Steve Jobs and I met for the first time in Cupertino, CA on November 20, 1982. Apple had been searching for a permanent CEO to succeed interim CEO Mike Markkula.
The Apple board gave Steve Jobs veto rights over who was to be selected. I officially joined Apple as CEO four months later on April 6, 1983. Why did Steve Jobs pursue me, who had no previous computer technology experience to join him as Apple CEO?
Sitting for decades in a leased storeroom gathering dust is a diorama telling the story of Steve’s and my first year together at Apple. Steve had it made as a surprise for me, which he presented to me at the April, 1984 Apple board meeting. Our first year working together was an amazing experience for both of us. Steve bounced every idea off me, seeking my reaction; I was his close friend and we spent hours together walking the Apple campus and Stanford University hills; he loved learning about Big Brand marketing, as it was an unknown art in Silicon Valley back in those days.
The back story is, Apple was on the defensive. In 1982 Apple was outsold 2:1 by both Atari and Commodore. The Apple III had been introduced months earlier and it failed. IBM had introduced the IBM-PC in 1981 and by 1983 it was equal in revenue to Apple’s. The company’s only source of positive cash flow, the Apple II, was aging. Its 6502 processor was 8 bits while IBM was promoting its more powerful 16 bit processor, which was much faster for running spread sheets. Steve Jobs was completely focused on creating the Macintosh, which was still more than a year away from launch when Steve and I met for the first time.
Steve needed the cash to keep flowing from Apple II to fund the Mac development and fund the Mac’s expected launch in 1984. Yet Steve went out of his way to dismiss the Personal Computer Systems Division (Apple II) as “Bozos” while bragging about his elite Mac team as “Pirates.” What amazed me was that the Apple II group had been pushed off the Apple campus to a totally separate building miles away at the junction of Stevens Creek Rd and Route 280 in a place called the Triangle building because of its odd shape.
Paul Dali was a really fine manager running the Apple II division day-to-day. I appointed myself as overall head of the Apple II Group with Paul reporting directly to me and I moved my office to the off-campus Triangle building. I wanted everyone at Apple to know that my most important role was to help Apple II continue to flow cash.
Paul Dali had created a really great follow-on product to the Apple II+, which we launched in 1983 as the Apple IIe. Apple’s previous marketing campaign had been “Look at all the things you can do with an Apple II.” We completely revamped our marketing with the Apple IIe launch to focus on the fastest growing sector, “spread sheets.” Most heavy users of spread sheet on the Apple II+ actually didn’t use the aging Apple DOS operating system, choosing instead the much faster Apple II CPM plug-in board. So we built our marketing story around the CPM card and the fact that Apple could do something that the IBM-PC couldn’t: We could display spread sheets as charts in color on our display. The Apple IIe was a huge success! The cash flowed in.
When Paul Dali left Apple to become CEO of Regis McKenna Marketing Services, I assigned one of Apple’s most talented executives, Del Yocam to head the Apple II Group. Del created as much excitement inside the company around Apple II as Steve Jobs did around the Mac. Months after joining Apple, I made my best outside hire when Bill Campbell, previously Columbia University’s football coach and an advertising executive, agreed to join Apple as CMO and later head of sales. Bill loves people; he builds great teams; and people loved working for him. Bill’s job was to update our computer dealer network and turn our sales channel into a major competitive advantage over much larger Atari and Commodore. We wanted our dealer channel as strong as possible in anticipation of the Mac’s introduction in 1984.
Back in 1982, I wanted to meet Steve Jobs because I was curious about who he was, what drove him, and this place called Silicon Valley, which was largely unknown outside the tech world. I had little interest in leaving my job at Pepsi. I have never met anyone more persistent at getting what he wants than Steve Jobs. In the four months Steve pursued me to come to Apple he was most interested in what we called at Pepsi “experience marketing.” We created this version of marketing because, back in 1970 when I was first appointed Pepsi Marketing VP, Coca-Cola was much larger than Pepsi and we had a much smaller marketing budget. Coke’s marketing was all about the product (e.g., “It’s the Real Thing”), so we decided to focus on the consumer experience of Pepsi drinkers, not the product (e.g., Pepsi Generation and later, Pepsi Challenge).
Steve Jobs was fascinated by “experience marketing” and we would talk about it for hours. He wanted to learn everything he could about how and what made it such a powerful marketing differentiator (Pepsi passed Coca-Cola, becoming the largest selling consumer packaged goods product in America in 1978). There were two reasons for Steve’s curiosity: First, Steve had conceived the Mac as an “experience product system” (e.g., WYSIWYG – what-you-see-is-what-you-get). Second, Steve truly believed that the Mac was a “consumer appliance,” not a personal computer, and we would be able to change the world if we marketed it with the skill of “experience marketing.”
I’m a Big Brand marketing guy who was always more interested in disruptive innovation than being in charge. I just happened to end up being CEO of Pepsi-Cola Company and Apple. Neither job was my end goal aspiration. I was totally happy being Steve Jobs marketing partner.