Greg Joswiak at SVC2UK

A week-and-a-half ago I attended Silicon Valley comes to the UK: a series of talks and panels organised by Sherry Coutu and Reid Hoffman.

Greg Joswiak gave a talk. Joswiak is the vice president of worldwide iPod, iPhone, and iOS product marketing at Apple. The twenty minute talk started with how they see product marketing at Apple. Next, Joswiak spoke about what the Apple brand means to him. A look at Apple’s history from 1997 to present occupied the middle of the talk, and he ended by sharing some data on the company’s recent success.

(The images in this post are frames from video shot on my iPhone 4, so the quality is sorrowfully low.)

Product marketing

The three areas of bringing a product to market are product, business and marketing. At Apple, product marketing is the centre of the three, and involves working with people in all these areas. This is hard to hire for.

You can find technical people all day long. You can find marketing people all day long. It’s really hard to find the balance. So, for those of you that have the balance, you have something.

“How we approach things”

What is the Apple brand about? This was the most interesting section of the talk. Joswiak had five points.


We are not a me-too company. The last thing we ever want to do is do something just because everyone else is doing it.

Joswiak brought up the Wayne Gretzky quotation:

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

I’d say acknowledging the delay between conceiving the idea for a product and bringing that product to market is easy: what’s difficult is knowing where that puck is going to be.


Focus — we always said — means saying ‘no’ not saying ‘yes’. We do very, very few things at Apple, but we try to do them really well. […] If you spread yourself out on too many things, nothing’s going to be great.

I think Tim Cook said this well:

This is the most focused company I know of, am aware of, or have any knowledge of. We say ‘no’ to good ideas every day.

My comment: it’s painful saying ‘no’ to good ideas. Focus is a hard thing to do.


This is what people expect from Apple: expect to make complex things easy and simple. And we pride ourselves on this.

Simplicity is perhaps the most recognised part of the Apple brand. Joswiak said that this isn’t about just using simple ideas; it’s about building up simple ideas until they’re complex, and then making them simple again.


This is one that a lot of people don't necessarily recognise as part of our brand but its a huge part of what we do. […] Courage is needed in a lot of decisions in business.

Joswiak’s example was killing the floppy disk in the iMac. Having the courage to kill off old technology and products is essential in order to skate to where the puck is going to be, and to keep focused.


We love words that end in ‘-est’. We love to be the largest if it’s most appropriate; the smallest if it’s most appropriate; the thinnest. Just the best.

You need that differentiator — you need that hook — from your competitor and for us that hook always has to be best. If we can't put ‘-est’ at the end of the feature, it really, really isn't something we‘re interesting in doing.

Of course, make your product the best. But how? This is about as vague as it gets.

For the end of this section, Joswiak showed the now familiar slide depicting the intersection of liberal arts and technology.


The majority of the talk looked at the history of Apple from 1997 to present.

In 1997, the company was almost out of business; they had ignored the five points discussed previously. The Mac was just trying to be a different kind of PC: one that ran a different operating system.

One of the first things Steve did after coming back was to explain what the Apple brand was about. This resulted in the Think Different campaign. Joswiak ran the ‘Crazy ones’ video — his favourite ad in the world — which he said was as much an ad for those inside of Apple than those outside.

1998 brought the iMac. In the industry crisis in 2000, Apple announced their aim: “innovate our way out”. For three years, the company invested in itself and hired, while everyone else was laying people off. “People thought we were nuts.” They did this on the assumption that the crisis would end, and after it they would be in a comparatively better shape.

The results of this investment include Mac OS X, Apple’s retail stores, and applications they built themselves (iLife, pro apps). While it wasn't brought up in the talk, the latter two of these investments are about removing dependencies. In some ways doing everything yourself is the opposite of focus.

In 2001, portable Macs were about 20% of Apple’s sales. They way over-invested in portables. Mark this.

2001 brought iPod and iTunes. Sony showed you can sell a lot of music players, but the iPod was much better. “Things were kind of rough for a while” — the iPod wasn't as immediate a hit as, say, the iPad.

They kept innovating: the iTunes Music Store in 2003, the iPod mini in 2004, which greatly outsold the original iPod.

So what did we do? We killed it.

This is about courage. Many other firms were trying to compete, to get some of the iPod’s success. Apple said “we’ve got to do something better”, and made the iPod nano. They made a bet that they could sell fourteen million iPods in three months, having only sold ten million to date. Some suppliers weren't up for this. The result: “we didn't make enough”.

The iPhone was released in 2007, and was unlike what everyone else had. The one big threat to the iPod was phones. Telling us about the “three products” that composed the iPhone, Joswiak replaced “breakthrough internet communicator” with the more catchy “internet in your pocket”.

Our killer ingredient was software. I like to say: in some ways hardware is like a science. People can figure out how to do science. Software is like art.

Since then, we have also seen the introduction of the App Store and the iPad.


Packed into the last three minutes of the talk, Joswiak shared data on some of Apple’s recent successes. Lots of charts sloping up and “#1” appearing with Keynote’s anvil animation. This part seemed like it lasted much longer than three minutes.

I felt this was inappropriate: it didn't fit in with the event. Who was it for? Apple fans know this already, and it must sound so boastful to non-fans. It is boasting, which is fine when speaking for investors but not in an event about encouraging entrepreneurship.

One interesting point from this is that in 2001, desktops were 80% of Apple’s sales, and laptops 20%. Today, the situation is flipped, with 77% laptops and 23% desktops. This fits in with the aforementioned over-investing in portables, and also with skating to where the puck is going to be.

The conclusion was great, although sadly rushed:

That’s the effect of innovation, focus, simplicity, courage, and trying to be the best.

Drawing this out a bit, I think the conclusion was: from 1997 to present Apple has applied the five principles discussed, and is now very successful.