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The mood is set for the spiritual chat with America’s much-lauded CEO, Steve Jobs. On what would be his 60th birthday, this “discussion” is occurring from the other side, over three years after his death. A séance of sorts, and an opportunity to hear Steve Jobs speak again since uttering his famous last words, “Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.” So bring a candle and put on your best black turtleneck as we engage with Steve Jobs and learn from his wisdom on how to bring a new product to market…
Blogging Out Loud: Steve, thanks so much for visiting with us! Just as you told your biographer Walter Isaacson, “When you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” Turns out you were right. You’re still inspiring people today.
Steve Jobs: I’d like to think I could share a little inspiration along with some information.
Blogging Out Loud: We know you’re busy—you’re probably changing your new world the way you changed ours! So we’ll get right to it: Why do so many product launches fail?
Steve Jobs: No company is perfect. Even under me, Apple had missteps—remember the PowerMac G4 Cube back in 2000? It was gorgeous. It was flawless. It was also way too damn expensive for most people at $1,800—especially without a display.
So what went wrong? It was one of those rare Apple products where form did overtake function. We missed on two key points: functionality and price. Add in that I misread what people wanted. Usually I’m spot on about what people want—my favorite quote is by Wayne Gretzy, who said, “I don’t want to be where the puck is. I want to be where the puck will be.” Look, no company is perfect—not even Apple—but even in our failed attempts our overall goal was always to build better products and a better user experience.
Blogging Out Loud: So what is the best way to ensure a successful product launch?
Steve Jobs: The iPad sold 300,000+ WiFi-only units on launch day. The iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units within three days,. The iPhone 3G sold over a million units on its launch weekend. These launches were nearly flawless—but that didn’t just happen. The people at Apple are brilliant and they believed in my vision. Each product launch was meticulously planned, practiced, and perfected to meet the standards we set for ourselves.
So how do you do it? First, emphasize the user, not the product. Did you ever hear me on stage extolling the specs of a particular product? No. Instead, figure out what the people want—in the case of the iPhone, people wanted something easy to use with lots of functions that looked cool. They didn’t want to hear about the specs. They can look those up themselves. They wanted to hear how it would make their lives better.
Second, reach out way ahead of time to key bloggers, media, and reviewers. Get them on board. Get them speculating. Even if they don’t write about you before the launch—after all, your company isn’t Apple—at least they’ll know who you are when you do launch.
Launch of the iPad, 2010
Third, be deliberate about the information you release ahead of time. Before we launched the iPad, we made sure to let out just enough to tantalize, and no more. Build the hype—but make sure your product lives up to the hype, or you’ll lose your customers.
Blogging Out Loud: What tips can you share on how to make the most out of any budget to ensure a successful product launch?
Steve Jobs: Apple hosted huge launch events for our products—we made each launch a spectacle, an event that people literally competed to attend. But even if you can’t afford that type of huge launch event, you can build the excitement, the hype, the anticipation—just make sure your product is worth it.
Send out Beta releases to key influencers and customers (with a NDA, of course) to build early advocates. Tradeshows are also a good place to announce new products or updates. And your main product ambassadors—your CEO, your OM—MUST be passionate about the product. It must be part of their soul, like Apple products were—and still are—in mine.
Oh, and here’s a little tidbit that I liked to use: identify an “enemy.” The enemy could be a clunky phone with limited usability. It could be a PC that doesn’t have the functionality that Mac does. The key is identifying an “us” and a “them,” and showing why our team is the one you want to be on.
Speaking of teams, we always hear “I’m Team Apple.” Apple products don’t just have buyers—Apple has true evangelists. How did you get people to believe so fervently in the superiority of Apple products?
Steve: In 1997, just after I’d taken back the helm of Apple, we created what I consider one of the best commercials ever produced for any product—the “Think Different” commercial. It was the best because it showed exactly what it meant to be an Apple user.
My favorite part of the commercial says: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers … the ones who see things differently … we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
But even before the 1997 “Think Different” campaign, we were differentiating ourselves. Who can forget the “1984” commercial—shown once during the Super Bowl. Pure genius!
We’ve always positioned Apple to represent a way of thinking, a new generation, and a mission, something bigger than a company or a person. Apple users understand our vision. They believe in it, they live it, they are it.
Blogging Out Loud: This has been amazing, Steve. Thank you so much for visiting with us. Any thoughts you want to leave us with?
Steve Jobs: In my 2005 Stanford University Commencement address, I told the audience, “you have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Do you have a question for Steve Jobs for our follow-up séance? Leave it in the comments section below and we’ll be reach out to our otherworldly friend to see what he has to say…
Epilogue: The spirit of Steve Jobs has been brought back to life today as a reminder of what a brilliant visionary he was and continues to be. A marketing genius who earned a reputation as “the world’s greatest corporate storyteller.” The man who led Apple from the brink of self-immolation in 1996 to the most celebrated company in the world today would have turned 60 on February 24. He died October 5, 2011. He lives in our hearts forever.
STEVE RESPONDS TO YOUR QUESTIONS:
On Vertical Marketing’s Facebook, Robb Mc Dermott asks Steve, “What are your thoughts on Bill Gates giving Apple $150 million to stay afloat?”
Steve: Back in ’97, as pretty much everyone knows, the mongoose stepped in and saved the cobra—Microsoft stepped in and gave Apple a $150 million cash injection. Did we need it? Yeah, we did. But don’t for a minute think that Microsoft didn’t get something just as valuable—freedom. Namely, we agreed to drop our lawsuit over Microsoft copying the look and feel of the Mac OS for Windows. Plus, Microsoft was about to be hit with anti-trust charges. Now, they could point to their deal with us and say, “But look, we’re not the only player in the game.”
And then, there’s the old saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” When we made the deal, Sun Microsoft’s Java programming language was a real threat to Microsoft. They were a bigger threat at the time than we were. So after our deal, Microsoft and Apple became allies against Java. So it all worked out. We got our independence. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I brokered this deal. I was an advisor to Apple at the time—after the deal I got myself hired as “interim CEO.” It got me back to the top spot. And you know the rest from there.
And where did we put that $150 mil? Into our core markets of education and creative content. And what came down the a little further down the road? The iMac. The iPod.
The iPhone. And there you go.
At the time the deal was announced, I said, “We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft needs to lose.” All these years later, Apple has won—it all the ways that count.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.