Today, September 16, marks the day Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997 and led what is arguably the biggest turnaround in corporate history.
But how did he do it? How did he change Apple’s philosophy in such a revolutionary way?
Steve was fired exactly 12 years earlier after a falling out with the CEO he himself hired, John Scully, and the board.
Steve went on to help start an animation company called Pixar, another company called NEXT which were later bought by Apple and thus brought him back there.
Steve challenged Apple, which was already a big brand but in decline, to think like Nike.
He considered Nike to have done “the greatest job of marketing the universe has ever seen”.
But what was Nike doing so differently from everybody else?
“Nike sells commodities remember, they sell shoes” Steve remarked.
But how did they manage to paint such a special image of themselves among consumers? Hell, nobody even thought of them as shoe sellers.
So what were they doing differently?
“They honored great athletes and they honored great athletics. That’s who they are. That’s what they are about” Steve said.
They never spoke about how their shoe soles were better than competitors or anything of that sort.
Instead they focused on their core values.
So Steve challenged Apple to do the same.
What was their core value? And how do they come back to that?
The way forward for Apple was not to talk about “bits and megahertz” or how their computers are better than anyone else’s.
This is not to mean that Steve didn’t believe in great products. In fact, he wouldn’t settle for anything less.
But he believed the basics of building a great brand was not just great products but also great marketing and great distribution.
And this is how the “Think different” brand marketing campaign was born.
Apple was reinvented in consumers’ eyes.
“Apple at it’s core, our core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”
The “Think different” campaign was the first brand marketing campaign Apple had put out there in years that truly celebrated Apple’s core values and, of course, people loved it.
Today, Apple is perhaps the single most loved brand in the whole world.
And we owe it all to Steve’s vision (as well as everybody else’s hard work, of course).