Dr. Mac Interviews John Sculley

4 minute read
| Dr. Mac's Rants & Raves

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #223

I recently spoke with John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi and Apple and a legendary figure in marketing for innovations such as lifestyle marketing (The Pepsi Generation) and head-on competitive advertising (The Pepsi Challenge). The reason for our chat was, ostensibly, to promote his latest venture, RX Advanced, and book, Moonshot: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion Dollar Businesses.

John Sculley interviewed by Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus interviews John Sculley

After talking about that for a few minutes, I explained that my column is aimed at Apple enthusiasts and users and would he mind if we talked about stuff readers might find more interesting. He graciously agreed and we spent the rest of our time discussing all things Apple.

Here are the best parts:

Bob: I haven’t read Mooshot yet but I plan to. I read books like that and yours is on my list.

John: Go to Kindle. That’s the easiest way to do it. You’ll see it on there.

Bob: You said, “Kindle.” That leads to my first question: Are you an Apple user?

John: Yeah. Absolutely.

Bob: So, why would I  read it on a Kindle instead of an iPad? Do you find the Kindle is a better reading device?

John: Actually when I said Kindle, I meant the service. I don’t actually use a Kindle myself—I use an iPad. I do all of my newspapers and books on my iPad.

Bob: So do I. That’s why I was a little surprised when you said Kindle.

John: I use the Amazon Kindle app on my iPad.

Bob: Got it.

Moving right along, you once said in an interview you’d never been in a better store than an Apple Store. Do you still feel that way?

John: I think it’s spectacular. I think you have to give Steve Jobs credit for that. Everything Steve did, he always managed to elevate the expectation beyond what anyone prior to that had focused on—whether it was products or applications or services.

Just a quick back story, when Steve and I first met—this is Steve Jobs 1.0—Steve Jobs 1.0 was 27 years old and still learning about a lot of the things he became famous for as Steve Jobs 2.0. But one of the things that he was fascinated about was how at Pepsi we were able to increase our market share when we were outsold 10 to 1 by Coke. And how we were able to pass Coca-Cola in the US as the largest selling consumer packaged good in the country.

He said, “How did you do it?”

I said, “Coke owned reality but we had to own perception, because, perception beats reality. Perception is all about experience. We call it experience marketing.”

He said, “That’s what I want you to teach me. I’m building a high tech product, but it’s all about giving non-technical people an amazing experience and giving them a bicycle for the mind that will enable them to do things they never thought they could do before.”

Of course, the student became better than the master, in essence. Steve ended up becoming the greatest marketer in the world and a lot of things he did through the remainder of his lifetime build around the foundations of experience marketing from the early days, when he and I were doing the 1984 Super Bowl commercial and other things all the way through the iPod and the iPhone and iPad and all the other amazing things Steve built.

Clearly the Apple Store is as much of that first principle of experience marketing as anything else. Like everything else Steve did, he did it with exceptional talent.

Bob: You mentioned that you use an iPad. Do you also use other Apple products—Macs, iPhones, Apple Watch, and such?

John: Yeah. My wife and I have every Apple product and we love the experience of going in (to the Apple Store). We know we can buy them online, right, but we just love the experience of the Apple Store—the people are so well trained and enthusiastic, and we always learn something new. We love the Genius Bar; we take the mini courses they have on how to do different things; and it’s great fun.

It’s part of the whole Apple experience.

Bob: You’re known as a marketing guru. If you could say one thing to a first-time entrepreneur launching a new product today, what would it be?

John: Start with great curiosity about what’s in it for the customer.

The thing I loved about my time working with Steve Jobs was that Steve was not a trained engineer, and neither was I. So, when he was creating the Macintosh he always said, “What’s in it for the customer?” He started with the customer experience and worked his way back.

Bob: So, you’ve been portrayed by three actors in films or on television—Jeff Daniels in Steve Jobs, Matthew Modine in Jobs, and that other guy in Pirates of Silicon Valley. Who did you best?

John: I actually became friends with Matthew Modine and Jeff Daniels. I never knew who the other guy was. I didn’t get to see it. But Matthew Modine and Jeff Daniels are terrific actors. I think the story line was much more like what actually happened in the Jeff Daniels’ movie.

Bob: Very diplomatic.

Bob: Okay. One more. Was there really a reality distortion field?

John: You kidding? Of course there was. They used to call it the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field.

Bob: I knew that. But I wanted to know if it was for real from someone that sat near him regularly.

John: Absolutely.

Bob: I thought so.

John: Because Steve was so convincing that he managed to convince himself that when he came up with ideas that they were totally possible even if they defied the laws of physics. Sometimes he was right and unfortunately sometimes he was wrong. But he was never in doubt.

And that’s all he wrote…

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