Adage:Steve Jobs Was Digital Maverick but Marketing Traditionalist

Steve Jobs Was Digital Maverick but Marketing Traditionalist

Steve Jobs revolutionized computing and media, but when it came to marketing, he was an exceptionally bold traditionalist

By: Michael Learmonth Published: October 07, 2011


The Apple brand is about putting little pieces of the future in the hands of consumers. Yet Steve Jobs, master marketer, took a very traditional approach to advertising. David-Paul Morris/Bloomberg Steve Jobs At a time when marketers obsess over the virtues of targeting, “likes,” dashboards, platforms of all stripes and sophisticated social-media-monitoring schemes, Mr. Jobs kept it simple: tell the story of how an amazing product can change your life in the best environment possible.

And while many accept the lessons of Mr. Jobs the product designer and have sought to emulate him in that regard, it seems they all too often overlook his influence as a marketer where he was decidedly — and effectively — old school.

Consider Apple’s media spending: an estimated $420 million in 2010, dominated by network TV, newspapers, magazines, circulars and billboards. So far in 2011, Apple is the ninth-largest spender on billboard and outdoor ads in the U.S., just behind the likes of McDonald’s, Verizon and Anheuser-Busch, according to Kantar Media. Apple’s total digital spending is harder to discern, but the numbers indicate it is well under 10% of its total budget.

Yes, the company that, more than any other, made us “go digital” did not think much of the web as a branding medium. Mr. Jobs was involved in every aspect of the marketing, down to the copy on TV ads, and didn’t hesitate to kill a campaign that didn’t meet his standards. Everyone at TBWA’s Media Arts Lab, the agency set up to serve Apple, knew that the bar to meet was set by Mr. Jobs himself and articulated at weekly meetings on creative and strategy. “He’s the person who would see a technology and say, “This is what it can give a real person in the world,'” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told the BBC. “I would say marketing was his greatest strength.” Allen Olivo, who spent two stints as a marketer at Apple, and now teaches marketing at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business: “Steve not only liked advertising, he understood the value of advertising as part of building a brand, selling products and creating an entire customer experience.



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