Below is an excerpt from the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, from Chapter Six, section Mike Markkula. This part of the book is set in 1977, when Apple was incorporating, and Jobs and Markkula are fleshing out the business plan:
Markkula wrote his principles in a one-page paper titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys. “People DO judge a book by its cover,” he wrote. “We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc,; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”
How does the modern day Apple hit those three points?
The impute is still there in spades, visible in the impeccable packaging, the retail outlets, and also in the extreme secrecy policy and inability to admit wrong doing. The connection with the consumer, the empathy, is present in their employees, in their TVCs, and in their record breaking customer sat. But its the focus that seems to be slipping, as they continue to grow in size and market cap, and the pressure of increasing returns weighs down.
Maybe the watch will turn out to be a bad move. Maybe it will help define a new category only to taper off, ala iPad. Maybe, just maybe, the watch is an unimportant opportunity that should have been eliminated.