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Steve Jobs: The man who understood that people don’t buy products, they buy brands

Editor’s Note: Flora Nicholas is the Chief Executive Officer of Brainwave, Inc., and the author of many great posts on the Mad Woman Blog. The following post is her own personal brain and is reposted with permission.

We always remember where we are when people who have had profound effects on our lives pass away.

I can distinctly remember for instance, where I was when I found out that John Lennon had died. For the record, pardon the pun, I was in my apartment in London listening to BBC radio 1, and wondering why the DJ was playing Beatles records constantly and sounding absolutely suicidal while he did it. And then of course I found out why.

Steve Jobs also had a profound effect on my life, so I will always remember where I was when he died too. (Well, I was at home working on my Apple Mac of course, using all my various Apple software, and surrounded by every Apple product known to man, woman, child, cat, dog and budgerigar.)

Steve was a genius. He may well have been the head honcho of Apple, but in reality he was also the Chief Visionary Officer for all us human beings, too. And like no other guy or gal in our generation, he had the ability to imagine the products, gadgets and technology of the future and the vision to bring them to life today.

Luckily for us, Steve’s all-seeing eye — or should that be “i”— led him to give us the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and, of course, iTunes, and in short order. In doing so, he revolutionized the way we live, work, play and communicate. So no wonder Twitter was #isad when he died.

Steve Jobs was also a brilliant “creative” business guy. While many of his contemporaries brought boring-looking, dollar-generating products to market — I’m not mentioning any names here to protect the geeks in question — Jobs adopted a different strategy. He believed that the way to worldwide success, and personal satisfaction actually, was to create products that were beautiful outside and in, and that consumers would absolutely adore.

He therefore hired engineers, industrial designers and graphic designers to ensure that Apple’s products were not only more innovative and easier to use, but looked cooler and hipper than the competition too.

The fruits of everyone’s labor paid off as millions of people bought and devoured Apples, and the company’s profits soared as a result. (Note to all the suits out there who think creative people can’t run businesses: Er, yes they can!)

Unlike many of his silicon chip and blue chip CEO rivals, Steve Jobs was also an extraordinary marketer, perhaps the greatest marketer of his generation in fact. He understood that people don’t buy products, they buy brands. Jobs therefore controlled all aspects of his company’s brand and imbued every product and retail store with Apple’s cool, sophisticated, stylish brand values.

He also hired world-class advertising agencies and invested heavily in the brilliant campaigns that they developed for him. And to great effect too. The “Think Different” and “I’m a MAC, I’m a PC” campaigns worked wonders for Apple, and undoubtedly helped the company establish itself as the brand leader in so many industry sectors.

Steve did an amazing job of direct marketing too — by directly marketing his new products to the industry and the press himself at various trade shows and conferences. And doing so in a way that demonstrated his honest and sincere belief in their potential to greatly impact our lives.

Was he a difficult guy at times? Well, that’s what they say. Did he have incredibly high expectations? You bet. Did he push his people to do better? Every day, and by some accounts every night too. Geniuses are not the easiest people to work for, as many of his employees will attest.

But Steve Jobs leaves behind an extraordinary legacy, a plethora of breathtaking, ground breaking products and a company in Apple, that recently surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable on the planet. And everyone at Apple should be proud of that.

There have been many words written about Steve Jobs since he passed away, but none have captured him perfectly — none that is, except a paragraph of copy written for a wonderful 1997 Apple commercial that was produced by TBWA/ Chiat Day.

The words were written to describe many of the geniuses that had enriched our lives by that point in time — including Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Maria Callas, Martin Luther King and Amelia Earhart. Fourteen years later, those words apply to Steve Jobs totally and absolutely. And here they are:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. “

Yes, Steve really did change the world. So where were you when Steve Jobs died? More to the point, where were we all when Steve Jobs died? In a far better place because he actually lived.

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