It’s always been something that companies have tried, but CEOs seem to be popping up in TV commercials more and more. Would it make sense for Apple to follow this trend with Steve Jobs?
Steve Jobs has never been described as an “average” or “standard” executive. Just about every time his name is mentioned, the words “visionary” and “asset” are nearby. Perhaps more importantly, he is a showman who likes to make a splash when talking about his company. With these kinds of qualities, it’s mind-boggling that Apple has not utilized him in any of their television ad campaigns over the years. In fact, it might be downright foolish.
Past successful campaigns
Taking a brief look at the past, one can point out a surprising number of founders and CEOs who have served as their company’s public face. In the 1970s, Frank Perdue helped create the first well-known chicken brand (Perdue Farms) through his 200+ advertisements for the company. Surely almost anyone in America at least in their teens remembers Dave Thomas of Wendy’s, as well. He appeared in over 800 commercials for the fast-food chain, propelling them to great success in the 1990s. The recipe for success was simple: make the company more personal by using a figure people could identify with.
There are even more examples today. Just in the past year we have seen Sprint CEO Dan Hesse roam the streets of Manhattan and Dominos CEO David Brandon shake his fist at Washington. With the economic situation we’re facing, Sprint and Dominos believed putting their big guys in front of American audiences would give them credibility and put a face to their large companies. Both campaigns have ended, but the idea came from a good place – even though their particular executions didn’t pan out. The problem was their lack of a good spokesperson.
Why using Steve would be smart
Steve Jobs is well known for his keynotes, where he introduces new Apple products to the masses. When he speaks, people listen – some even going so far as to salivate waiting for his next announcement. His ability to engage audiences has resulted in the spread of the term “reality distortion field,” both in the media and among technology aficionados. Although it is sometimes exaggerated and spun as a negative by Apple haters, the basic idea is mostly true. With his marketing skills and endless supply of charisma, Steve Jobs can convince people to believe almost anything. Isn’t that the kind of person Apple needs to push Windows users to switch to Macs, or Blackberry owners to switch to iPhones?
Now, that’s not to say Apple needs Steve Jobs to con the public into believing lies just to boost sales. He doesn’t need to be deceptive because Apple truly does offer the best products available. He believes in what his company is doing and he can get others to believe it as well. The kind of enthusiasm he shows onstage for keynotes can easily be translated into 30 second television ads. And putting him in front of millions of people who may not know much about Apple’s unique approach could be a huge win.
The type of ad Steve should do
Even if Apple was to build a TV campaign around Steve Jobs, what exactly would he do? He’s not the kind of guy you put in a whacky situation or make look like a fool for humor. A more genuine and direct approach would be to sit him on a stool against an Apple-esque plain white background and just have him talk. Not directly to the camera, but rather as if he was carrying out a conversation with someone behind the camera. To give you a batter idea of what I mean, check out the videos Apple posted on their website for the MacBook Pro’s unibody enclosure and built-in battery. These are longer than a TV commercial could be, so obviously they’d have to be short and snappy to keep peoples’ attention.
With this format, Steve (black turtleneck and all) could talk about Apple as a brand in general. These are not meant to replace the “Get a Mac” or “There’s an app for that” ads, but rather to compliment them. A lot of people still don’t understand the value Apple offers with its products or the painstaking efforts they make to innovate where no one even thought possible. It’s the little things, all of which add up to create one unified user experience, that make Apple unique. Explaining their philosophy and methods of solving problems (again, in quick 30 second spots) would make Apple a more personal and approachable company. It just might even alleviate some of the snobbish, cult-like stereotypes surrounding their product users.
Taking advantage of the charisma
It’s a crime that Apple has not taken advantage of one of their biggest assets to help promote the value of their brand. Their CEO is a master showman during keynote events, winning over crowds and driving home the point that Apple embodies innovation unlike any other company. His insightful and often thought-provoking interviews generate quotes that spread across the media like wildfire. Why aren’t they using Steve Jobs’ uncanny ability to captivate people in TV commercials that could be seen by millions? I understand they want the products to speak for themselves, but going the extra mile to establish Apple’s core values in the public mindset with Steve Jobs could take them to the next level.