I’m a little sad to see Steve Jobs pass from the scene.
Steve Jobs was an inspiration to technology marketers everywhere. He made products that were simple, beautiful and delightful to use. He marketed those products in the same way: with simplicity, beauty, and inspiration.
He didn’t talk down to customers. He didn’t manipulate customers (though boy, could he spin the truth). He never had to use high-pressure sales tactics. Everybody who bought, bought happily, without doubts — except perhaps about the price.
You can’t say that about Bill Gates. Who really wants to buy Microsoft Windows?
You buy Microsoft because you have to. You buy Apple because you want to.
He also represented a special kind of visionary: he was willing to be both Creator and Destroyer. He knew when it was time to move on, and was perfectly willing to discard the legacy solution when a beautiful new one was born.
That never happened at eBay, for example. EBay was built by thousands of MBAs fighting to optimize their tiny bit of space and squeeze every last dime out of their customers. “Features” were always added, and never removed. The no-deletion policy has made it into the hideous and unusable crapfest it is today. And that’s why nobody under the age of 35 can stand to use it.
Jobs could let go and say goodbye: to the oldest version, the last model, the orphaned product. In Silicon Valley, a land that worships “backward compatibility,” that does everything possible to get that “upsell” dollar, this took guts. Steve had a lot of guts.
He also said, effectively, screw the focus groups. HE knew what was right for them. HE knew they wanted simplicity, ease of use, beauty.
Sometimes he was wrong, but mostly he was right. We see the proof every day, in Apple’s products, their fervent customers, and their lame imitators. And yet so many in the technology business persist in doing things wrong. That is, they make products that are messy, complicated, half-baked, and manipulative.
What Steve Jobs did that was revolutionary was to RESPECT the customer. Maybe respect is too strong a word; it seems he didn’t truly respect anybody, including his own employees, which I consider just one of his major personality flaws. But Jobs believed in Golden Rule products: he gave his customers the products and the treatment that he himself would want.
Very few marketers or product makers do this. I think the world would be a better and happier place if people only sold things or made things that they themselves would want. If people sold things with a simple story, not a fruit salad of inhuman qualities like “scalability” or “multi-channel adaptability.”
It’s such an easy formula: build something you’re proud of — not because you successfully manipulated somebody into buying it, but because you think it’s awesome. Make it something your mom can understand. Finally, use it yourself in your daily life, and if you don’t like something, fix it.
Have you done that today?