Former Apple marketing exec talks Steve Jobs, Apple as product 'launch machine'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2014
In an interview from September, former Apple marketing vice president Allison Johnson discusses working in an environment where the words "branding" and "marketing" were frowned upon, especially by company cofounder Steve Jobs.

Johnson
Former Apple marketing VP Allison Johnson. | Source: 99u


In the interview from Behance's 99U conference, first spotted by Cult of Mac, Johnson described her time at Apple during a phase in which the company became what she calls a "launch machine."

Johnson worked at Apple from 2005 to 2011, meaning she was part of two major product launches in the iPhone and iPad, devices that would go on to revolutionize the mobile computing world and solidify Apple's place as a segment pioneer.

A major component of Apple's success was the tenet of informing consumers, not selling to them. Instead of being in a "selling mode," companies should focus on educating consumers on what a device does, why it exists and how it can improve their lives, Johnson says. In fact, she differentiates the two, saying marketing is not the same as selling. This idea of teaching rather than selling speaks to Apple's mantra of making the best possible products, which in turn will sell themselves.

Also touched upon was Apple's approach to launching finished products rather than "beta hardware" like Google Glass. Comparing the two techniques, Johnson appreciates the Google method of gathering information from user experience, but said "Apple wouldn't do that. Never, ever, ever."

To that point, Johnson described Jobs' insistence on secrecy. A final product would only be unveiled when it was ready for consumers, and the job of announcing that product on stage always fell to Jobs.

Jobs 3


"It was just something he really, really enjoyed -- he was passionate about," Johnson said, adding that the veiled secrecy method is something only Apple can pull off.

We could just put things on the website and the world would blow up automatically. Everybody would be talking about it, reading about, writing about it. It was a really interesting and important technique. It's unique to Apple. I don't think a lot of companies can operate that way."

Johnson also shared a few anecdotes about Jobs, including two instances where he was seen crying over the trials and tribulations of running a company with which he was so deeply entwined.

The first was an ad campaign surrounding the release of The Beatles on iTunes, a band which Jobs loved but had difficulties bringing to the music store due in part to a legal spat regarding the "Apple" trademark (The Beatles founded "Apple Records" as a division of the band's Apple Corps project). According to Johnson, the project was extremely important to Jobs.

A team from Apple visited London to pick up more than a thousand never-before-seen photographs of The Beatles to be used as part of the ad campaign. When the pictures were finally brought back and spread out on a boardroom table, Jobs perused the collection in tears knowing he had finally accomplished a longtime goal.

A second story focused on the impact negative publicity had on the late Apple cofounder.

"He was so sad and so angry about the "antennagate" issue and how that was getting portrayed," Johnson said. "His core leadership team -- product and marketing leadership team -- were sitting around the table, and he was pounding the table and said, 'This is not the company I want to be. This is not what we are building, we don't want to be that company, we don't want people to think about us this way."

Where the Beatles milestone brought tears, "antennagate" caused sobbing.

"Did he deeply care about that company and was it one and the same as him? Without question," she said.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 80
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I've been informed that it was all luck. :\
  • Reply 2 of 80
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,915member
    Hrmmph... Lest anyone forget, Steve Jobs hated marketing people.
  • Reply 3 of 80
    irelandireland Posts: 17,424member
    Quote:

    Instead of being in a "selling mode," companies should focus on educating consumers on what a device does, why it exists and how it can improve their lives,


     

    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product. You can word it anyway you want, but it's still s spade.

  • Reply 4 of 80
    deepkiddeepkid Posts: 97member

    i

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

     

     

    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product.


     

    Disagree. You can educate and be persuasive without directly asking for a purchase.

  • Reply 5 of 80
    sudonymsudonym Posts: 233member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by deepkid View Post

     

    i

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

     

     

    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product.


     

    Disagree. You can educate and be persuasive without directly asking for a purchase.


    Yeah.  Steve said it was not selling, but rather, telling people about the features and benefits of the product.

  • Reply 6 of 80
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ireland wrote: »
    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product. You can word it anyway you want, but it's still s spade.

    The term selling can used but marketing is a more apt term for what you describe. I'm not sure if you have them in Ireland but in the US we have horrible infomercials at night that tend to take up 30 minutes or more describing the many ingenious ways to use a particular crap product. That is education which is marketing which is devised to lead to a sale. But is all marketing morally honest or true? Does Apple's marketing look to educate better than their competitors or offer to teach something their competitors can't?

    deepkid wrote: »
    Disagree. You can educate and be persuasive without directly asking for a purchase.

    I think this is about semantics now. It's sales parlance you're describing a hard sell v a hard sell, or active v passive sale. Six of one, half dozen of another. I'll take a dozen.
  • Reply 7 of 80
    Nice Utopian dream, Ireland, but very little marketing/selling is, in fact, about educating the consumer and letting them make an informed decision.
    Unfortunately, it is often about selling by any legal means... from superficial branding, sloganeering and hype to outright and deliberate deception.
  • Reply 8 of 80
    solipsismx wrote: »
    I've been informed that it was all luck. :\

    Yeah ... Apple hasn't been the same since Ron Wayne left the company.
  • Reply 9 of 80
    swissmac2swissmac2 Posts: 216member
    The interview from Behance's 99U conference, first spotted by Cult of Mac, Johnson described her time at Apple...
    Comparing about the two techniques...
    It was a really interesting an important technique.
    His core leadership team, product and marketing leadership team was sitting around the table,
    This is not the company I want to be.
    Did he deeply care about that company and was it one in the same as him?

    Every one of these sentences from the article contains grammatical errors; not spelling errors, which anyone can make, but serious mistakes about how the English language is written! The words that should have been there are:
    In, ____, and, were, Apple, and.

    How can anyone take you seriously if you make such stupid errors?
  • Reply 10 of 80
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product. You can word it anyway you want, but it's still s spade.


    Quote:


    Originally Posted by deepkid View Post

    i Disagree. You can educate and be persuasive without directly asking for a purchase.


     

    Ya'll don't know what you're talking 'bout. Let me 'spain this way:

    If you go out and call on the customer and you come back with an order - Ya'll were sellin'.

    If you come back without the order - ya'll were marketin'.

  • Reply 11 of 80
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,549member
    ireland wrote: »
    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product. You can word it anyway you want, but it's still s spade.
    Disagree. Apple shows you what the devices can do. That's marketing. Others lie and manipulate to trick you into buying. That's selling.
  • Reply 12 of 80
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,963member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    I've been informed that it was all luck. :\

    Title should have read 'luck machine' :lol:
  • Reply 13 of 80
    ireland wrote: »
    Instead of being in a "selling mode," companies should focus on educating consumers on what a device does, why it exists and how it can improve their lives,

    I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but that is selling the product. You can word it anyway you want, but it's still s spade.

    I like these definitions:

    Selling: convince the customer to buy what you have in the wagon.

    Marketing: Influence the customer to want what you are putting in the wagon.

    Timing is the difference!
  • Reply 14 of 80
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I like these definitions:

    Selling: convince the customer to buy what you have in the wagon.

    Marketing: Influence the customer to want what you are putting in the wagon.

    Timing is the difference!

    But how do you get to Carnegie Hall?
  • Reply 15 of 80
    false
  • Reply 16 of 80
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dogwhistle View Post



    Nice Utopian dream, Ireland, but very little marketing/selling is, in fact, about educating the consumer and letting them make an informed decision.

    Unfortunately, it is often about selling by any legal means... from superficial branding, sloganeering and hype to outright and deliberate deception.

     

    You are onto something there...

     

    I always gave the customer enough information so they could make an emotional decision while thinking it was an informed one.

  • Reply 17 of 80
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,963member
    jungmark wrote: »
    Disagree. Apple shows you what the devices can do. That's marketing. Others lie and manipulate to trick you into buying. That's selling.

    And Apple hasn't exaggerated some in its Siri commercials? They've been sued a few times over it. Fact is every company lies and manipulates some in their ads.
  • Reply 18 of 80
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,963member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    But how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

    You can't get there from here.
  • Reply 19 of 80
    solipsismx wrote: »
    I like these definitions:

    Selling: convince the customer to buy what you have in the wagon.

    Marketing: Influence the customer to want what you are putting in the wagon.

    Timing is the difference!

    But how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

    Crosstown buses run all night… Do Dah, Do, Dah!
  • Reply 20 of 80
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,915member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    But how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

     

    First, you must be born as Andrew Carnegie...

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