Nowadays the wealth capital of the world is clearly centered in Silicon Valley, the place I called ‘home’ until I was 25.
In this small corner of the world, there is great genius and imagination. .
It is also a place that worships the sanctity of technology.
Silicon Valley’s mind boggling successes—the instant millionaires and billionaires living the ‘good life’—have led to a new kind of 21st century religion.
One which worships technology (at the expense of all else).
And while technology is (obviously) an essential ingredient, it can’t drive the success train all by itself.
No matter how intelligent, technology standing on its own-void of a message and words that actually move people—will only go so far.
In the history of mankind, the magic of technology is a relatively new ‘show’.
And it will always need the support and power of an inspirational message.
Those tiny little letters that strung together just the right way have animated human existence and ‘moved mountains’ for centuries.
In kindergarten, you learn how to draw letters.
But that’s all they are.
They don’t mean anything.
…something amazing happens…
…you learn to read.
It happened to me in a blind rush.
Or that’s how it seemed.
The day I learned to read (even though it was many many days ago at this point) is still as vivid to me as if it was yesterday.
Suddenly I was decoding things that had never made sense before.
Those little random letters all of a sudden were words.
Words with meaning.
Simple words at first. Like ‘cat’, ‘dog’ or ‘home’.
But then we started to string those words together into paragraphs.
And those paragraphs made whole stories.
Stories that meant something.
Stories that moved me.
Stories that inspired my imagination and took me to lands far away from my home in Atherton, California.
To me learning to read was pure magic.
Possibly the most magical gift of my entire life.
And somehow—all these years later—I still marvel at the power of words.
And how they are indeed capable of moving mountains.
Things have changed a lot since I learned to read.
One thing I’ve noticed in the dozens—hundreds-- of conversations I’ve had with businesses across the globe is that somehow the magic, incredibly powerful potential of words often gets ‘lost in the shuffle’.
Particularly nowadays when the business world (and the start-up world in particular) is absolutely obsessed with technology and who will come up with the ‘latest and greatest’ tech breakthrough.
We’re obsessed with technology.
But to my mind, that obsession comes at an unacceptable cost.
The proof is staring at us in the face.
Billions of people don’t spend countless hours on Facebook because of its technology.
They go there to share.
To read (or watch) stories.
To look at pictures or videos.
Giggle over jokes.
Cry over memories.
They are there to celebrate the power of the human experience not the power of technology.
Technology on its own…
Technology is utterly meaningless in a vacuum.
Technology doesn’t move people.
Emotions move people.
Technology can’t create emotion.
Words and images and stories create emotion.
Without coherent meaningful messages, technology is an empty shell.
A lonely thing.
With no reason for being.
Words (or ‘content’ as it is now popularly called) give life to technology.
This brings me to the title of this blog post.
Want to know why Apple survived and even thrived through the thick and the thin?
Because Steve Jobs really got this principle.
He understood that the message was as important as the technology which carried it.
He ‘got’ the fact that the key to success was not amazing technology but finding the ‘sweet spot’ –the intersection--between technology, words and design.
And to my mind, it’s the reason why his company survived when there were certain years it didn’t really ‘deserve’ to.
Call it ‘branding’ or ‘clever marketing’. Whatever the label was, Jobs understood in the early days that the Apple computer was important not because it embodied breakthrough technology but because it represented the self-empowerment message his Baby Boomer audience craved.
As marketers, we all have a tendency to fall in love with the latest technology breakthrough.
Whether it’s a mobile app or a CRM with bells and whistles or a powerful social media platform.
And it’s okay.
Having that technology at our fingertips has changed our world. Big-time.
But it’s important—no ESSENTIAL—to understand that it is not the only thing out there.
What you have to say.
Who you say it to.
And what it looks like.
Your message and its meaning.
This is the fuel that will drive your business car successfully forward.
Without it, you will be stranded on the proverbial highway, an empty shell.
With it, you will indeed move mountains.