In that situation, we nod our heads in agreement, say that we feel the same way and will do our best to help them get there. But the truth is, they never will, and as professional bullshitters, we don’t have the heart to tell them.
In light of Steve Jobs’ recent passing, I find it extremely timely to help point out why no company—yours included—will ever be like Apple. Ever.
You will never be that visionary CEO or CMO or C-Anything-O and lead your company through all of the most common—and uncommon—pitfalls of business and still come out with a product or brand that is truly great because you don’t really care about all that. Sure, you can tell us you do in our capabilities pitch and reiterate it before and after our creative presentation until you’re blue in the face. But in the end, you really only care about making money and making yourself relevant to your company or boss. Making something of real quality and making it—and your brand—relevant to your customers, is a distant priority. You don’t actually listen to what your customers want, need or care about. You assume everything based off a focus group here or there, or your own subjective, narrow opinions.
Your brand will never spark the same feeling that so many owners of Apple products have when they walk out of the store with that clean white box in hand. It will never instill the pride and confidence of purchasing a product at tens or hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the competition’s price point. This is because the people at Apple spend real time designing what they sell in every possible way. They pay attention to every detail and pour over it until it’s perfect. Then they re-think every detail, and improvements are reflected in each new product launch. They keep their product offerings in each category small because there’s no need for 14 versions of a laptop when you make them all correctly. Their ads don’t bullet-point out every product feature because when you say everything you say nothing. And they know this all too well. They use expensive materials that are made to last instead of shoddy materials that fall apart with regular use. Your product is probably made as cheaply as possible to increase profit, because your company is cheap and short-sighted.
Your advertising and voice will never be as simple, clear and consistently strong as Apple’s because you can’t afford it. Oh? You have 200 grand? 500 grand? A million? I hope that’s your budget for a month or so, because Apple spends millions upon millions. That’s multiple millions every year, ensuring that how they come across on a TV spot in America is exactly the same as how they come across in a headline on a billboard in Hong Kong. They have huge, huge teams of people all over the planet that pay lots and lots of attention to all the details of their marketing and PR at all times.
What’s that? You do have millions at your disposal to spend on advertising? It’s still not going to be enough to make your company successful because it’s most likely money you should be investing into the improvement of your products. For every amount Apple spends on advertising, they spend tons more on the continued research and development and improvement of their product offerings. Advertising is important to the success of a company, sure, but even the best of us can’t sell your product if it’s a piece of shit. The masses can be pretty dumb, but they’re not lobotomized.
Reading back, I realize the above likely makes me sound like an Apple fanatic, among other things, but I’m not at all. I have a few Apple logos in my possession, but I could live without them. Granted, life would be a lot more difficult and I’d definitely get lost everywhere I go (like I used to), but it is possible. My point is to point out that it takes a whole, hell of a lot of something that you probably just do not have in you to lead, create or maintain a company like Apple. Steve Jobs was definitely not the only person with a vision capable of doing this, but he did turn out to be one of the most chronically clear-sighted.
While you are not nor will not ever be just like Steve or work for a company that’s “just like Apple,” that’s not to say you can’t be passionate about what you do. That’s not to say you can’t really care about your product and its success and relevance in whatever space it lives, and constantly work to improve it on all levels. And it’s not to say your business can’t be wildly successful and loved by consumers—plenty of other companies are.
But to achieve such things, you’ll need to do basically the opposite of what almost every C-Anything-O does on a daily basis. You have to really care about what you and your company creates and stands for. How it affects its customers in positive ways or somehow makes their lives better. How to make your company and its offerings the best they can possibly be, even if it means cutting into your profit margin. You’ll need to delegate the things you cannot do to people who can do those things incredibly well. You’ll need to partner with great, professional communicators and spend real time and money thinking about what the voice of your company sounds and looks like, and then make every possible effort to make that voice consistent and widespread. Your thinking must be stretched into the long-term, not the short.
All this being said, it is quite understandable if you at least start off with such great intentions and later fall into the same tendencies as so many others, however, it’s incredibly unfortunate. So here’s hoping you and your company can swim upstream and operate under such lofty ideals. Here’s hoping the next clients that walk through our door can achieve something even remotely close to what Apple has. Hell, walk through any advertiser’s door, you’d be doing the world a favor either way.
But if you’re just another set of wannabes that talk big and walk small, please understand that you’re not thinking any differently, and you never will. And as professional bullshitters, we won’t have the heart to tell you.