True Buyer Legends: How Steve Jobs Created Apple’s Legendary Brand

You don’t have to be an Apple fan-boy to understand or appreciate the mojo of Apple’s brand story. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 it’s brand story was tribal, but anemic and small. Jobs needed to take that tribalism in his small base of customers and expand it beyond the PC vs. Mac war , a war that Apple was losing. As a result the “Think Different” campaign was born.

So instead of telling a story about the company, a product, or even a philosophy, Jobs decided to tell a story about Mac users by placing them in the same category as some of the worlds movers and shakers like Einstein, Dylan, Lennon, Earhart, etc…

Steve jobs created a Brand Legend where the hero of the story were his customers.

hero of the buyer journey

In an internal meeting introducing this campaign to Apple Jobs describes the ad:

“It honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are alive, some of them are not. But the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, we know that if they ever used a computer it would have been a Mac.”

Fast forward 17 years, and a market valuation that now exceeds Microsoft, we can see that the Apple brand story is still the same. Here is the video they featured at their introduction of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.

The most powerful brand stories are not about the brand, they are about the customers. What is your brand story about?

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Stories – Not Just for Fairy Tales Anymore



To some, the idea of using story and storytelling in a business setting feels like some airy fairy pixie dusted exercise in touchy feely-ness. It’s understandable. For some STORY equals FICTION, and what use is fiction in business? In our practice the stories, or Buyer Legends we write and use are based on market research, real customer interactions and use cases. And the stories are not fictional, but rather speculative. In addition they serve as predictive models of customer behavior that can be tested and optimized. Don’t think of storytelling as some romantic notion, instead view it as an established construct for more effective communications both with customers and with your team.

There is no shortage of evidence that storytelling works either. A joint research study by Facebook and Adaptly found that a series of sequenced ads that tell the customer a story about the product/service far outperform those ads that sought to get people to take action immediately. Chad Brooks of Business News Daily writes

“The researchers found that among those who saw the sequenced ads compared with those who saw the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87 percent increase in people visiting the landing page. Additionally, there was a 56 percent increase in email subscription rates among people who saw the sequenced ads.”

You, I, and your customers are wired for story.  That is not a fairy tale, that is a reality. Ignore it at your own risk.

Want to know more about unleashing the power of story in your business?  Get your copy of Buyer Legend – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide.

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Your Pricing Tells a Story, is it the Story Your Customers Want to Hear?


Bernadette Jiwa over at The Story of Telling writes.

“Price, like design, location or quality is part of your brand story—one you are asking customers to believe in. You get to choose the story you want to tell and who you want to tell it to. It pays to understand what story the people you choose to serve want to believe.”

Jiwa explains how Ron Johnson, the retail guru behind the first iterations of the hyper successful Apple Store, took the CEO helm at J.C. Penney and sought to save the struggling retailer by creating a better shopping experience. One of his first orders of business was to change the stores longtime discount pricing strategy. Things didn’t turn out that well.

“This change in the story that J.C. Penney’s core customers believed about price (one that the company had trained them to believe) stopped loyal customers coming and ultimately led to a 37% drop in the company’s market value. The financial results also lost Johnson his position as CEO after only 17 months.”

Ouch. Wanting to tell a new brand story is a noble business goal, just make sure you know how your customers will interpret it. Start by having a comprehensive understanding of how they understand your current brand story. Buyer Legends should help.

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2015 Planning: The Must Have Strategy Doc Most Marketers Are Missing [Published on LinkedIn]

brandsMarketers are busy getting their plans together for 2015. If the study, that came out of the CMO Club Summit in New York last March, is any indication of what marketers are considering as challenges to their business campaigns, then they need to add a new strategy document to their 2015 planning.

A few of the key challenges they listed were:

  1. Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey.
  2. Creating client or customer-centric content
  3. Keeping content flow constant
  4. Measuring the effectiveness of content
  5. Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively
  6. Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources
  7. Reinvigorated an already well-known brand


Please continue reading the full post on LinkedIn.

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A Question About Delivering Great Customer Experience

A Harris Interactive study finds that as many as 86% of customers leave due to bad customer service.

A RightNow Technologies study finds that as many as 73% of customers leave due to bad customer service.

The Rockefeller Corporation study finds that 68% of customers leave because they believe that companies don’t care about them.

When Bain & Company recently surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe that they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked customers, they report that only 8% are really delivering.

 Now take a look at this:

Customer experience clearly matters!

Now, let’s be generous and give those 80% of executives the benefit of the doubt. They probably sincerely believe that their companies are customer-centric.

So here’s my question; do you think that if those executives read a Buyer Legend that narrated the customer experience for them anything would change?

Please stay positive and let me know what you think.

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Your Customers Desperately Want To Be Legends

shutterstock_170727395 copyI love the idea behind  According to their About Us page

“NatureBox delivers a world of carefully sourced and nutritionist-approved foods right to your door. Each snack contains wholesome ingredients – with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors. Snacking has never been so deliciously fun and naturally easy.”

For a monthly subscription fee of $19.95 on up to $49.95 NatureBox will send you a selection of healthy snacks for you or your whole family.  I just joined at the $29.99 level, but I almost didn’t.

Recently I was going through my email subscriptions when in a Daily Digg email I read a headline that caught my attention.

“How to Snack without Eating Crap”

I quickly clicked the link and landed on this page


Now I am fascinated, but on this entire page the only option I have is the “Start Now” button.  When I click on that, I am taken to this page.

skitch 2

My obvious first question is “OK, but what snacks will you send? Can I select the snacks?”.  I’m about ready to bail out, but still intrigued I click on “select this box” because it is the only choice I have.  My thought is that I might find those answers in the next step.

skitch 3

This next page is even worse.  It clearly is the checkout process.  Pigs might go airborne before I complete a checkout process without knowing exactly what I am purchasing, and I am surely speaking for most mentally stable adults as well.

Now I can go on and on about how horrible this conversion funnel is, and I can nit pick several tactical things wrong with these pages, but instead I will point out this ‘landing page experience’ follows several commonly used marketing techniques.  It attempts to ‘squeeze’ out a conversion, by locking me into a single landing page and forcing me through a checkout.  This is not uncommon, and in some cases might be the most effective practice.  In fact, it might have even worked here had these marketers understood one thing, the context of a health conscious customer.

So let me whip up a quick Buyer Legend (buyer narrative) based on myself.

Over the past few years Anthony has tackled some severe health issues, and recently has become much more aggressive about his health.  He has adopted a rigorous workout schedule, and has made several major adjustments to his diet mostly cutting refined flour and sugars.  While Anthony has no problems making his meals interesting he has struggled finding snacks that he both enjoys and are healthy for him.  He is simply bored with nuts and berries.  He has spent hours in Whole Foods and other health food stores searching for a few more snacks to add to his diet to no avail.  He reads nutrition labels meticulously and watches his carbs and tries to eat organic as much as possible.  As he arrives at his first order of business is to see what the snack line up is.  He finds several snacks and reads the nutrition facts for each. Anthony must find it easy to save the snacks he wants to a shopping cart or wishlist before he checks out.  

I am pretty sure when it comes to reading food labels, I am no different than most health conscious eaters.  When I went directly to the homepage (as opposed to staying on the landing page I was linked to), I was able to peruse all the yummy looking snacks AND their nutrition facts.  The biggest problem I had was narrowing down my choices for my first monthly snack box.

So here is a word to the marketers  at that paid for my click by placing a sponsored ad in one of my emails.  Gals and Guys, I understand why you did what you did, Your headline about not eating crap for snacks was brilliant.  If you were building a classic squeeze page campaign you did a great job. However,  the one thing you failed to do was understand my needs, and every other healthy eater’s as well.  I wonder if after you read the above Buyer Legend would you do the same thing?  How many people can you expect to sidestep your landing page urls?  And wouldn’t you like the credit for my conversion?

I’ll happily gift a copy to the folks over at of Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide just ping me and it will be on its way.

Dear reader, do you have your copy of Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide yet? Your customers would love you to read it.

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Are Bullet Points Crippling Your Marketing?

Important List On BlackboardIt was May 1, 2003 and from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” looming behind him, George W. Bush declared an end to ‘major combat operations’ in Iraq.  It wasn’t until seven long years later, after counter insurgencies, countless car bombings, and dozens of setbacks that the U.S. was able to officially end combat operations in Iraq when the last remaining combat brigade left for Kuwait.

There is no shortage of Iraq war critics, but most experts agree that the Iraq war was both bravely fought by our soldiers, and that it was also a poorly planned operation.

In his book Fiasco:The American Military Adventure in Iraq author  Thomas E. Ricks cites senior military brass revealing an unexpected culprit hindering the war’s execution.

[Army Lt. General David] McKiernan had another, smaller but nagging issue: He couldn’t get Franks to issue clear orders that stated explicitly what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why. Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld.

The issue turned out not to be so small.  Retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a former military commander went on to contrast the conventional means of detailed war planning with it’s de facto replacement.

“To imagine that PowerPoint slides can substitute for such means is really the height of recklessness.” It was like telling an automobile mechanic to use a manufacturer’s glossy sales brochure to figure out how to repair an engine.

The problem is not just bullet points and PPT presentations, it’s any communication that lacks context.  Business culture is notorious for condensing complexities into bite sized chunks, but clearly this practice does not serve an organization well, especially an organization with boots on the ground.  In business, those boots on the ground are your customer facing employees, those marketers and content creators that must have a rich and context sensitive knowledge of your customers, or those are creating and designing products and services.

The U.S. military is arguably the most effective war machine mankind has ever known and if Powerpoint is degrading it’s ability to plan and execute, could it be doing the same to your marketing?

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Obsessed with Amazon’s Obsession

amazon-fire-phoneAll of us here at Buyer Legends are obsessed with Amazon, specifically, we love their obsession with the customer and watch with fascination and admiration how Amazon ruthlessly leverages everything at it’s disposal to improve the customer experience.

Bryan has often discussed his belief that in the not too distant future we can own an Amazon branded refrigerator.  This high tech appliance would determine if you were low on milk, eggs, or anything in your fridge and would automatically place an order for said items.  It’s also easy to imagine Amazon them dropping of a package at your door step a few hours later using Amazon Prime Air.  This type of product fits perfectly into the Amazon ethos of doing business, and I, for one, would be first in line to purchase one.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Amazon introduced the Fire Phone , an android based smartphone that features Firefly, a technology that allows Fire phone users to point their phone at almost any product, movie, song, media and find useful information about it.  You can price compare, and easily buy those products on Amazon. Fast Company calls it the ultimate busy Mom phone.

While it may be true that Amazon is attempting to become a profitable consumer electronics manufacturer with a new smartphone venture, make no mistake that what matters most to Amazon is its ability to leverage those devices to improve the customer experience by reducing friction, and creating more buying/selling opportunities.

In fact, if the numbers from their Kindle line hold true for the Fire phone, Fire phone owners will spend 55% more on Amazon than non Fire phone owners. With Firefly technology that number might be even higher.

If you are trying to build a legendary brand, you would be wise to study Amazon.  Amazon’s business model has made them online customer experience pioneers.  While your company maybe just trying to figure out how to get the initial sale Amazon is already finding ways to get me to happily spend more than that 55%.



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What we can offer you

Four Pillars Ongoing Support

After our workshops, we work with only a few select clients. Your business must be committed to the Four Pillars (as described in Be Like Amazon) on a long-term basis .


We kick-off the workshop with a two-day onsite visit. We help you create the Four Pillar foundation for your organization. The entire process takes between 4-8 weeks and the typical investment is $30,000 – $100,000.

Speak at Your Event

We can speak at your event. Our fees are $20,000 in North America, and that includes travel. International fees are $20,000 plus business class travel, from Austin, and lodging. Contact us to discuss your event  

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