What Steve Jobs Knew About the Importance of Values to Your Company

Simon Mainwaring / Brands / 6 years ago

The future of profit is purpose. We say this often at We First, but this is something Steve Jobs understood so well, almost 20 years ago. Always a visionary, Jobs was already living in Marketing 3.0 where marketing is about meaning, values, and legacy.

In this classic video, Jobs talks about his experience of how important it is to define a company’s core values and bring them to life. Here are three takeaways for today’s purpose-driven brands and those aspiring to become one:

Even great brands need to invest in meaning if they want to remain great. In this dynamic customer-driven marketplace, no one is safe. Whether you’re Apple, Nike or Coke, you need thoughtful investment into defining your company’s mission if you hope to retain you relevance, value, and vitality.

“Marketing is about values. It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.” – Steve Jobs

Lead with legacy.  Many brands are still lost in the weeds and too focused on talking about product features, price, or competitor slamming. Jobs refers to Nike as one of the great examples of forward-thinking, values-driven marketing: Though Nike has always played in a heavily commoditized market (after all, they just sell shoes) when you think of Nike you feel something. Nike doesn’t spend time talking about their product, what kind of soles sneakers have, or why they are better than their competitors. Nike reaches for a higher purpose: It honors great athletes and great athletics.

Why do you exist? An undefined brand is unshareable and Jobs shares the two questions Apple started with to bring the company back:

-Who is Apple?

-What does Apple stand for and where do we fit in this world?

Jobs knew the difference between what and why. That Apple makes products for people to get their jobs done better only address what they do. But here’s Apple’s ‘why’ according to Jobs: “Apple believes that people with passion can change the world for the better. And those people that are crazy enough to think that they can, are the ones who actually do.”

It was only by taking the time to define these core values that they could be brought to life in Apple’s now iconic “Think Different” campaign which “honors the people who move this world forward, and touches the soul of this company.”

Only 20% of brands worldwide are seen to meaningfully and positively impact people’s lives, and as social technology continues to drive consumer activism, many companies are waking up to the realization that articulating their values and mission is not fluff. Instead, articulating how your brand brings its core values to life is now critical in terms of the reputational, employee productivity and bottom line benefits- or liabilities- to your company.

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  1. Avatar Roger Mudd says:

    Nice article. I remember watching a movie that talk about Jobs (I think was barbarian’s at the gate? Or something). But he (Jobs) was trying to recruit from Pepsi.
    He asked Jobs why would he leave Pepsi to come to come and work for Apple (this was the early) and Jobs told something like… “Because you don’t want to make sugar water for the rest of your life do you.” LOL He called Pepsi sugar water. To cool.

    1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

      Thanks Roger. Yes, the man always was a straight shooter. I think he was spot on in this clip. Hope all’s well. Simon

  2. Fantastic post. Sadly I think since his death, Apple are getting bogged down with mass market appeal and more-and-more are talking about power, battery life and features. They need to pull it around before somebody else does.

    1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

      I agree. i think they are used to playing well off the front foot as a highly regarded leader brand but are struggling now they are on the back foot. They need to find their morale compass before their business will have a new direction. Thanks!

  3. Avatar Tracy Lloyd says:

    Great article Simon. I agree with your thoughts here and believe that this is an idea that addresses both the rational needs of business and the emotional needs of people. At Emotive Brand, we believe that underpinning this type of approach to business and brands are three primary drivers: empathy, purpose and emotion. For more of how we think, we’d love you to share your thoughts with us at http://www.emotivebrand.com/blog

    1. Avatar Victor Manolo Antunez says:

      This post has been flagged as SPAM.

  4. Avatar Susan M. Davis says:

    It always starts with the WHY – our personal core-values and those of our businesses/brand (the WE). The Who, What, Where, When, and How click into place once that’s established, but always in congruence with the WHY. Thanks for another great reminder, Simon. This video is a classic and a keeper!

    1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

      So agree Susan. It’s at the heart of storytelling and always will be. It’s just part of being emotional creatures. Hope you’re well Susan.

      1. Avatar Susan M. Davis says:

        Thanks, Simon! VERY well! Excited about going to NYC and the launch of the ‘BE There For You Foundation’ – totally in alignment with my WHY and the WHY of Journey To Absolute Freedom, LLC and The Co-Creation Community! Whoo Hoo! Everything clicking into place!

        1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

          Congrats Susan. That sounds fantastic. You might also be interested in what we’re doing at the We First event coming up; http://www.WeFirst13.com It’ll really show you how to scale the community around what you’re doing. Would love to see you there. Much respect, simon

  5. Avatar Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE says:

    What do we stand for? That’s the question Job asks. Apple at the “core”– every pun intended– that peolpe can change the world. Isn’t that what WeFirst is about: how do WE change the world so it is about us and not me.

    1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

      Exactly, Eileen. We can only fix these social crises together and that can only happen when we put our shoulder and business might behind what we care about. My hope and belief is that we will realize this before it’s too late. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Avatar joe sibilia says:

    Simon. Thanks for bringing this video back to life. I remember seeing it the first time and switching all our computers to Macs. There was a direct connection between turning values into valuation. At that time, it meant more to us to be aligned with ‘different’ than the ‘status quo’.
    Today, its even more relevant, as the status quo needs improvements and we are the ones that are dedicated to improving – ourselves.

    1. Avatar Simon Mainwaring says:

      Thanks Joe. And I so understand how you appreciate this more deeply than anyone. It is about the status quo now and in fact our very survival as a function of how sustainably we live our lives. And i so agree it’s all a function of working on ourselves first and embracing the values that this reveals. Exciting times and much respect, Joe. Simon

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