The best marketing since 1984

Imagine you market one of the world's most iconic companies. The CEO says, "I need you to persuade the world to buy a product they don't want."

The best marketing since 1984

Imagine for a moment you lead the marketing at one of the world's most iconic companies. You're coming off several huge successes, one that reshaped an entire industry. The company's mercurial CEO takes you for a stroll around campus and says, "I need you to persuade the world to buy a product they don't want."

Your challenge is that many years earlier the company tried to launch a similar product, and failed. Spectacularly.

The company is Apple. The product is a personal computer where the only interface is a touch screen. Where there are no external device connections, aside from power and headphone sockets.

Your response to the CEO is that you're going to focus on one function, and one function only. The ability for the computer to send and receive phone calls.

The hypothesis is simple. Although (almost) no-one wants a personal computer in their pocket, everyone needs a phone.

I have no doubt that is exactly not what happened when Apple created the iPhone, and another entirely new category in the process. What I want to discuss is how great marketing is ruthlessly customer centric. I believe Jobs' and his team understood what drives buyer motivation better than anyone (perhaps apart from Jimmy Iovine).

The lesson for all marketers is this: even more important than articulating value, is understanding what motivates each and every one of us in the first place.

To continue our example, although the iPhone's functionality remains unchanged, by positioning it as a phone rather than a pocket computer it becomes something else entirely.

One way we can better understand customer requirements is through observational research. Anna Harrison who formerly lead UX at Tiny (where I work), has written on this topic many times.

Of course, Jobs' was famous for saying, "It's not the customer's job to know what they want."

Addendum: the ability to collect and interpret data is now a critical element in every marketer's toolbox. If you lead or work in a marketing team, and feel even a little uncomfortable about data and analytics, I encourage you to consider an investment in Wharton's Business Analytics certificate. A lot of stats, but you will not regret it. Fundamentally changed my approach to marketing.