The Last Pitchman: Steve Jobs; when it comes to channeling desire, no one else comes close

“America has three indigenous art forms: jazz, baseball, and outrageously effective marketing stunts,” Devin Leonard writes in a commentary for BusinessWeek.

“America’s reigning monarch of marketing is of course Steve Jobs… He is famous for his obsessions, such as keeping new products under wraps until he can roll them out at glitzy, tightly scripted, massively observed events. In April, however, a junior Apple engineer left a prototype of the then-unreleased iPhone 4 in a Redwood City (Calif.) bar. Gizmodo, a popular tech blog, got its hands on the device and broke the news about its impressive new features—its uncanny thinness, its high-res display, its forward-facing camera designed to let users video chat with their friends,” Leonard writes. “Nothing was left for Jobs to reveal.”

MacDailyNews Take: Actually, Jobs revealed plenty of new information, but we’ll play along with Leonard’s conceit…

Leonard continues, “So how is it that when he unveiled the phone on June 7 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the event still had the aura of magic? Jobs tossed off the perfect quip about the Gizmodo incident—”Stop me if you’ve seen this before”— then demonstrated what he called ‘the most precise, beautiful thing we’ve ever designed.’ Wi-Fi went down during his presentation—and it didn’t matter. Like all great salesmen, Jobs knows that controlling the product is a lot less important than controlling our desire.”

“Jobs brought the Hollywood-style rollout to the tech industry in 1984 when he set out to make the launch of the first Mac a pop cultural milestone not unlike the first Star Wars movie, which he studied closely. He commissioned the most famous Super Bowl commercial in history, the futuristic ‘1984’ spot directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) in which a freedom-loving woman hurled a hammer through a giant computer screen from which a totalitarian figure was lecturing a room full of worker drones,” Leonard writes. “Jobs personally demonstrated that first Mac in an auditorium full of cheering fans. In his double-breasted blue blazer and green bow tie (since replaced by a black mock turtleneck), he looked like a character from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Steve Jobs demos first Apple Macintosh in January, 1984:

Direct link to video via YouTube here.

Leonard writes, “With the media landscape so fragmented, stopping the world in its tracks isn’t easy anymore. ‘We sometimes think that in a connected, interactive world, salesmanship is no longer effective,’ adds Kelly O’Keefe, executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, an advertising studies program. ‘But it’s not true. We are still attracted to it. We are looking for it. We need something to believe in. People believe in Apple. They believe in Jobs.'”

Full article – recommended – here.


  1. “America has three indigenous art forms: jazz, baseball, and outrageously effective marketing stunts,” Devin Leonard writes in a commentary for BusinessWeek.

    Don’t forget Barbershop!

  2. I consider myself quite level-headed, logical, staid and even stoic. But goddamn if when Steve Jobs speaks I don’t get all giddy like a school girl and even find a tear welling up on occasion.

    The man is magical.

  3. Steve Jobs has made it unnecessary for us to think for ourselves. All we need to do is wait for his next appearance and we will know where to queue up, how much money to take with us, and the revolutionary words to use when asked about what we are buying.

    It really doesn’t matter if the product is actually the best among the competitors – Steve says it is so it is.

    Attn: Business Schools across the planet – Steve Jobs is all you need to offer marketing students. Nothing else matters.

  4. I agree with Dean and MadMac! Call us a cult, weird, whatever – that man had a vision, that included everyone, and went for it. Blast him if you want, but I have been inspired constantly in my work and my life by his tenacity, vision and focused purpose.

  5. @ Dean

    Me too. Also, we get older, there are more public figures we have watched for all our lives who are obviously getting older as well, and it’s a little poignant to see video or photos of them in their early years. Actors, politicians, Steve Jobs…

    There are lots of negatives to getting old, but one positive is the history and memories we carry.

    MDN word: cent. Remember when a cent was worth something?

  6. As I comment every time the “marketing genius” of Jobs crops up:
    It’s the products.

    A marketing genius is one who can get people who wouldn’t otherwise buy a product to do so. Jobs has said on numerous occasions that he’s OK with people who don’t want what Apple’s offering to not buy Apple- in fact that he’d prefer that. He’s not a marketing genius.

    Jobs genius is in discerning what’s most important in a product and drawing insanely good results from talented people.

  7. @Nothing else matters

    Nice try, Bozo. Jobs showmanship just happens to be matched to hardware that *is* the best in class. In the final analysis, junk sells to people who expect less. Jobs convinces you that you deserve and should expect more.

  8. “glitz”?!?

    Steve doesn’t do glitz. His presentations strip away the glitz and show the beautiful simplicity, functionality and form of the products. Glitz is for those other presenters who have dancers, models and celebs come on stage to intro a product.

  9. What these analysts usually fail to point out is that Steve’s “salesmanship” is backed by best-in-class products.

    Look at all the hype for the Palm Pre, Android, etc. The hype was backed by crap products and they failed.

    Steve Ballmer is the salesman, and look at the garbage Microsoft comes out with.

    Hype and salesmanship only go so far. The products have to be good, too.

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