What is the purpose of your business? Branding a la Steve Jobs

If there is one fundamental lesson to learn from Apple and Steve Jobs, it’s that a business that’s entirely focused on producing an amazing customer experience, will in the end, win. Google understood search quality must come first, Amazon understood that free shipping is more important than advertising and Zappo’s knows you can buy the same shoes from anywhere- but that the experience matters. Netflix understood- then forgot that they were the company for people who loved movies.

Reading the Steve Jobs biography, we came across this little gem explaining the idea behind the movie “Toy Story”- and it sums up the mindset all of us must take when designing our business for our customers- what do we have to do to make them unbelievably happy? Why do we do what we do? Why do toys exist?

The idea that John Lasseter pitched was called “Toy Story.” It sprang from a belief, which he and Jobs shared, that products have an essence to them, a purpose for which they were made. If the object were to have feelings, these would be based on its desire to fulfill its essence. The purpose of a glass, for example, is to hold water; if it had feelings, it would be happy when full and sad when empty. The essence of a computer screen is to interface with a human.”  The essence of a unicycle is to be ridden in a circus. As for toys, their purpose is to be played with by kids, and thus their existential fear is of being discarded or upstaged by newer toys. So a buddy movie pairing an old favorite toy with a shiny new one would have an essential drama to it, especially when the action revolved around the toys’ being separated from their kid. The original treatment began, ‘Everyone has had the traumatic childhood experience of losing a toy. Our story takes the toy’s point of view as he loses and tries to regain the single thing most important to him: to be played with by children. This is the reason for the existence of all toys. It is the emotional foundation of their existence.

Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs” page 285-286

What is the foundation of your businesses existence? Why do you do what you do? Do you convey your reason for being in everything you do? Do you stay relevant? When that shiny new toy comes along, will you be forgotten? If you understand why you exist in the first place, there can be no confusion in your customers mind on why they came to you originally.

What is the single most important reason your business exists?