Blog Header
The Insights Blog

Dedicated To Helping Readers
Be More Interesting
Since 2004.

As Featured In:

Steve Jobs And The 4 Counterintuitive Business Strategies Of Apple

IMB_SteveJobsWithIpad One of the most legendary stories about Zappo's famed culture of customer service above all else is their longstanding business practice of paying people to quit. It is a perfect example of the power of counterintuition – that offering an incentive to leave will actually help you get rid of employees who would have lacked commitment and likely developed into underperforming employees in the long term. Counterintuition is like that. It takes something that initially seems crazy and illogical and flips it into a business strategy for success.

Perhaps no other company in recent memory has been quite as good at applying counterintuition to running their business as Apple. It is simultaneously a source of frustration for their competitors and confusion for business analysts why Apple is able to do business in a way that would surely be toxic for many other brands if they were to adopt the same closed approach to ecosystem, partners and social media.

Over the last week, media has iconized Steve Jobs and his impact on Apple and even humankind. Among the daily individual tributes are stories people share from their moments of meeting Steve Jobs and how Apple under his watch has become a master brand at using counterintuition to become the exception to nearly every rule in business. I have written before about the "real secret of Apple's success" … but this week I have been thinking about some of their most counterintuitive business practices and what we all might learn from them. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Control the uncontrollable. If you had to name one thing that has helped Apple get to where they are today, it is that they control more aspects of their product development, distribution, sales, marketing, usage and service than any other technology manufacturer. They have their own stores, a locked down software platform and ecosystem, no open standards, integrated product service, and exacting brand standards for how their brand is to be mentioned in any context. They rarely offer media access into the company and are notoriously guarded about anything they allow to be shared about their products or company. Elements that many other brands would consider "uncontrollable" are meticulously micromanaged and centrally controlled by Apple. As a result, they can reduce any potential for a negative customer experience because they have more control over the entire journey.
  2. Forget the low end. Apple could never be accused of acknowledging that there has been a global recession. Their products are consistently and unapologetically for the "high end" and they are widely admired for their discipline as a company in making sure they are not producing too many products or compromising on quality in any way. In one story, Nike CEO Mark Parker recalled advice Steve Jobs gave him about Nike: "Nike makes some of the best products in the world–products that you lust after, absolutely beautiful stunning products. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff, and focus on the good stuff." Apple has consistently done that, and charged a premium for it.
  3. Use partnership as a last resort. Apple is well known for controlling their communications and dictating what their partners are (and are not) allowed to say publicly about working with Apple. More than that, Apple's first thought in most situations is how they can complete an element of their product or sales and distribution internally rather than having to partner with anyone. While some other organizations see partnership as an opportunity, Apple uses it as a last resort when they have no other options.
  4. Obsess over the little things. Generally, if you ask most people in business they will describe micromanagement as a bad thing. No one wants a manager who is always looking at every little detail – yet most accounts of working with Steve Jobs describe him as the sort of leader who stresses about such trivialities as font kearning and slight shade variations of yellow. This unwavering attention to detail translates into unique well thought out products, and it offers yet another argument for why, as my fellow Ogilvy colleague Rory Sutherland suggests in his brilliant TEDx talk, every company should have a Chief Detail Officer focused on "sweating the small stuff."

 

7 thoughts on “Steve Jobs And The 4 Counterintuitive Business Strategies Of Apple”

  1. Building partnerships with other sites is a great way to develop links, exposure, and branding. It’s all about finding the types of partnerships that work for your company.

    Reply
  2. Great post there.
    However, I am a little uncomfortable about the 2nd point you made there-Forget the low-end. For now, yes, Apple can afford to forget about it, but what about long term? When Google enters the market, now, after its acquisition of Motorola, with new handsets, it may be in a position to drive down Apple’s pricing. Until & unless, Apple does not continuously innovate & come up with better technology, I’m afraid it cannot then afford to just “forget about the low-end”, and that is where the volumes lie.
    Looking forward to more such insightful posts.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Vector Smart Object

About Rohit

A keynote speaker on trends, innovation, marketing, storytelling and diversity.

Rohit Bhargava is on a mission to inspire more non-obvious thinking in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of eight books and is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original speakers on disruption, trends and marketing in the world.

Rohit has been invited to keynote events in 32 countries … and over the past year, given more than 100 virtual talks from his home studio. He previously spent 15 years as a marketing strategist at Ogilvy and Leo Burnett and also teaches marketing and storytelling as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

He loves the Olympics, actively hates cauliflower and is a proud dad of boys.

Rohit Bhargava About (1)

Speaking

Do you need a speaker that can help your audience be more innovative and anticipate the future?

For more than a decade, Rohit Bhargava has been inspiring audiences at NASA, Disney, Schwab, Microsoft, SXSW, Coca-Cola and hundreds of other clients with his signature non-obvious keynote presentations. He is a master at weaving recent stories into his talks in a way that helps audiences better understand the world today, while also preparing to lead the future.

Non Obvious Insights
Layer 97
Non Obvious Insights Newsletter
Layer 118

Skip the obvious and anticipate the future with our weekly newsletter. Join over 25,000 subscribers and start receiving the stories (and insights) you’ve been missing.

Books

#1 WSJ & USAToday Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

Vector Smart Object

Contact

Have a Question or Inquiry?

Just fill out this form, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!

About You

What Are You Contacting Us About*:

Your Message