Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs believed to be one of the great marketers of all time… was interviewed in 1995 by Bob Cringley, a US journalist making a television documentary entitled, ‘Triumph of the Nerds’. Jobs was asked why the products at Xerox (like the mouse, the graphical user interface (GUI)) were never made a success by Xerox. Jobs thought about this for while and then said in reference to John Sculley, (the man who was in charge of Apple when Jobs left the company in 1985) …
‘John came from Pepsico, and they at most would change their product once every 10 years. I mean, to them, a new product was like a new size bottle, right? So if you were a product person, you couldn’t change the course of that company very much. So who influenced the success of Pepsico? The Sales and Marketing people. Therefore they were the ones that got promoted, and therefore they were the ones that ran the company. Well, for Pepsico, that might have been okay, but it turns out the same thing can happen in technology companies that get monopolies like — oh, IBM and Xerox. If you were a product person at IBM or Xerox, so you make a better copier or a better computer– so what? When you have a monopoly market share, the company is not any more successful. So the people that can make the company more successful are Sales and Marketing people and they end up running the companies. The Product people get driven out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget what it means to make great products. The product sensibility and the product genius that brought them to that monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product versus a bad product. They have no concept of the craftsmanship that’s required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product. They really have no feeling in their hearts usually about wanting to really help the customers. So that’s what happened at Xerox.’
Fast forward 21 years and a similar thing is now happening to Apple, five years after Jobs’ untimely death due to pancreatic cancer. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, a ‘Sales and Marketing’ guy is, according to QuHarrison Terry, the current Marketing Director of Redox (Healthcare Software), transforming Apple ‘into a luxurious IoT (sic Internet of Things) jewellery store, essentially offering the world nice jewellery that connects to the Internet.’ Cook is allowing Apple hallmarks of innovation and creativity to fade into obscurity. The iPhone hasn’t really changed since 2011. The new MacBook Pro ‘Touch Bar’ is incremental change at best but hardly innovative. The jewellery store has just added one or two more diamonds to their current necklaces. Innovation and creativity is being replaced by process and structure.
We see it all too often. Even in my own industries (education and performing arts), that should be all about creativity, process and structure all too often stifle innovation. There is never enough focus on product/content. The sales and marketing processes take over and drive the direction of organisations, paying lip service to the quality or otherwise of the products/content being proffered.
We are losing the concept of the craftsmanship that’s required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product.
Maybe the current state of the economy is holding us back. Maybe hope is fading. Maybe our streaks of rebelliousness are being blunted by time, by world weariness, but one thing is for sure. Rebelliousness comes from the liberal arts, comes from education, those sectors of our community that constantly challenges the status quo, constantly pushes the boundaries, incessantly seeking the progressive nature in things. That group of people who know the only constant is change. As a society we must continue to innovate. We must continue to create and we must continue to do so through education and through the Arts.
We must be like Jobs wherever we can and to contradict my opening sentence; Jobs was wasn’t a marketer, he was a creative. Some might argue that the two go hand in hand. Yes, it true that to market well you must create, but ultimately you must have a great product to market successfully. Because his products were insanely great, the sales and marketing side of the business could take a back seat. The products sold themselves. That’s why businesses who let sales and marketing drive their business and push out product orientated people will eventually run out of product to sell.
What will sales and marketing do then…?