1983: The Lisa debuts as the first commercial
computer with a graphical user interface (GUI) and
introduces the words “mouse” and “icon” into the
computing lexicon. It failed to penetrate the market
because of its high price— a whopping $9,995. Jobs was
called off the Lisa development and subsequently
joined the Macintosh project. 1990s
Some would argue that the best ads for Apple were the products themselves. Here, a look back
on its more notable launches since 1976, when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in
the Jobs family garage in Cupertino, Calif.
1977: Apple II launches as the first
computer to generate color
graphics. Bundled with a keyboard,
power supply, demo cassette and
two game paddles, the idea was that
the computer would be ready to run
right out of the box.
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Steve Jobs’ secret
Can you imagine Steve Jobs getting up at
an Association of National Advertisers
meeting and saying, “the consumer is
boss,” as we’ve heard relentlessly from the
podium over the past few years?
Steve Jobs was lucky to have found
what he loved to do, and he advocated
looking hard and long for what that was
rather than settling for less. Don’t live
someone else’s life, he advised.
Maybe marketing people are settling
for less, and are living somebody else’s life.
They sure seem all too ready to give up
their own, to cede the decision-making
process to the people who buy their
products. And maybe that’s why they don’t
stick around very long.
Mr. Jobs was bold enough to believe
that he knew what people wanted before
they did, and he didn’t conduct focus
groups to find out. As Henry Ford once said,
if he had asked consumers what they
wanted for transportation, they would
have opted for faster horses.
Of course Henry Ford and Steve Jobs
were geniuses, and they had an instinct for
sensing what people wanted and needed—
and couldn’t be deterred from their
Modern-day marketing isn’t about
convictions. It’s about giving consumers
what they think they want, and that
presumes that consumers are savvy
enough to know. But what if it’s something
they’ve never seen or thought about? How
would they know they want it?
1984: The Macintosh launches, and, unlike the Lisa,
becomes the first commercially successful computer to
have a graphic user interface. It gets a memorable
drumroll in the form of TBWA/Chiat/Day, L.A.’s now
iconic “1984” spot directed
by Ridley Scott.
1991: Power Book is here, now
considered Apple’s “first real laptop.” It’s
geared toward the professional market
and goes on to collect design awards.
1992: Newton. An early PDA that failed
commercially but was an influential
forerunner to the Palm Pilot and
1998: Launch of the iMac. One of Steve
Jobs’ first big moves as new acting CEO.
Users needed only two steps to connect
to the internet, and “There’s no step 3!”
became a catchphrase in product spots.
1999: iBook: Design-minded and more
budget-friendly laptop was geared
toward consumer and education
Jobs was a digital maverick, but in
marketing he proved a traditionalist
STEVE JOBS from p. 1
Apple’s total digital spending is harder
to discern, but the numbers indicate it is
well under 10% of its total budget. Yes,
the company that, more than any other,
made us “go digital” did not think
much of the web as a branding medium.
Mr. Jobs was involved in every
aspect of the marketing, down to the
copy on TV ads, and didn’t hesitate to
kill a campaign that didn’t meet his
standards. Everyone at TBWA’s Media
Arts Lab, the agency set up to serve
Apple, knew that the bar to meet was
set by Mr. Jobs himself and articulated
at weekly meetings on creative and
strategy. “He’s the person who would
see a technology and say, ‘This is what
it can give a real person in the world,’”
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told
the BBC. “I would say marketing was
his greatest strength.”
Allen Olivo, who spent two stints as
a marketer at Apple, and now teaches
marketing at UC Berkeley’s Haas
School of Business: “Steve not only
liked advertising, he understood the
value of advertising as part of building
“Even a great
caring if it is
going to retain
a brand, selling products and creating
an entire customer experience.
There’s a widely held trope in the
tech community—strong even among
Mr. Jobs’ disciples—that the product is
the marketing. Or as venture capitalist
Fred Wilson once wrote, “marketing is
what you do when your product or
But Mr. Jobs didn’t see it that way.
While Apple’s seductive products and
luminous storefronts are core elements
of its brand, Mr. Jobs saw the advertis-
ing as inextricable from the product.
That’s because the product wasn’t an
iMac, iPod or iPhone, it was the brand
itself and how a well-designed prod-
uct—any product—can make your life
“Even a great brand needs invest-
ment and caring if it is going to retain
its relevance and vitality,” Mr. Jobs said
to staff at after he returned to Apple in
1997 and unveiled the “Think
Different” campaign. The scene was
caught on tape and fortunately pre-
served for history on You Tube.