Power to the Storyteller
How Steve Jobs used storytelling across pricing, marketing, and design
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Hi friends 🤝,
Two of the most interesting storytellers ever are Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. Neither was technical yet they created arguably the two most culturally relevant companies of the last century.
Aside from all of us getting wrecked by that Walt quote, there's a ton we can learn from how these two. Over the next several weeks I'm writing a multi-part series exploring how these legends tactically used storytelling across their respective businesses.
the Steve Jobs storytelling framework
I wrote about the storytelling framework Jobs used across each of his product launches during his second stint at Apple. From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, each follows the same structure:
Steve Jobs said:
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.”
Here’s the storytelling framework Jobs used (that you can too):
— Nathan Baugh 🗺️ (@nathanbaugh27)
May 7, 2022
But storytelling isn't just for speeches and launches.
What made Jobs one of the best entrepreneurs and CEOs ever, in my opinion, was his ability to use storytelling to drive the entire business.
People pay for the value they perceive.
Perceived value > price --> Buy
Perceived value < price --> Don't buy
Jobs used a strategy called Price Anchoring to make sure Apple products fell into that first bucket (of course, once bought the products back up this story).
Here's a simple explanation of Price Anchoring:
Our brains overemphasize the first piece of info we're shown
Use an "anchor" number to influence the audience's perception of price / value
Beat the anchor price with a lower number, exceeding the audience's expectations
During Jobs' presentation debuting the iPad, a giant $999 sat on the screen behind him.
Then Jobs says Apple "exceeded product cost expectations" and the iPad would be priced at only $499.
Boom -- the crowd loses its mind, and everyone is thrilled to give Steve and Apple only $499 for something worth $999.
The story Jobs wants to get across: Our product is worth far more money than we're charging for it. Meaning you are getting a great deal and should go buy it.
Notice how the lower number isn't actually low (it almost certainly gives Apple a healthy margin on the product) -- Jobs just makes you feel that way through his use of Price Anchoring.
My friend Barrett wrote a great, longer explanation of the phenomena:
Steve Jobs used this pricing strategy to sell 40 million iPads:
What it is & how to use it: 🧵 http
— Barrett O'Neill (@barrettjoneill)
Mar 27, 2022
Great marketing lets the consumer create their own perfect story.
Shaan Puri says the best ads have 3 things:
The hook – draws you in
The promise – gets you curious
The implication – shows you the outcome
Jobs took his customers directly to their desired end state. Here it’s the brilliant "1,000 songs in your pocket."
Fully customer-focused and leaves room for the imagination – you can be on a run, on your couch, or on your commute. It’s your story to tell, and you’ll have “1,000 songs in your pocket” wherever you are.
And yes, according to old Apple employee forums Steve was the mastermind behind this original ad for the iPod.
Design at Apple is fascinating because it's one of the few places where Jobs was not the top dog. That role belonged to Sir Jonathan Ive (you've gotta be a damn good designer to get knighted).
But while Ive was the mastermind behind the company's design from 1992 to 2019, Jobs summed up the role of design perfectly:
Apple's design tells you:
This product is high-quality
This product is simple yet amazingly functional
This product is worth more than the money I paid for it
I'm tempted to keep Apple packaging simply because the design is so clean. Meanwhile, I toss other product boxes in the trash without a thought.
QOTW: product or story?
Jack has a great take below, which I tend to agree with. But I'd love to know what you think:
If you had to pick one, would you start with a great story or a great product? I'll include the most thoughtful responses next week.
Chicken and egg dilemma.
Good product + no story = no one hears of it
Good story + no product = Nikola/Theranos
On a sliding scale I’d weight stories heavier though. Decent product + phenomenal story >> the opposite.
Tons of EVs out there, but Musk is a wizard.
— Jack Raines (@Jack_Raines)
May 7, 2022
speaking of next week: I'm writing about how and why the "Creator Economy" will look more like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney than branded TikTok ads.
A message from... Me!
The interest in this tweet blew me away...
One way to become a better storyteller:
Take your two favorite authors. I recommend one non-fiction and one fiction.
Copy, word for word, their best work. Do it by hand.
I chose Paul Kalanithi and Neil Gaiman.
It’s the single exercise that improved my writing the most.
— Nathan Baugh 🗺️ (@nathanbaugh27)
Jan 5, 2023
In my experience, there are two ways to get good at storytelling:
Study the greats (what this newsletter is for)
Practice, practice, practice
I do a lot of practice through StoryWork.
And so many of you liked, commented, and sent me DMs about the practice I decided to turn it into a guided course for you.
Check it out:
up your game
A few resources I found helpful this week, which you may too:
What'd you think of today's newsletter?