

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