There is much talk about Steve Job’s being a creative genius and digital visionary, the impact he had almost single-handedly on how we consume personal media. His use of design in both product development and user experience. We are also being reminded of Apple’s cult-like customer fan following that routinely spends days and nights camping on streets outside Apple stores, all around the world – just to be the first to get their hands on the next Apple product, and often just for the new version of an existing product. Nobody will dispute any of this…
Today, I walked by an Apple store and was shocked to see a makeshift memorial. There was a wall being created outside against the glass facade with flowers, cards, candles, pictures, clever manipulations of old Apple ads and dozens of post-it notes that people were handwriting while they stood and paid their last respects to Steve Jobs; like he was a close personal family member! He was the CEO of a company, a corporate executive, not a pop-star, a princess or a movie star – I was amazed.
I knew Job’s was a great showman and presenter but it’s one thing to admire a CEO or captain of industry and quite another for makeshift memorials to start popping up outside Apple retail stores all over the world on news of his death. I saw people standing silently, some looked like they were praying and most were writing a personal note and sticking it on the glass that made up the front of the store. It was not teenagers who were flocking but people in their late fifties and sixties who made up the majority coming to pay and post their last respects to the “genius who changed their life forever.” I am not sure if this happened when George Eastman or Henry Ford died but I cannot imagine any other corporate executive, no matter the extent of his genius, being lauded in this way.
In the end it is a testament not only to the brand that Jobs built but the products he delivered in creating this unbelievable emotional bond with customers. Apple is made up of his DNA and is a part of him. No compromise. Pure design cannot carry the day alone, great advertising and marketing only get you so far, and pure showmanship runs thin if the products don’t deliver – in the end Apple products have delivered time and again, and in the odd instance when one does not, Apple replaces it or fixes it for free; no questions asked. Therein lies the secret of turning a loyal customer into an evangelist for life.