Ken Segall, Steve Jobs’ former ad advisor, says marketing campaigns should be simple.
Having worked with Steve Jobs at Apple in the 1990s, he was involved in the making of the Think Different campaign for the company.
Segall tells Business Standard how Apple’s advertisements have been soft recently. Excerpts:
How different was it to work with Steve Jobs?
The big difference is Steve Jobs, I have never worked with any other chief executive officer, who cares about marketing.
In most places you will work for months and weeks on a campaign and then approach the chief executive officer, and he in turn could just say it is not good.
But Steve would be there from the start.
He had as much passion for marketing as for the product Apple was developing.
Many say he was a micromanager, but I do not think so.
He would tell you what he wanted and what he felt about things.
He was a partner in advertisement.
He was very accessible.
I do not remember any occasion that I have called and he has not responded.
Not only was he involved, he had better taste than most CEOs.
When he came back to Apple and the company was in bankruptcy, he continued to spend on marketing to say that Apple was alive.
Think Different was all about the brand, but companies these days, especially mobile handset manufacturers, only want to talk about products.
We spent six months telling the world that Apple was different and then we had a computer that looked different.
We took Steve’s word for that and went ahead.
Apple’s brand quickly became all about ‘think different’.
They looked better, different.
The product embodied the brand. Many companies struggle in that sense, they do some brand advertisement and then product advertisement.
With Apple, Think Different was a great way to describe the product.
Every product fulfilled Think Different.
Would you say the same for some of the campaigns Apple has launched in recent times?
I do not like the advertising Apple has been doing in the past few years.
It is not my type.
Also there is no Steve Jobs.
Without Steve’s taste, it seems they are checking off boxes.
They have done some soft advertisement.
Look at some of the iPad ads and they said, look what a lot of people are doing smartly around the world.
But that is nothing great, you can do all that on an Android, too.
I think the Mac versus PC campaign was remarkable, it went against the competition and made fun of it.
But it gave Mac a personality.
But then all the ads have done well.
When you are on the top of the world, you can take creative chances, and Steve was that kind of guy.
The old Apple would keep changing as they were more creative.
With the gap between product launches shrinking, is it difficult to be simple?
There are companies that feel confused.
Some would like to test in a few markets and then launch.
Jobs would never do that.
When you work with more ordinary companies, it is a struggle.
How do you say new and faster every time?
It is common knowledge the new launch will be better, faster.
One advantage with Apple is it does not launch products too frequently.
Any campaigns that are simple and you liked?
We are in a business where we are not too impressed with what others do, I think Google has done some campaigns that are really nice. Using human-interest stories to tell the search story.
When Samsung started mocking people for standing outside Apple stores, some of the campaigns were similar to what Apple did to Microsoft.
The timing was good.
They were funny and they received attention.
Samsung has different agencies around the world and some of them were really bad.
At Apple, the campaign would more or less be the same globally.
So, when a Mac was being launched in Japan, many said this is very simple and people here like colour. But Steve did not agree and the campaign worked very well.
What would you recommend for start-ups on marketing?
I am writing a book, which is in the edition stage. I have talked to 40 CEOs around the world across sectors.
One of the things is you need is a mission statement.
A lot of these companies do not have a marketing department.
I guess there is a level of expertise about marketing, a lot of people think it manageable but it is not that easy.
You need to know who you are.
For instance, when we were working for Dell, they came to us and asked who are we.
It should be the other way around.
Second image from top: Ken Segall. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Facebook