By: Frederick E. Allen
In Walter Isaacson’s terrific biography of Steve Jobs there’s a wonderful passage that describes “The Apple Marketing Philosophy,” three clear, concise points drawn up right when the company was incorporated, in early 1977, that still ring true today. Jobs had recruited Mike Markkula, a 33-year-old marketing and finance man, to help prepare a business plan for the nascent company. As Jobs told Isaacson, Markkula “emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.” Markkula, Isaacson writes,
“wrote his principles in a one-page paper titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus:
“In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys. “People DO judge a book by its cover,” he wrote. “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.
Remembering Steve Jobs: 1955-2011 Thus the three principles might be summed up as:
(1.) understand and serve the customer better than anyone else
(2.) forget about everything else
(3.) make sure every little thing you do serves always and everywhere.
It’s a remarkably simple, clear, purposeful vision, and maybe that’s one reason it seems to have stayed with the company more than 30 years later. As Isaacson writes, “For the rest of his career, Jobs would understand the needs and desires of customers better than any other business leader, he would focus on a handful of core products, and he would care, sometimes obsessively, about marketing and image and even the details of packaging.”
Think of how many businesses of every size and in every field could benefit from hewing to such principles.
Steve Jobs is great storytelling about a hugely important and colorful life, but it’s also one of the great leadership books, full of nuggets like this one.