Steve Jobs: Marketing Traditionalist

The Apple brand is about putting little pieces of the future in the hands of consumers. Yet Steve Jobs, master marketer, took a very traditional approach to advertising.

At a time when marketers obsess over the virtues of targeting, "likes," dashboards, platforms of all stripes and sophisticated social-media-monitoring schemes, Mr. Jobs kept it simple, old school: tell the story of how an amazing product can change your life in the best environment possible.

Consider Apple's media spending: an estimated $420 million in 2010, dominated by network TV, newspapers, magazines, circulars and billboards. In 2011, Apple is the ninth-largest spender on billboard and outdoor ads in the U.S., just behind the likes of McDonald's, Verizon and Anheuser-Busch, according to Kantar Media. Apple's total digital spending is harder to discern, but the numbers indicate it is well under 10% of its total budget. Yes, the company that, more than any other, made us "go digital" did not think much of the web as a branding medium.

Mr. Jobs was involved in every aspect of the marketing, down to the copy on TV ads, and didn't hesitate to kill a campaign that didn't meet his standards. Everyone at TBWA's Media Arts Lab, the agency set up to serve Apple, knew that the bar to meet was set by Mr. Jobs himself and articulated at weekly meetings on creative and strategy. "He's the person who would see a technology and say, "This is what it can give a real person in the world,'" Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told the BBC. "I would say marketing was his greatest strength."

"Even a great brand needs investment and caring if it is going to retain its relevance and vitality," Mr. Jobs said to staff at after he returned to Apple in 1997 and unveiled the "Think Different" campaign.

Mr. Jobs produced at least two of the finest TV ads of his generation and ubiquitous billboards and magazine ads. In later years, demo videos of Apple products reliably went viral. When Apple did spend online, it was likely to be an extension of a campaign on TV, like the iconic Mac vs. PC ads with John Hodgeman and Justin Long. Mr. Jobs insisted on exclusivity and the quality of the environment, which is why you see Apple ads on the homepages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Yahoo.

An executive close to Apple said that the company had dialed back it's online advertising further recently in part because even in his advertising Mr. Jobs didn't want to support Flash, a technology Apple has eliminated from devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Mr. Jobs' complete control over the message also flies in the face of current marketing dogma that the consumers themselves should tell the brand story through actions on Facebook or conversation on Twitter. Apple barely has a presence on either platform. Apple just recently set up a YouTube channel, but that too was to better control the brand experience. Comments on Apple videos are always turned off.

Credit Mike Learmonth Adage October 07, 2011