By Matthew Childs
I have to admit that my interactions with Steve Jobs were limited to two email exchanges. But his life and values loomed large over marketing for two reasons. The first is that he put to rest the Fitzgerald proposition that “There are no second acts in American lives”. And second, because he believed design and quality mattered to the mass market enough to charge for it.
Yet, in practice, it’s amazing how few marketers have the courage and vision to take Steve’s path. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that brand doesn’t matter and that price is the ultimate driver in the _____ market (insert any category you like). But I believe Jobs (and Apple) made it clear that quality is something for which the mass market is willing to pay. In fact, he (and they) created entirely new categories that continue to thrive on that very principle.
So what does all of this have to do with content? Well, for starters, the Apple ecosystem is really built around content creation and consumption. But, also importantly, Steve believed that software is itself a form of content. Software allows the user to not have to think about creating but just presents an intuitive canvas for her to create or consume at will. Just consider the one button or the one-wheel iPod, for example. But, perhaps more than anything, Jobs realized that Apple is an ecosystem; the hardware, software and content all need each other to exist.
Again, the quality of the total experience was much more immediate for Steve than the exponential growth of the company. As we all now know, that growth would ultimately come in a way that only cancer cells experience. But if you stop to consider how much attention Steve paid to making sure that his ecosystem had incredible content — and think about the marketing opportunities that content provided for Apple — you get a sense of the importance it could have for many brands.
When it comes to content, quantity doesn’t equal quality in and of itself. So buying content that is syndicated and published by your competitors — or could be — is at best parity because it can detract from the perceived quality of your offering. Just look how many exclusive deals Jobs did for exactly that reason. In effect, Apple’s original content FORCED consumers to come to Jobs’ ecosystem because only there could they access its unique value.
Does Apple, now the world’s most valuable company by market cap, have a lesson for your enterprise? Maybe it’s that, when you’re searching for the road to exponential growth, revisiting and, if necessary, reinventing the unique value you provide to customers is an ideal place to start your journey.