RIP Steve Jobs: Marketing Visionary

Although Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic CEO from 1997-2011, was mostly known for his exemplary inventions and developments at the forefront of computer technology, his contributions to the marketing landscape can’t be overlooked. With a firm emphasis on user engagement and sleek design, Jobs left no stone unturned when it came to thinking about every product’s ultimate advertising appeal. From the crisp white, sleek lines of the Mac to the intuitive touchscreen of the iPhone, Jobs refused to settle for less than the most sellable attributes for each of his products.

Apple first came into focus as a marketing role model in 1984, when it debuted its now-famous third-quarter Super Bowl XVIII commercial. This ad played on Orwell’s
“1984” themes of Big Brother, showing a woman fighting conformity with a hammer and representing the unique attributes of the market’s newest PC, Macintosh. At the time, the commercial was a record-setter with a production cost of $900,000. It set precedence for major commercial debuts during the annual American football event; as of 2010, costs for a 30-second spot averaged at $2.65 million.

Even 22 years later, Apple would again make a splash via TV ads for the Mac that showed a hip, young male claiming to be the face of the brand as compared to a slower, dowdy and more conservative rep for the PC. The “Get a Mac” campaign spawned 19 spots and inspired several reverent riffs; it was quickly lauded as the best commercial campaign of the decade, if not the century thus far.

But the genius of Apple, Inc.’s advertising wasn’t contained to one mass format. Who can forget 2006’s iPod print ads featuring dancing silhouettes wearing the recognizable white ear buds of Apple’s groundbreaking personal music storage device? Musicians who later partnered with the advertising efforts for iPod through their faces and tunes included U2’s Bono, Mary J. Blige, Eminem and Coldplay.

Jobs’ focus on image went far beyond television commercials and print advertisements. He even went so far as to use himself as part of his brand’s iconography, becoming known for his standard outfit of jeans, sneakers and a black long-sleeved shirt when debuting the latest Apple products to the public. On the stage, Jobs showed supreme command of his audience by blending humor, forthrightness and showmanship to enthrall fans and investors alike. With his modest personality and choreography, paired with the flawless execution of graphic displays and accessible product demos, there was a precision and thoughtfulness to the shows that matched the high level of quality with which the brand has always been associated. These presentations superseded the role of press junket to become hotly anticipated events among the who’s who of tech media and moguls.

Jobs understood that even consistently offering the newest and best products wasn’t enough; standout branding that’s consistent from top to bottom in all media is also imperative to successful marketing. At age 56, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Jobs passed away among family on Wednesday, October 5, 2011.

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