I worked directly with him on the early Apple advertising. The process was not pretty, but the results were. I have never resolved in my mind the contribution his bedside manner made to the outcome. No matter. The outcome dominated.
The current non-gossip part of the conversation about him credits his genius, but in a way unsatisfying, at least to me. In my own view, having myself lived a life of trying to build various brands, nothing can come close to explaining what he accomplished. It is simply inexplicable. Through dint of pure stubborn will, albeit driving an extremely talented team, he got five, maybe six if you count his retail stores, impossibly hard and seemingly unrelated things perfectly right, and did it in a way that they all melded into one thing……resulting in Apple becoming the most valuable brand in the world.
People are saying he was an artist who could meld art with technology. What does that even mean? Or that he was monomaniacally meticulous, and his attention to detail was the key to his success. Do you really believe the specific color of the beige he famously chose for the Apple 2 made the difference? Or the sum total of millions of little details he lovingly fussed over added up to what is now Apple. It’s a nice morality tale to get the rest of us to focus more on the details, but it isn’t the answer.
No one has ever done what he did. I doubt anyone ever will. He was always the fierce genius defending what he considered his personal space. One of the ads I did for him in 1979 was first entitled “When I Invented the Personal Computer…”. We changed the “I” to “We” to properly credit his partner Woz. But the headline as first written captured his true feeling.
He invented, and reinvented, and reinvented again, taking it very personally every time he did. When VisiCalc made Apple a business machine, his response wasn’t thanks, it was “Visicalc, you are invading my space and I will kill you”. He didn’t, but he tried. When Microsoft launched Windows, he had the same reaction. It took him decades, but he was successful in at least very badly wounding them. And we all know how he felt about Google’s Android.
When Michael says to Sonny “It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business…” do we believe him? Hell no!
Steve had the fiercest instincts to protect what he considered his turf of anyone I have ever observed (and I once worked for Andy Grove). That instinct must have something important to do with all of this.
But in the end, there is no answer. How Steve willed Apple to be Apple is
inexplicable. In the words of another famous brand…he just did it.