Steve Jobs: The Man Behind the Brand

On the month that marks the second anniversary since Steve Jobs' passing, blogger Edgar Estévez reflects on the influence and legacy Apple's main man left to the marketing world...  

Young Steve Jobs

An entrepreneur, an innovator, an inventor, a visionary…  a genius. These are just some of the adjectives used to describe Steve Jobs, a man whose path was never predictable. He was given up for adoption at birth, he dropped out of college after only one semester and at the age of 20 co-founded Apple, currently one of the most valuable companies in the world.

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs created a revolution. As one of the top pioneers on the personal computer and electronics field, his impeccable taste and sense of style made him push all market boundaries, transforming one industry after another - from computers, to smart phones, to music and even animated films.

It’s been two years since he passed away and we still remember him as the very soul of the organization he helped create. His aggressive and demanding personality made him a perfectionist, always aspiring to be one step ahead of the industry and setting the market trends in innovation and design. But most importantly, he impregnated his passion for simplicity and top-notch quality into the company’s organizational culture, making this one of the key components of Apple’s sustaining performance and competitive advantage - percieved upon entering any Apple store in the world or simply by opening the box of any Apple product for the first time… It’s almost like a ritual!

As a marketer, Steve Jobs was a natural. He was driven by his obsession and love for his products, and made it a personal mission to have an impact in people’s lives. Not only did he invent great things, he also made the consumers feel emotionally attached to the brand at the point of turning them into passionate advocates of Apple. They don't think of themselves as consumers, but in turn members of a movement, a mission, something larger than themselves. He helped build mystery and expectation around product launches, always generating buzz and suspense before unveiling some amazing new gadget, making consumers and specially the competition go mad with speculation.  Jobs was also not afraid to go big, as pointed out on, and one great example was the widely known 1984 “Think Different” commercial for the new Macintosh, where he hired Ridley Scott, director of Alien and Blade Runner, and spent around $1.7 million ($3.4 million today) between producing the ad and running it one time during the Super Bowl. This was a huge risk for the company, especially since it wasn't clear that the ad would succeed, but it paid off. The ad generated as much coverage as the Macintosh itself.

No doubt that Steve Jobs is a tough act to follow and the company is not only facing  new challenges in the market but also trying to continue his legacy. So, how is Apple doing today? According to a study conducted by Interbrand Corp. on the Top 100 brands this past September, Apple has unseated Coca-Cola as the world’s No. 1 brand with a brand value of $98.3 billion, 28% more than last year. 

Still, some say that the brand is losing its magic. Some of the latest product innovation hasn’t raised the bar high enough for competitors and for consumers, who are always expecting big things from Apple. Many of the brand’s major products are facing increased competition from Samsung’s top-selling Galaxy phones, Amazon’s Kindle tablet reader and Spotify’s music service - and still the company keeps innovating around the same things - which is probably not innovating at all. The brand may be loosing its momentum, but they still have time to turn things around. After all, Apple is a very strong brand and the most profitable technology company there is, generating $41.7 billion last year. And even more importantly, they still have the consumer’s trust, since the popular perception is that “Apple could do no wrong”.

Most recently, the company appointed former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as their new SVP of Retail and Online Stores, which many industry experts are saying is one of the company’s best decisions so far, since she is likely to bring a fresh leadership focus to Apple and complement well with current CEO Tim Cook to bring the brand up to the next level with breakthrough innovative products in new categories, allowing Apple to become the outstanding company of this decade. 

 Before you finish reading I wanted to leave you with the 10 things I have personally learned from Steve Jobs as a marketer myself. Additionally, here's a small fragment from a PBS documentary of 1994, which for me, perfectly reflects the way he saw and lived his life. Enjoy!

10 things I’ve learned from Steve Jobs as a marketer:

  1. Innovate.
  2. Time to market is crucial.
  3. Simple is always better.
  4. Failure is part of the process. The most important thing is knowing how to stand up again.
  5. Tenacity and hard work always pays off.
  6. Be curious.
  7. Stay focused.
  8. Pay attention to details.
  9. It’s ok to go a little crazy sometimes.
  10. Don’t be afraid to think different.

Steve Jobs on 'One Last Thing', a PBS documentary: 

“ When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is - everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again."

Brands that are not afraid to ¨come out of the closet¨


With marriage equality being such an important topic these days, numerous high-profile brands have come forward in support of gay marriage in the United States, running some of the most creative and ingenious gay-pride theme ads that certainly have not gone unnoticed. 

Historically, corporations and mainstream brands haven’t been that enthusiastic about a political and social issue as this one. So why has this changed? Demographically, according to a 2011 review conducted by the Williams Institute in the United States, approximately 3.5% of American adults identify themselves as lesbians, gays or bisexual, and 0.3% are transgendered, which translates to approximately 11 million people. This includes as well heterosexuals supporters of the cause. So when the Supreme Court of the United States took such a historical leap and overturned the Defense of Marriage Act between same-sex couples, naturally everyone reacted and so did brands, some with great joy and some with dollar signs through their eyes.

It may be that the leaders of these companies simply believe strongly in gay marriage, but to be true, the case may be that they are seeing this as the perfect opportunity to connect with consumers in a more personal and closer level, leveraging on a topic that is clearly important to millions of people around the world. 

The strategy has been simple: Take the social media networks by storm, since herein lies its largest support platform, through the use of hashtags such as #gaymarriage or #prop8 and #StopDOMA in sites like Facebook and Twitter, allowing brands to easily target those who are more interested in the issue. Great examples are Mastercard, which ran a giveaway with the hashtag #acceptancematters, suggesting that the company believes that supporting gay marriage is good policy as well as good business. Meanwhile, according to sources, Adweek ABC channel was reported buying promoted tweets associated with the #gaymarriage hashtag on Twitter to promote a forthcoming show called “The Fosters”, revolving around an interracial lesbian couple. Also, the online travel company Orbitz promoted a contest to win first class flights using the hashtag #marriageequality.

There is no doubt that these are step-changing moments for society and also for brands, who are now quickly learning that besides having a personality, they should also be allowed to have a political and social standpoint. Even though they might risk negative reactions from potential conservative consumers by loudly supporting marriage equality, this hasn't stopped them from flying their rainbow flag high, coming out of the closet and proudly becoming gay-friendly brands.

I leave you with my top 10 favorite examples of brands actively supporting marriage equality. Enjoy!

10. Kenneth Cole spreads the word on social media, billboards and print ads. 

9. Smirnoff went for a straightforward and clear message.

8. JCPenney was criticized for using openly gay personality Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, but the company didn't care. It also ran this ad featuring two dads for their Father's Day catalogue.

7. Absolut has been a gay marriage advocate since 1989.

6. Target released this wedding gift registry ad featuring a gay couple.

5. Banana Republic posted on Facebook the following after the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage was announced: "As a San Francisco based-brand, we celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling moving California forward on the road to marriage equality."

4. Gap tweeted this photo reacting to the ruling.

3. Grey Poupon posted this image on its Facebook page - a riff on its classic 1981 commercial.

2. Mastercard message and complete strategy are just priceless.

1. Oreo is still #1 for me, maybe because it was one of the first ones to come forward with its unforgettable colored-cream cookie posted during Gay Pride Month in 2012.



Business Insider: ¨These major brands actively support gay marriage¨

 Huffington Post: ¨27 companies that aren't afraid to support the Supreme Court's gay marriage rulings¨

 Slate: ¨How Apple, MasterCard and Chick-Fil-A reacted to the gay marriage ruling.¨


The 2012 Country Brand Ranking, by Bloom Consulting


Strategy consulting firm specialized in country branding and business strategy, Bloom Consulting, has issued the 2012 Country Brand Ranking. The company, founded in 2003 and based in Spain, implements a unique methodology using variables in order to position the countries based on facts and mathematical algorithms. "The methodology measures the coherency between the external messages of a country and its actual economic performance under a certain period of time. The higher a country is on the list, the better they are compared to their competitors, in positioning themselves to attract either Foreign Direct Investment or tourists." (Wikipedia)

The study measured the effectiveness of more than 160 countries and their overall branding strategy, by accompanying hard data - economic performance and growth - as well as its impact on its brand strategy. Furthermore, the ranking includes an Online Search Demand (OSD), which evaluates the gap between what countries are promoting versus what investors and tourists are demanding.


Click here for the complete Country Brand Ranking 2012 TOURISM EDITION.

Click here for the complete Country Brand Ranking 2012 TRADE EDITION.

An Ode to Creative Work: The Behance Manifesto

According to Robert E. Franken in "Human Motivation", creativity can be defined as "the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others." But my favorite quote goes like this: "Creativity is about seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought." Who said this? None other than Mr. Albert Einstein.

For this Friday, here's a little something from the team at Behance, called  An Ode to Creative Work, a film about the opportunity, hardship and responbility of creative work.

Behind every great advancement, in every industry, there is a creative mind. Creativity may come easy, but creation is hard. When creative minds come together, the sum exceeds all expectations. We connect, we learn, we critique, and we prosper.



More Than Branding hits the pages of “Brand Knew” Magazine


I was extremely thrilled when the team of Brand Knew Magazine contacted me in the hopes of collaborating an article for their upcoming issue. This publication, based in the United Arab Emirates, covers topics that range from branding, advertising, sales, facts and brand management on a global scale. Here's my article, entitled "The ABCs of Brand Auditing", which  I hope you find useful and enjoy as much as I did writing it! Click on this link to view the digital edition. 

 Special thanks to Suresh Dinakaran, CEO of ISD (Ideas Strategy Design) Global and Editor of Brand Knew for the terrific opportunity.