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Insight & Analysis - June 21, 2021

Steve Job’s Storytelling Technique that Made Apple a Success

When Steve Jobs first launched Lisa, an Apple desktop computer in 1993, the product failed as soon as it hit the market. He was let go from the company and he went on to co-found Pixar. Working with professional storytellers at Pixar made Jobs realise just how powerful effective storytelling can be.

At this point, it was much easier for Jobs to see where things could have gone wrong with the messaging for Apple’s Lisa. He initially launched Lisa with a nine-page ad in the New York Times, detailing the computers many features. As Donald Miller puts it in his book Building a Story Brand, “It was nine pages of geek talk nobody outside NASA was interested in”.

When Jobs returned to Apple after running Pixar, the difference was clear, he was now telling the story of the company’s products with much clarity and purpose. His next campaign went from nine pages to just two words Be Different. Apple became a compelling brand with the customer at the centre of the story.

But How did Jobs Turn His Storytelling Around?

Miller highlights in his book, the three pillars of storytelling which shows the major changes Jobs made on his return to Apple. 

  1. Identify what the customers wanted: One key challenge facing people at the time was the need to be seen and heard. This was a major challenge they faced in their everyday lives and Apple could step in and make difference. 
  2. Determined the barrier holding their customers back: Jobs realised that the customers simply didn’t understand Apple’s message because it initially failed to spotlight the real-world problems that it could solve. So while Lisa was a revolutionary technology, people just couldn’t relate to how it could improve their lives. 
  3. Placing the solution in the hands of the people: This is the side of the story where Apple provides their smartphone and computers to customers as the ultimate solution to their need to be seen and heard.


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