What Really Turned Apple Around

Taken July 6, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio at Arnold’s (Cincy’s oldest bar). Guys trip to see the Cleveland Indians play the Reds.

In 1997 Apple, the company, was floundering. Losing billions and lacking any clear direction, the once high-flying stock sunk (on a split-adjusted basis) below a dollar per share. Every analyst left Apple for dead.

In July of that year, Apple fired their CEO and named Steve Jobs (recently back with the company after Apple acquired NeXT) interim CEO. By September, the company’s stock dropped even further.

You know how the story turns out. The iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, the iPad…all amazing successes. Last year Apple became the first company ever to reach a trillion dollar valuation. If you would have purchased Apple stock in 1997 and held it, you would have seen 25,000% gains (as I write this, Apple stock sits at $205 per share). A $10,000 investment would be worth a cool $2.5 million.
But, in my opinion, it wasn’t the products that started this turnaround, it was Apple’s marketing focus.

On September 23, 1997, Apple held an internal meeting about the launch of their new focus, called “Think Different.” In the first five minutes, Steve Jobs talks about where Apple is going wrong. In short, Apple started communicating about how good their boxes were to customers. All their features and benefits. Jobs believed Apple lost its way with that kind of communication.

Then he talked about Apple’s purpose. It’s reason for being. He said “…we need to get back to our core value…that people with passion change the world for the better.” Jobs said, while Apple’s products were certainly important, it was way more important to focus on what made them different from IBM and HP and every other computer company. From that moment, Apple stopped talking about the product’s features and benefits and started talking about what Apple stood for.

The results speak for themselves. From that moment on, because of this renewed focus on purpose, Apple changed everything about the company. With it, the product roadmap changed, and now, you are probably holding an iPhone because of it.

What can you do with this information? Well, let’s look at your marketing. Most marketing programs simply have a goal to sell more widgets. In other words, you employ certain activities to generate more in revenue. While this is not bad, it’s not great.

What you need is a marketing purpose or mission. For example, when launching Content Marketing Institute, our goal was to help marketing professionals understand how they can leverage content marketing to grow their company and their careers. Everything we did was focused on helping the audience get better jobs and live better lives. We then launched products (like Content Marketing World) to match that. It was so much easier to market when our marketing was always helping, and not just asking for the sale.

Sell photography equipment? Help your audience become better photographers. Sell components to engineers? What can you do to help engineers be more productive?

Hardly any companies do this. Only the great ones, like Apple, which are working to change the world.

The following was an excerpt from Joe’s newsletter. Only subscribers receive the full version.

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