Dear Steve Jobs. Is it just about the brand?

Editorial note:

This piece was first published July 13, 2009.  Today, I join the world in mourning the death of Steve Jobs.  His impact on the life as we know it cannot be measured.


I began using an Apple computer in 1985.  Do you remember how much data the 3.5″disk held?  Not much.

My first generation Mac circa, 1985.
This is what my first Mac looked like. Circa, 1985.

I’m one of those Apple customers Steve Jobs must enjoy talking about. An early adopter of the first Mac, I believe Apple computers are worth every darn penny.  I use multiple Apple products, never having been tempted into buying a cheaper PC. The adage, “you get what you pay for,” seems appropriate here.

Several months ago, the Mid America Chapter of a national organization serving teenagers who’ve been stricken with a life threatening illness asked if I’d teach a photography workshop to their group.  The answer was an easy yes. Together, we developed a short 3 session workshop for the kids.  The goal of the primer was to provide the participants a creative outlet by teaching basic photography from beginning to end.

During our first session we reviewed very basic camera functions, lighting, composition, attention to background details and the group knocked off a few “learning” frames of one another other.  The second session was a location shoot in an area park.  I asked several professional photographers to join me in donating their time, providing each teen a one on one mentoring experience.  Canongenerously chipped in by shipping in complete Rebel camera kits (on their own dime)so each participant could use a DSLR for the day.

Our final session was to have been held several weeks ago at a local Apple retail store.  And this is where Apple let the Kansas City community down.

My initial request of the store manager (in April) was simple. Two hours uninterrupted use of 6 computers.  This would have allowed adequate time to teach a very basic processing of photographs utilizing iPhoto and perhaps even a little Photoshop, time permitting. After two months of unanswered e-mails and calls, I phoned the store one last time.  On this occasion the store manager didn’t come to the phone. Instead, a very friendly associate relayed the message that they wouldn’t be able to help me out on this, but please try them again another time.

No doubt corporations like Apple donate funding and resources to a variety of philanthropic endeavors. But, what about these small events, which offer no tax write-off’s and do not hold the lure of a public relations coup?

Is there a moral imperative for corporations to give back to local communities?  At what point does a brand’s bottom line supersede the real lives of the very consumers it’s marketing to?  Does the current economic turbulence create new charitable responsibilities of the mega corporations dominating today’s marketplace?   And shouldn’t the act of volunteering just for the sake of participating in a good cause provide adequate justification to donate unconditional corporate resources?

We live in a branded world.  It inundates every fiber of our being.  Today, it’s become virtually impossible to avoid the long tentacles of a Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Nestle, Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple, Philip Morris, Anheuser Busch, Toyota, Wal-Mart, GE, AT+T, Capital One, Travelers, ING Group – to name just a few of today’s wellheeled juggernauts.

A well conceived and dedicated brand is necessary to thrive in the global marketplace. Personally, I search to support companies placing the best interests of it’s employee’s, consumers and environment on an equal footing with their final profit margin.

So what will it take for these economic titans to realize it’s in their own economic interest to be good neighbors wherever they tread throughout the globe?  Offer a useful / valued product, at a fair price, treat people well and do good in the world without asking for a tangible return, feels like a win win business model.

Isn’t that a brand worthy of shaping a more sustainable world?


4 thoughts on “Dear Steve Jobs. Is it just about the brand?

  1. As a non-profit employee, thank goodness for the majority of kind folks who say yes! There are a lot of very generous people, locally owned companies, and even national corporations who say yes gladly… I repeat, gladly! As a Mac owner (two of ’em plus an iPod), I am disappointed.

  2. That’s why I’m a devoted Microsoft user. I suffer through the deficiencies of Windows because of their corporate ethics. Wait…what am I saying?

  3. nice work. I still own my Mac Classic, pictured above, so am also a 20 year professional devotee. I’ll be curious to see if this makes it to the powers that be. AT the very least, a clear explanation of the issues, delivered by the store manager, could be expected. Let me know which store, so I can avoid it in the future.

    Bill D

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