John Sculley: Marketing Genius

Peter Elkind of Fortune just wrote a scathing article about Steve Jobs in Fortune Magazine, but this post isn’t really about this.  It’s about this included quote from former Apple CEO (and sacker of Steve Jobs), John Sculley:

“Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company. This was a lunatic plan. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product.”

This wasn’t just an offhand comment to the press.  It’s committed for posterity in Sculley’s memoir: “Odyssey” (13 used copies are currently available for $0.01 if you’re looking for further inspiration.)

And this is why he really should have stuck with selling “sugared water”.

“The Wise Old Man”

I came across this joke on a “Joke of the Day” feed I subscribe to and, while funny enough on its own, it struck me that there had to be a hidden marketing “moral” in there somewhere. After thinking about it for a second, I realized what it is… Read my punchline after the joke.

A wise old gentleman retired and purchased a modest home near a junior high school. He spent the first few weeks of his retirement in peace and contentment. Then a new school year began. The very next afternoon three young boys, full of youthful, after-school enthusiasm, came down his street, beating merrily on every trash can they encountered. The crashing percussion continued day after day, until finally the wise old man decided it was time to take some action.

The next afternoon, he walked out to meet the young percussionists as they banged their way down the street. Stopping them, he said, “You kids are a lot of fun. I like to see you express your exuberance like that. In fact, I used to do the same thing when I was your age. Will you do me a favor? I’ll give you each a dollar if you’ll promise to come around every day and do your thing.” The kids were elated and continued to do a bang-up job on the trashcans.

After a few days, the old-timer greeted the kids again, but this time he had a sad smile on his face. “This recession’s really putting a big dent in my income,” he told them. “From now on, I’ll only be able to pay you 50 cents to beat on the cans.” The noisemakers were obviously displeased, but they accepted his offer and continued their afternoon ruckus. A few days later, the wily retiree approached them again as they drummed their way down the street. “Look,” he said, “I haven’t received my Social Security check yet, so I’m not going to be able to give you more than 25 cents. Will that be okay?” “A freakin’ quarter?” the drum leader exclaimed. “If you think we’re going to waste our time, beating these cans around for a quarter, you’re nuts! No way, dude. We quit!” And the old man enjoyed peace and serenity for the rest of his days.

This is exactly how “Consumer Generated Media” is going to die.

The Omni Future Almanac on Inflation

A while ago, I bought one of the coolest books ever – the Omni Future Almanac. The Omni Future Almanac was written in 1982, and its purpose is to describe what life will be like, well, now.An entire blog could be devoted to the contents of this book. Sometimes it’s spot on, sometimes it’s way off, but the most interesting parts are the ones where life could easily have turned out they way they describe if a butterfly flapped its wings in just a slightly different way.I’ve kept this book on a table in my office that I always walk by, and I’m constantly picking it up and perusing a random page. Today, it was about the effects of inflation. So, without further ado, here are the prices we’re looking at in 2010, three years from now (p. 158).

  • Hamburger (1 lb.) $22.71
  • Dozen Large Eggs: $18.00
  • Magazine: $30.00
  • Calculator: $50.00 (he he)
  • Postage Stamp: $2.25
  • Cup of coffee: $4.50 (OK, they kind of got that one right, in a weird way)
  • Three Room Apartment Monthly Rent: $10,000
  • Three Bedroom House: $1,000,000

Oh, but wait:

  • Gallon of Gas: $2.00

Well, the good news is that a factory worker will be making $197,000 a year to help pay for all this stuff (p. 159).

Sunrise Earth

[sunrise]I randomly stumbled upon Sunrise Earth the other morning and actually started Tivo-ing it, not so much to save for later, but just to have it automatically turn on every day… Sunrise Earth is a show consisting of nothing but 60 minutes sunrises from gorgeous places around the world. Tranquil, peaceful, beautiful.I’ve only watched brief snippets of it, but I had it on this morning while the baby was wandering around the living room getting into his usual trouble, and it dawned on me that since the show was on basic cable, it must contain commercials. I thought about how unfortunate this was – to break up such a pure, unadulterated experience of natural beauty for crass commercialism. But now I was intrigued… I had to hang out to see what would happen. Did The Discovery Channel have some trick up their sleeve to handle this gracefully, via some sort of more subdued ad unit? Then, as if to confirm my worst fears, it struck…HEAD ON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!HEAD ON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!HEAD ON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!I’m glad I left advertising.