Embrace Your Competition
When a big competitor comes in to your market you have two choices – welcome them to your sandbox and prove you’re better than they are, or try to hide your head in the sand and ignore the new threat for as long as possible. Fortunately for Apple, and everyone who uses a computer for that matter, Steve Jobs took the former choice and addressed the much larger IBM head on when they entered the PC space in 1981. The opening salvo of Apple’s counter punch against IBM was a simple Welcome IBM ad, which ran in print publications throughout the US 37 years ago this month.
The creative itself was nothing special, but the message sure was. Despite IBM being hundreds of times bigger than Apple and technologically superior in the mainframe computer market, Apple knew they had a better PC so they embraced the competition. Of course Apple’s most famous assault on IBM was their 1984 Commercial, which is widely considered to be the greatest TV ad of all time. But this simple spunky print ad, which ran three years before 1984, was actually more important to Apple’s overall survival.
So what can we learn from the Welcome ad to help us in today’s business climate? For me the message is don’t be afraid of change – embrace it. When 800 lbs gorillas like Google, Amazon, and ironically enough Apple come in to your space meet the challenge with a better product instead of naïvely avoiding the inevitable confrontation. That’s exactly what Steve Jobs did over and over again at Apple, which helped it become the first trillion dollar company in the history of the world.