“I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer.”
— Erma Bombeck
“I was always fascinated by people who are considered completely normal because I find them the weirdest of all.”
— Johnny Depp
Today, in honor of the Macintosh computer’s 30th birthday, I want to use it as a case study for storytelling. That’s the theme of this current series here on WordPress, where I am writing about the train tracks underneath the social media train; storytelling and humor. I will write about humor next week. Today I want to finish up my musings about storytelling with an analysis of one of the best story tellers and subject of stories: Steve Jobs and Apple.
The history of Apple™ Inc. is one of the greatest stories ever told. I’ve been enthralled with it since I was a child, doodling on MacPaint on the Macintosh 128K and then 512K, and later on a Portable Mac. I’ve been enchanted with Apple™ tech ever since. I consider Steve Jobs my first virtual mentor, especially when I was chosen to be one of the prototypes of the Mac Educators who get trained and then train others in Apple™ tech. I did this from 1995-2000 under Apple™ and its partnership with NY State’s TRAID Project for special education. I learned to use and teach others about the Mac Performa, Powerbook, iBook, eMac, and iMac G3 for educational purposes. You could thus say I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Apple. It is why I wrote a love letter to Mac, in my latest Slideshare deck, which you can see here.
I’ve been a MacGirl since childhood, and a Mac Evangelist for most of my adult life and career. It is why I advocate for the integration of toys and Apple™ tech (software, iOS Apps) in treatment of children with Autism/special needs. It is why I advocate for balancing humanity and technology at work. It’s why I became an ed-tech consultant and later an iPad Evangelist giving seminars around North America.
I have a great collection of still working and lovely Macs starting with the Performa 6200. I also have an iMac G3, iMac G4, a 2012 iMac, and a MacBook Air, which I am using to type this post. I even put together an album of Mac related photos on my other social media sites. You can browse those pictures, including vintage ads from the first marketing campaign in 1984.
The history of the Macintosh computer makes a compelling case study because of its inherent story, and its marketing campaigns. Ones that forever changed the way people viewed technology, advertising, emotional attunement, and teamwork. The 1984 Macintosh ad campaign, “Think Different” went viral because it showcased and embraced a few human truths. Ones that make up both the architecture and artistry of stories that get shared over and over again. Ones that entrepreneurs need to keep in mind.
I learned so much about storytelling and marketing by following the history of Apple and the Mac, and its creator, the first Ambassador of Humanity/Technology Balance – Steve Jobs. I saw the elements of good storytelling play out repeatedly in the news, in commercials, in his speeches, and in the biopic Jobs. Those stories have intersected with my Story on so many levels; professionally and personally, especially as an entrepreneur and professional public speaker.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my ongoing journey, which I wanted to share:
1. Storytelling taps into a person’s basic need for belonging to a collective sequence of routines while still exercising his/her individuality and departure from them.
Takeaway: Stories tap into our human capacity for creativity
Marketing campaigns succeed when they show you how to be yourself, just better. The Mac started off as beige and rather drab, morphed into a fun cornucopia of colors with the introduction of the iMac G3, (which also cleverly showed you its insides), and restarted the debate about artificial intelligence (AI) and Singularity with the launch of the iMac G4 and this funny ad. I wrote more about AI (now called machine learning) in my latest Tumblr post, which you can read here. The Mac has gone through many iterations, but one thing has stayed constant, the Apple™ mindset. It is one I agree with: Technology spurs human creativity, something game changers have in spades. Steve Jobs said that creativity was about the proverbial connecting of the dots and that creative people
“We’re able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Remember the eloquent photos of Amelia Earhart and Jim Henson, and the gloved hand with the words “Think Different” on them? You can see them here. Remember Apple’s tongue in cheek 1984 Superbowl ad, showing how it wouldn’t be like Orwell’s vision for 1984? Listen here as Jony Ives talks about the 2008 Macbook’s “essential and simple” potential to visually unleash your creativity, and see that commercial on YouTube. (It interestingly features women!) Which brings to my next point….
2. Storytelling is the vehicle through which a person’s visual imagery gets put into words, enabling the enrichment of one’s inner landscape and Theory of Mind. This leads to the immortalization of moments in time and a person’s actions within them.
Takeaway: Stories tap into our need to experience the perspective of others, in order to forge emotional bonds/resonance.
Marketing campaigns succeed when they tell stories, no matter which medium, to provide a kind of transcendence. A kind of “out of body” experience, where you feel transported to the locale and character’s mindset. Without ever leaving your couch, bed, home, or cubicle! Research has shown that episodic memories get archived faster through input from the visual modality. I’ve known this for years as a pediatric speech therapist/Autism specialist! Marketing professionals and entrepreneurs are constantly hearing it now. We’re all about the importance of using visuals in social media, something Steve Jobs and Apple™ have done all along. I recently read this interesting article about the psychology behind our love for glossy things. It reminded me of the famous Steve Jobs quote:
“Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.”
Have you ever seen the original video clip of Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh in 1984? It’s worth it just to hear the crowds roar! Just like they did when the iPad made its debut. Remember all the ads touting its visual appeal, especially the iPad 2 commercial Now? Which brings me to my next point…..
3. Storytelling provides a person with a blueprint for self-conduct and self discovery, and a road map for a well lived life.
Takeaway: Stories feed our need to make sense of our existence; the good and the bad. It is why the hero of the story lingers in our minds and fuels our ambitions and drive to achieve, to innovate, to leave a legacy.
Marketing campaigns (and entrepreneurs) succeed when they help us overcome “underdog” status and do something heroic for others by helping them clearly identify and fix a paint point. Steve Jobs himself embodies the hero’s journey, especially as he almost failed. Apple’s Story enchanted the masses, especially entrepreneurs like myself, especially after launching and marketing the iPod and iPhone. Those two products and their stories addressed our need for portable tech to better balance work/life responsibilities and give us customization and enjoyment in the process. The hero archetype is something Joseph Campbell wrote of extensively, and was the subject of Dan Roam’s latest Slideshare deck, which you can see here. (His upcoming book is now on my radar and in my Amazon Collection.) Steve Jobs ultimately defined a hero when he said:
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Apple is all about disruptive innovation. Remember the 1984 Think Different commercial narrated by Jobs himself? It cleverly showcased the benefits of thinking differently, by parading a bunch of innovators and “rebels” across the screen. Apple’s done it again with the new iPad Air commercial. This iPad Air ad features Robin William’s monolog from the film Dead Poet’s Society and an array of real people doing novel things with the iPad. You see an entire roster of buyer personae and human archetypes in the span of seconds!
Visual content marketing and storytelling for that matter, help people reference, reframe repurpose, and relive different aspects of the human condition. Steve Jobs, his team at Apple, and social media influencers have all understood what the best marketers and entrepreneurs now know; the best “user experience” stems from giving people a glimpse into life’s mysteries, poetry, and awe. As I wrote in my latest Tumblr post:
I always believed in Apple’s problem solving framework and vision of humanity and technology coexisting in the same ecosystem and user-interface. Like them, I believe it makes for better learning, social engagement with others, and self actualization. It is why I’m such a fan, professionally and personally! It is the curious, creative, and indomitable human spirit that propels one to harness technology and learn in the first place. And then act on it to help others. That is the ultimate outcome, one I strive for every day.
Happy Birthday, Macintosh! I’m so glad our stories intersected! I’m so glad I joined “the crazy ones” way back when and hope to stick with you for years to come! I invite others to test drive a Mac and join my Socially Speaking Apple Fan Club 🙂