Steve Jobs on credit unions: The Apple marketing philosophy

“You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich.” That was one of the first pieces of advice venture capitalist and the future CEO of Apple, Mike Markkula, gave to Steve Jobs at the beginning of their relationship and in the launch of Apple.

The relationship between Markkula and Jobs was more than a business relationship, though. It was more like a father-son relationship. In Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs,” Jobs said that Markkula instantly took him under his wing in terms of business, but especially in terms of marketing.

Before Markkulas and Jobs launched the Apple II, Markkula wrote a one-page paper titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy,” with three main points to it. That’s right — only three points. Marketing folks often like to overthink the art and science of marketing, but Markkula did a wonderful job of boiling effective marketing down into three brief points that fit on one page. If you were to follow these points in your credit union marketing through 2015, it could lead to great accomplishments.

The Apple Marketing Philosophy

  1. Empathy. Markkula expressed the need for the Apple brand to have an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” Do you understand the needs of your members? When you write the copy and creative brief for your next campaign, are you using industry jargon and only going surface deep with your message? Do you understand that your members aren’t excited about an auto loan from your credit union, but rather what that auto loan can do for them? Do you truly understand the needs of your members better than any other bank or credit union? More importantly, does your staff understand the needs of your members better than any other bank or credit union?
  2. Focus. Markkula understood that trying to be all things to all people is brand suicideand urged Jobs to eliminate all of the “unimportant” opportunities. Browse through your membership brochure and the copy on your website. Is it clear who you serve and what you can offer them? I often see credit unions offering a product (mortgages, for example) through a mediocre third-party only because they feel they have to keep up with banks other credit unions. It’s not necessary to offer everything other financial institutions offer unless it directly fits in with the vision of your credit union and who you want to serve. “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities,” Markkula said. What products and services are you currently offering that are sucking up valuable resources needed to successfully promote those things that mean more to your members?
  3. Impute. That’s not a typo. Markkula believed that consumers do judge a book by it’s cover. What are the first impressions that members or potential members have with your website, your new app, the person answering your phone, or the culture within your branch? Does it accurately convey the right message? “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc.; but if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities,” Markkula wrote in his brief to Steve Jobs. You may be one of the credit unions in the minority that say you have great service, and truly do have good service. But when that new member receives their new membership packet that is nothing more than 8.5 x 11 inch black-and-white Xerox papers folded up and stuffed into a white envelope, what will they think? What about when attempting to find information about you on the internet, but coming away empty handed because your website isn’t up-to-date or hard to navigate from their phone or tablet?

Isaacson noted that because of this single page of notes from Markkula, Jobs forever focused only on a handful of core products. He cared and often obsessed about marketing, the image of Apple, and even small details down to the packaging. How much do you, your management team, and board care?

“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details