The brain remembers the emotional components of an experience better than any other aspect. —John Medina
When Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011, the world didn’t just lose one of its great visionaries, but it also lost an astonishing corporate storyteller. His presentations, “Steve-notes” as they were fondly called, had all the elements of a Broadway production, including a cast, drama, heroes, villains, and props. Most brand marketers use presentations to deliver information, often dryly. Steve Jobs gave presentations that informed, educated, and entertained.
The most memorable parts of Jobs’s presentations were what I call wow moments. These wow moments were carefully scripted and exhaustively rehearsed. It took an estimated 450 hours of work and rehearsals to create and deliver the twenty-minute presentation to introduce the Lion operating system in June 2011. Jobs was fanatical about each and every element of the presentation from the lighting to the messages. He knew the content of every slide, every font, and every color that was used on every slide. But nothing was more important in a presentation than the moment when the audience would gasp and say to themselves, I need that!
The Brain Does Not Pay Attention to Boring Things
No matter how sensational you think your product is, nobody is going to care if the message you’re using to communicate the product’s benefits is dry, confusing, and convoluted. Neuroscientist John Medina taught me that the brain does not pay attention to boring things. It is simply not programmed to grasp abstract concepts.
Instead he recommends creating an emotionally charged event, which is the equivalent of a mental Post-it Note for the brain. Medina says the brain’s amygdala is chockful of the neurotransmitter dopamine. So when the brain detects an emotionally charged event (e.g., joy, fear, surprise), the amygdala releases dopamine into the system that greatly aids memory and information processing. Let’s recall three of Jobs’s emotionally charged events:
1984: The Ad and the Launch
When it came time to launch the Macintosh, the machine that revolutionized personal computers, Jobs wanted a television spot that would put a stamp on people’s minds. The ad agency Chiat/Day developed the famous Big-Brother-themed “1984” ad, which ran only once during Super Bowl XVIII. More than 90 million people saw the ad, and it became the most admired television ad for the next two decades. Amazingly, the ad was nearly scrapped. When Jobs previewed the ad for the Apple board in December 1983, they hated it. Apple CEO John Sculley admitted he got cold feet. Jobs eventually won the argument, of course, but the story reminds us that Jobs intuitively understood the power of emotion in building a brand.
The 1984 television ad wasn’t the only wow moment Jobs had up his sleeve. In what is still considered one of the most dramatic reveals of any product in history, Jobs introduced the Macintosh with a magician’s flourish. On January 24, 1984, the Macintosh became the first computer to introduce itself. After building the audience’s anticipation with a deftly crafted speech with IBM playing the narrative’s antagonist, Jobs whipped the audience into a frenzy of excitement. He then walked to the center of the stage where the Macintosh had been sitting in a cloth bag on a small table. Jobs pulled out the computer, attached the keyboard and mouse, and put in a floppy disk. The theme from Chariots of Fire began to play, and the words MACINTOSH INSANELY GREAT scrolled on the screen. The graphics were unlike anything anyone had ever seen on a computer. Jobs smiled, turned to the audience, and said, “We’ve done a lot of talking about Macintosh, but today, for the first time, I’d like to let Macintosh speak for itself.” The audience gasped and cheered as they heard the computer say, Hello, I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Without the benefit of PowerPoint or Apple Keynote (both of which had yet to be invented), Jobs gave one of the most awe-inspiring product launches in history.
2001: 1,000 Songs in Your Pocket
The iPod began Apple’s transformation from a computer company into a brand that would make devices to change the way we live, work, and play. On October 23, 2001, Jobs unveiled the iPod – a music player that came with 5 GB of storage, not a revolutionary advance in technology. But Jobs had a wow moment in his pocket, literally. He said 5 GB of storage was enough to carry 1,000 songs. Oh, and there was one more thing…1,000 songs fit in your pocket. The size of the iPod – along with its ease of use – made it different. “I just happen to have one right here in my pocket,” said Jobs as he pulled an iPod from the front pocket of his signature blue Jeans.
Apple Revolutionizes the Phone
On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and gave what I consider his greatest presentation. As he did twenty years earlier in the Macintosh presentation, he began by building the anticipation. “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” he said. He reminded his audience that Apple had introduced the Macintosh, which revolutionized the computer industry, and the iPod that revolutionized the music industry. “Today we’re launching three revolutionary products of this class,” Jobs added. “The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.” Jobs slowly repeated each of the devices once, a second time, and a third. Finally he concluded, “Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device, and we are calling it, iPhone!”
Steve Jobs knew how to turn a presentation into an awe inspiring and memorable event. He was the consummate salesman, and his techniques work just as well on the sales floor as they did on the presentation stage.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Carmine Gallo, excerpted from his book The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanley Great Customer Loyalty — (c) 2012 by McGraw-Hill
The Blake Project Can Help: The Strategic Brand Storytelling Workshop
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers