Steve Jobs, an iconoclast of marketing

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The death of Steve Jobs is not just a monumental loss to the technology industry, but as Barack Obama said as he paid tribute to the Apple co-founder, “the world has lost a visionary” – particularly the world of marketing.

Marketing Week’s cartoonist Tom Fishburne has drawn a one-off tribute to Steve Jobssee below

Jobs was a master of marketing, a man who understood that for a product to make an impact, a strong brand needs to be created first.

And my, did Jobs create a strong brand in Apple. This year Apple passed Microsoft to become the second largest company in the US by market value and usurped Google as the world’s most valuable brand, according to a study by Millward Brown.

This is the same company that before the launch of the iMac was in dire straits. Jobs was brought on board in 1997 – after being ousted in the 1980s – at a time when the company marked its lowest stock price for three years amidst plunging revenues.

With the help of British designer Jonathan Ive, Jobs led a series of product innovations over the next 14 years that would transform the way the world would think of personal computing, communicating wirelessly and consuming media.

No longer were thwarted office workers forced to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to no avail when their screen froze, no longer did music fans have to crudely record their favourite tracks on to minidiscs or delicate MP3 players with little memory and no longer would a mobile phone’s primary use be to just make calls.

Jobs helped lead a company that made consumers want a device before they knew they wanted it, with very little product testing and – in the case of the iPad – against the advice of market analysts who said nobody would find a need for one. He was a marketing iconoclast.

In an interview with Fortune magazine in 1998, Jobs said: “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

Jobs taught the marketing world that budget isn’t everything, it is about creating demand for your products by building a passionate team who create amazing things.

Apple does not necessarily sell products, it sells aspirations and Jobs was the dream weaver.

For marketers, Apple has opened up the world of apps, mobile optimised sites and media in a simple way that its rivals unquestionably would not have been able to match if they were the first to market.

The lower case “i” has now become a branding staple for anything digital that penetrates Apple’s ever expanding ecosystem. It’s a symbol that mixes cool with prestige.

Jobs and his team taught companies that brands and technology can be interwoven without being complex and confusing – the reason brands still seek to develop apps for the iPhone and iPad first before thinking of other operating systems, despite Android having a larger market share.

Every brand can learn something from Jobs’ sometimes lateral approach. Apple does not just have customers, it has created an army of fans who will gladly wave its flag to urge it further forward.

Apple is one of the few companies that gets “the launch” just right. Few other brands have developed such a cult following when it comes to their launch events, which are held separately from the large consumer technology shows to build up more excitement and a feeling of exclusivity.

Even the launch of the iPhone 4S sparked so much speculation that it was a crime not to be talking about Apple on Twitter when the announcement was taking place and many liveblogs crashed under the weight of traffic volume.

Jobs helped create an almost evangelical atmosphere that other brands, such as Facebook with its F8 conference and Amazon, have started to emulate. Admittedly, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s presentation this week for the iPhone 4S did fall slightly flat in comparison to his predecessor, but the main ingredients were still there – even if they were missing their talismanic co-founder in his turtle neck.

Steve Jobs created new ideologies for the marketing industry and his unstoppable energy will no doubt remain in the core foundations of Apple as it continues to roll out “second generation” products that will leave its rivals scrambling.

Goodbye to one of the true great marketing geniuses, you will be missed.

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