Brands, Don't Emulate Steve Jobs' Marketing — Here's Why
Choose your heroes wisely. I used to be in a marketing leadership group, and any time we got into a discussion, someone invariably brought up how Steve Jobs did things. I’ve seen this in marketing pitch meetings, as well.
There’s a reason this visionary so often gets mentioned in heated marketing discussions (usually to defend someone’s idea). He is a huge celebrity. And he was a brilliant, rich world-changer. An innovative genius. But let’s call him what else he was …
He wasn’t you. Or me.
Customers Might Not Know Better Than Steve Jobs, But They Know Better Than You and I
Steve Jobs had a famous aversion to market research. In fact, the phrase “customers don’t know” is mentioned eight times in Walter Isaacson’s biography of him.
And he’s right. For Steve Jobs.
But what works for Steve Jobs doesn’t work for mere mortals like you and I. Jobs had the famous golden gut. “He put his finger on a pulse that we’re all trying to test our way into,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute.
Because we don’t have a golden gut at Jobs’ level we would be better served by testing what really works with our customers instead of just foisting it on them. That’s how we can really impact our results.
So let’s have more questions than answers. Let’s stay humble and be curious. Let’s realize the customer will never care or understand as much about our product as we do. They, of course, care about themselves.
So we must care about them and learn about them, as well. That can be accomplished by learning how to model your customer’s mind with marketing research. Don’t pretend to know for sure what will work best with customers. Form a hypothesis. Test it. Learn from it. Make it better. And test again.
And set your sights on heroes you can truly learn from …
Play Your Game
Michael Jordan was hugely popular when I was in high school. Yet I never tried to dunk from the free throw line. I had to play my game.
And to do so, I didn’t just look to the outliers like Jordan. I looked around the court I was playing on. With my peers. And saw who I could learn from.
The same holds true in marketing. Don’t emulate Steve Jobs' marketing. Emulate your peers. Those are the ones you can learn from the most.
People like John Jordan, executive director of digital marketing for The Global Leadership Summit, who grew attendance by 16% to 400,000 by testing to better understand his event’s value proposition.
Or Denis Mrkva, general manager of Aetna’s HealthSpire startup, who challenged the status quo by testing a long landing page and getting 638% more leads.
Or Peter Doucette, VP of consumer sales and marketing for The Boston Globe, who drove $3 million in incremental revenue to the newspaper by establishing a culture of experimentation.
Just Being a Very Good Marketer Is Enough
The excellent HBO show “Silicon Valley” spoofed the Steve Jobs emulation fascination best in the promo poster for its first season. All the characters were dressed in the trademark Jobsian black turtleneck, with the headline “Where everyone wants to be an icon.”
I’m here to tell you to ignore pop business culture. You don’t have to be an icon. And you won’t be the next Steve Jobs, just like I won’t be the next Michael Jordan.
Just be a very good marketer by learning what your customers really want and serving them with it. That is enough. Do that well, and let yourself be the hero of your own story.
Learn how to model your customer’s mind with 44 Pages of Essential Tools and Charts used by the MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments scientists.
Related story: Why Steve Jobs Was Right About Flash
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.