TE’s Industry: Jarrett Cobbs on Steve Jobs
As everyone knows by now, last week brought the loss of one of the greatest visionaries of our time: Steve Jobs. Since then, we’ve quickly realized the profound effect this one man had on our lives. Lauded as the Edison or Disney of our time, comparisons to many other luminaries whose charge in life was to change the way we think were not only merited, but inevitable. As I’ve examined Jobs’ impact however, I noticed how much of Jobs’ influence was as much cultural as it was technological.
I recently had a heated debate with Team Epiphany managing partner, Coltrane Curtis, discussing this exact point. Coltrane thought Jobs’ legacy had everything to do with sleek product design and great marketing. I completely and respectfully disagreed. Mac products were born from the mind of a man who was more akin to a cultural anthropologist—who happened to have an advanced knowledge of technology—than a traditional marketer or a designer. Jobs wanted every person that interacted with his products to have access to a heightened cultural experience. His were not merely interactive solutions – they actually enhanced our daily lives. As an end result, great technology served as a byproduct of sharp insight into the human condition.
To settle our debate, Coltrane and I asked Jan in the office. He completely agreed with Coltrane. However, Jan is huge tech nerd AND product junkie. So “technically”, he was the wrong person to ask. Here, I realized that in order to solidify my point, I’d need to first examine at two things:
1. Some of Jobs’ product failures
2. His personality
To my first point, I look to the Apple III, The Lisa, and the Apple TV. These were instances where Steve’s understanding of the human condition, and the failed launches of each of these products, eventually propelled innovation. His failures allowed him to learn the value of releasing a product not motivated by revenue alone but by necessity, utility as well as genuine innovation.
The Apple III was an attempt to enter the business market and compete with the PC. The software was complicated and it was generally unreliable - a total revenue move. He saw dollar signs and strayed from his mission. From this shortcoming, Jobs learned an important lesson on the value of universal access.
The Lisa was cost prohibitive to say the least (msrp: $9,995.00), but it was Apple’s first attempt to make computers with powerful graphic interfaces commercially available to the public. It failed—spectacularly—but once technology caught up to Jobs’ mission, he created the Macintosh, which proved wildly successful.
The Apple TV was Jobs’ attempt to for TV what he had done for music. It was essentially a misguided revenue play that didn’t account for how people want to view TV, or how licensing agreements can muddle up access to the product in the first place.
When Jobs met demands of his own mission, his brand spawned great innovations which changed the world. When he didn’t, the consumer was stuck with technological duds.
Regarding my second point - Jobs was admittedly snarky and in my personal opinion, kind of dick. Still, he knew how interact with people. He did normal things. He tried illicit drugs. He got fired from jobs (no pun intended). I bring all this up to highlight that the man was a real person. Jobs wasn’t locked in a room with computers. He was flawed, but knew that these flaws made him human.
More importantly, Steve Jobs understood the fragility of the human existence. There was a quote that was on everyone’s Facebook following Jobs’ passing: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
Great words, but I happen to like this one better:
“Design is not just what it looks like, but how it works.”
I think Mr. Jobs was talking about life, not just product.
Either way, he is gone now and his imprint is undeniable. You may or may not agree with me on all points. Still, one thing remains irrefutable…
If given the opportunity, who would you rather party with: Bill Gates or this guy?
TE’s Industry is an ongoing series of op-ed style musings about marketing, branding, entertainment, nightlife, public relations and current events from the staff of Team Epiphany.
Jarrett Cobbs is the Director of Entertainment and Strategy at Team Epiphany.