After co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak, a series of marketing failures caused Steve Jobs to resign from the company he once created. One of Steve Jobs‘s famous marketing failures had to tell the story of the Lisa computer.
In January 1983, Apple released the Lisa – the first computer with a GUI (graphical user interface). By the standards of the day, Lisa was a technological wonder. It was nothing like anything the ordinary consumers had ever seen before.
Therefore, ordinary consumers assume that Lisa is only for scientists or technology enthusiasts. Why does a middle-class American need a machine that costs nearly $10,000? The price made it unable to compete with IBM’s personal computer which was starting to be accepted in corporate America in the early 1980s.
Jobs thought he could write a big essay to persuade consumers to buy Lisa, then use it as an ad in newspapers.
And this is the result: a NINE-PAGE ad in The New York Times.
Lisa completely failed. Apple sold only 10k units, nowhere near the amount needed to cover just the development costs. Consumers did not want to buy a $10,000 computer and did not want to read eight ad pages just to find out why they have to buy that device.
It was uninspired, boring, with no story being told. It did not make the audience imagine themselves using this machine. It was a classic marketing blunder of talking about features not focusing on solutions through the story.
After that, Steve Jobs left Apple. In 1986, Jobs sponsored Pixar’s work and became CEO and owner of that film company. At Pixar, Jobs began to understand the importance of something simple: One story.
By talking to Pixar’s creative staff, Jobs knew what he was missing from Lisa was a story to consumers. Jobs tried to focus on the product itself and the details around it, and he mistakenly thought he could persuade consumers to buy Lisa if they knew everything about computers.
However, what consumers want is a good story. Consumers want to feel that they have to have a product, and thanks to the product, their life somehow gets better. They don’t want to know all the details, nor do they want to hear technical jargon about the product. They don’t want the trouble of figuring out what is being sold. They want a quick, simple, and engaging story.
Jobs accepted this thinking, and he learned from his experience. And this is what he said when he was CEO of Pixar: “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come…”
Lessons from Steve’s failure
Don’t try to cram information.
Use simple and clear information.
Clearly define the message you want to convey.
Explain the product in a simple way.
Choose a story that explains why your brand exists.
Does your marketing lead customers to connect with a community who “think different”?
Can the lessons learned from failure help you improve your next product?