Monday, July 19, 2010

Steve Jobs and the iPhone 4 Fiasco: Lessons learned from their mistakes

Steve Jobs is a living, breathing conduit of the Apple brand. So, when he showed up in his relaxed fit jeans and black turtleneck shirt at the press conference held by Apple to address the recent reviews of the iPhone 4, I wasn’t surprised one bit. After all, simple, cool and brilliant are the words we often use to describe both Steve Jobs and the Apple brand with which he has become synonymous.

While reading transcripts of the press conference (courtesy of, though, I was surprised to read some of the comments he made during the Q&A session. It seemed evident that Steve was not at all happy about the unfavorable reviews his latest product was receiving and that he was taking all of the negative PR around the iPhone 4 very much to heart. For a man who normally exudes a casual charm, I found this behavior quite uncharacteristic of him and a bit unsettling given that he is easily Apple's biggest brand ambassador.

One of his most surprising comments to me during that press conference was as follows: “I guess it's just human nature when some organization gets successful, there's someone who wants to tear it down…Would you rather we are Korean companies rather than American companies? Do you not like that we're innovating here in America?”

YIKES. How in the world did a discussion on antenna issues caused by the "death grip" turn into a frustrated Steve Jobs asking his audience whether it is unhappy that innovation is happening in the United States. Those sounded like the words of a bitter and disgruntled man, but were actively representing the thoughts and opinions of one of the most well-reputed brands in the world.

That day, Steve Jobs was representing his entire staff, all of his shareholders, his consumers, the product in question, every other product his company has ever produced and the Apple brand as a whole. So, you'd think he'd choose his words more carefully and better control his temperament. Alas, he's only human...

As CEO of a company called Glamour Gone Good, which works with glamour industry professionals to raise funds for women’s and girls’ charities, why in the world should I care about any of this, right? Turns out, I do and you probably should, too.

Over the past nine months, I’ve spent a great deal of time thoughtfully and strategically building the Glamour Gone Good brand and I look up to Steve Jobs, whom I've proudly watched build a beautiful empire and beloved brand. Sadly, I was disappointed by him on Friday and felt that he strayed too far from the Apple brand he was representing that day. So, I sought to find some lessons in his mistakes and have pulled three that I’m going to share with you. I hope that you’ll get something out of this, too.


1. Always channel the spirit of your brand: Whether you're the Chairman of your company or the receptionist, you represent your company's brand. Your choice of wardrobe, vocabulary, body language - everything others experience from you - impacts your company's brand. (Have you ever held a grudge against a brand because of a lousy experience with a rude customer service rep? I'm guessing you have.) So, if you want to forge ahead in your career, be sure to have a crystal-clear understanding of your company's brand and embrace it because you're an extension of it. Once you do, never waver from it. If you do, even for a second when you think no one is looking, you run the risk of breaking the trust of a loyal consumer or client, which could end up having a ripple effect far greater than what you may have imagined.

2. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer: We hear this saying all the time, but do we apply this advice to our careers? Think about your relationship with your "enemies"? These could be other employees at your company on the same career track or representatives of competing brands. They could even be members of third parties reviewing your work or that of your company at any given time. Do you know who these people are? Do they like you? Find out who these people are and keep tabs on them. Even if you don't like them, they don't have to know it. In fact, they shouldn't. Show your enemies the same respect you would show your greatest allies and they'll find less reasons and search for fewer opportunities to tear you down.

3. Be open to criticisms: Steve Jobs said it himself: No one is perfect. Nor is any company. In fact, we've seen many great ones fall in front of our eyes in the last couple of years. So, be open to criticism. Pull from it the wisdom you can and discard the remains because even if the source of the critiques may not have your best interest at heart, that very source may end up pushing you in the right direction faster even if you were already headed that way. Plus, criticism keeps us humble and on our toes, which can only help us improve our performance. So, don't panic when some comes your way. Take it as a compliment that you're being noticed.

Going back to Steve Jobs and the iPhone 4 press conference, I sincerely hope he re-thinks his strategy the next time he and his company face some form of criticism from the public. In this instance, even if his overt frustration with the media does not end up impacting sales of the iPhone 4, some damage has been done and we're not going to forget this fiasco any time soon. The next time a product comes out, his loyal customers may skip the pre-order period and wait for product reviews. His not-so-loyal customers may become more skeptical about the newest and shiniest gadgets his company releases and switch their loyalty to his competitors. And, the media outlets under fire during his most recent press conference may use even sharper words to point out any potential flaws with new products in the future.

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