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What Steve Jobs taught me about Content Marketing.

Content Marketing lessons learned from Steve Jobs

Lessons learned from Steve Jobs


All of the interest, attraction and rapid growth of Content Marketing was a bit ahead of Steve Jobs unfortunate passing in 2011. But without the vision, tenacity and remarkable innovation that Steve created in his abbreviated life, many of the foundational technologies of Content Marketing would never have been possible.

Skeptic after skeptic often made the mistake of underrating or misjudging Steve’s abilities and revolutionary goals. Former Apple CEO, John Sculley, once said “High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product.” And Business Week wrote “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work.” A Harvard Business School professor even said “The iPod will likely become a niche product.” The result, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

As a creative entrepreneur without equal, his passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries including: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

An early and influential relationship.

I was fortunate to work with Steve Jobs at two different companies and in two different roles while he was still with us.

Results of working with Steve Jobs at Apple + NeXT

Steve Jobs influence at Apple + NeXT


My first experience was as a Creative Director at Apple where I managed a group responsible for the strategy, creation and production of Macintosh marketing communications directed to the business and government markets.

The second experience was as a partner in an integrated marketing agency where I was responsible for creating and developing all of the advertising and communications for NeXT—the company Steve started after he was unceremoniously pushed out of Apple.

Steve’s passion for excellence, simplicity and quality are legendary—and well deserved. And despite being a sometimes challenging partner to work with, he engrained a few important ideas in me that are worth considering for anyone engaged in Content Marketing.

1.  |   It’s got to be great or it’s not worth doing.

Everyone talks about the need to make quality content so that visitors, viewers and readers will engage with it and act on it. As anyone involved in Content Marketing knows, that’s so much easier said than done.

Walter Isaacson’s best-selling book details Steve Jobs relentless pursuit of simplicity and quality in an encyclopedic survey of all that Mr. Jobs accomplished—replete with the passion and excitement that it deserves. In every endeavor Steve engaged in, he never settled for anything less than clear, elegant and concise.

For content creators, they should have no lower bar. Today, distraction and junk are everywhere online. The exceptional content gets the engagement because it’s conspicuously different by being a cut above everything else. Whether it’s story, design, color or editing, it all matters. And it all adds up to either quality or just “me too” that’s passed over.

Steve taught me that if it’s not the best—think, post, podcast, ebook, webinar or infographic—why bother doing it?

2.  |   Have an enemy.

Steve would continuously remind those around him that you have to have an enemy. In Steve’s case, it was his long and combative rivalry with Bill Gates and the Microsoft/PC alternative to Macs.

Why have an enemy? Because you need someone or something to measure yourself against. What your enemy offers and how they do it is what you need to do much better. That way, your audience will recognize your difference and be attracted to considering you instead of your enemy.

The other reason for having an enemy is that it becomes clear on who you have to beat to win. Simple. Just the way Steve liked it.

3.  |   It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

It’s not unreasonable to describe online marketing as a fast moving, continuously changing environment. And to a large degree, success online is earned by those early movers that take some degree of risk and worry less about protocol or formality.

The most conspicuous example of this is Steve “taking” a product name from Cisco with the launch of the now ubiquitous iPhone. Cisco was selling a product in the marketplace with the iPhone name (and iOS too!). And in Steve’s view, it was misnamed and not representative of what an iPhone could and should be for the user.

He gave his new smart phone the iPhone name too claiming Cisco had “abandoned the brand”. And he thought the market should decide on who was actually was delivering a true iPhone. A significant amount of haggling and legal negotiation took place after the launch. But none of that deterred Steve from taking advantage of the moment.

Today, the internet, social networks, and mobile devices, all affect our personal and professional lives with an immediacy that’s unlike anything any of us have ever known before. And the race to get content out to your audience is no different. Because if you’re waiting around in an over-structured, antiquated approval or deployment process, your peers—or worse competitors will beat you to market.

Whether you’re using landing pages, microsites or multi-faceted digital experiences, speed and online velocity matter more than ever. So loosen up and get on with getting your content done without delay. Those that wait will be playing catch up instead of being out front, shared, heard and acted on. Just the way that Steve would expect.

Steve’s influence lives on.

Some of the talented alumni from Art Center, that I worked with at Apple, recently recognized Steve’s unique vision and contribution to making Apple the iconic and approachable brand that it is today.

Their insights and experience at Art Center and Apple expose many of the qualities that Steve introduced to all of us. Take a look.

Over to you.

What impact did Steve Job make on you? Or your Content Marketing? Please share your thoughts on what these Apple alumni had to say about Steve Jobs.

Looking forward to hearing from you!