Marketing has become about selling stuff – dull, me-too stuff – with cute ads. User experience is the new way.
The death of Steve Jobs was a terrible, if not unforeseen, loss to the world. His contributions to technology and consequently to the wider culture were enormous and were it not for him, this column would be blank.
Apple products profoundly changed my life. When I started working in advertising in 1983, computers were rare and mostly closed-loop proprietary booking systems used in the media buying department I handwrote my copy and rendered visuals for ads by hand. When an IBM PC found its way to our company I took one look at the flashing green cursor and realised it would never work for me.
Thankfully Apple was busy inventing the Mac. Chiat Day created a series of ads to launch the Mac that began with the message, ‘Of the 235 million people in America, only a fraction of them can use a computer. Introducing Macintosh. For the rest of us’. Apple spent $2.5 million buying every page of the post-election issue of Newsweek – amounting to 39 ad pages. The copywiting was a revelation (as were the Mac instruction manuals – even I understood them). I copied their style for years.
I obsessed about getting my hands on a Mac. I hung out pestering staff at Computerworld about arrival dates of the first Mac (just the way I pestered Vodafone recently – eager to get my hands on an iPhone 4s). Finally I got to take a Mac home for a test drive. I was hooked and have been ever since.
Apple has shown the world how to create a seamless user experience – it has done so from the beginning. Jobs’ obsession with making everything to do with his brand ‘insanely great’ is a benchmark all businesses should aspire to. We need to expect more of ourselves if we create experiences for people (I hate the term consumers) – and realise that products and services are co-mingling (try to separate your iPad from the iTunes store).
Apple puts ‘the rest of us’ at the centre of its thinking. Although computer scientists and industrial designers are essential to the implementation of Apple products they are not the stars of the show. We are. Apple sets an incredibly high bar for itself to innovate and to meaningfully improve our experience of our world through its invention and the delivery of its products.
More cynical companies exploit consumer trends with their products but Apple likes to ‘think different’ and makes us feel empowered, connected and capable. How many times have you experienced the exact opposite – from your bank, your car, a restaurant or any business you transact with?
The four Ps need to be rethought; they are ‘table-stakes’. My argument might sound like a spurious rephrasing, but marketing seems to have become all about selling stuff (dull, inferior, me-too stuff – with cute ads). Surprising and delighting with extraordinary, seamless utility, sustainability and engagement is the way forward.
User experience is everything.