October 05, 2011

What Steve Jobs Taught Us About Advertising

I pompously call myself The Ad Contrarian, but Steve Jobs was a true ad contrarian.

He knew what his company stood for and didn't care what you thought. He assiduously avoided every false turn in the "marketing fad of the month" playbook. Reportedly, the only research he ever did was to ask himself whether he liked something or not.

In his own way, he taught us everything we need to know about advertising. The only problem is, most of us are too blind or too stupid to learn. The thing about magicians is, you see it with your own eyes and you still don't know they did it.

Here's what I learned from watching Steve.
  • The best way to build a brand is to sell a product. Apple rarely did "branding" advertising or "line" advertising. An Apple ad is about the features and benefits of one specific product. Not about "you the consumer." Not about how the brand intersects with your life. Not about how the brand saves the world.
  • Creativity is simplicity. Apple ads always look like Apple ads. They are simple. They are direct. A white background, a product right smack in the middle of the page, and a line or two of copy. They rarely changed this formula. Once in a while they'd have a person along with the product, but no idiotic "lifestyle" crap and no art school visual puns.
  • Trend-jumping is no substitute for principles. From what I can tell, Apple still doesn't have an official Twitter feed or Facebook page. They don't jump from one gimmick to another. They are not desperate to hop on every fad that comes along. They are the most successful technology company in the world, yet they understand that communication is best done human-to-human. They do a great job of utilizing the web for all their "below-the-line" materials. But they lean heavily on traditional channels for advertising. They have built the most powerful social network in the world without doing an ounce of social media.
  • Be who you are. Apple's public personality -- its advertising voice -- has never changed from day one. When Microsoft was winning, it never tried to be the second best Microsoft. 
Steve Jobs was the best adman of his generation. Those who want to learn would do well to study what he did.

Here is a linked bibliography of stuff that has appeared on this blog about Jobs and Apple advertising over the past few years.
Seven Lessons From Apple
If Apple Were Microsoft
How Apple Does It
Advertising And The Future Of Apple
Of Men And Magicians
Apple, Pepsi, and Bullshit

1 comment:

Andrea said...

I agree, but this Ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jINvfJFO2lM is about how the iPad intersects with your life - and it is about how the iPad saves the world :)