Aug 12

Steve Jobs, research & common sense

When people say that Steve Jobs had vision, they’re talking about his ability to see where the world was headed.

However, he had another vision-related talent that was every bit as amazing. He could clearly see what was right in front of him. Many of his opinions and decisions were based on simple common sense.

And as was demonstrated by the technology press recently, common sense isn’t all that common.

I was surprised by the many articles written about research conducted by an operation called YouGen.

YouGen concluded that Apple now enjoys greater appeal with older customers than young ones. Valid or not, that finding ran contrary to public perception, so the story spread far and wide.

Coming on the heels of Apple’s much-maligned Genius campaign, many writers drew the conclusion that this popularity with older customers must be the secret motivation behind the Genius campaign, since it seemed to focus on the technology-challenged.

Make sense?

Uh … no.

Pretend you’re Steve Jobs — and prepare to club someone over the head with common sense.

If sales are astronomically high, and the older crowd is your best customer, you can draw one conclusion quickly: your current marketing approach is already working well with the grayer set.

If you saw any cause for alarm, it would be that you’re starting to lose your grip on the younger customers. Those are the customers essential to your future success — the enthusiasts who will be buying your products and evangelizing on your behalf for decades to come.

So what kind of ads would you run? Would you run ads directed toward the group that you’re already doing well with? Or would you try to fire up the younger, vitally important buyers whose interest seems to be fading?

If you answered “Let’s target younger customers,” congratulations. You just passed the common sense test — which at least in this case puts you a notch above many of the expert bloggers.

YouGen’s research clearly does not explain why Apple chose to run the Genius campaign. And it absolutely does not vindicate a failed campaign, as some suggested.

That’s because a failed campaign is a failed campaign. No matter how right the strategy, there’s that little matter of “good ad” vs. “bad ad.”

That’s just common sense.