If marketing boiled down to only one thing, it would be this – say what you’re really selling.

A lot of the time we think that we are selling a product or service. We aren’t. Marketing is really about selling something far more complex and exciting – human potential. This is the marketing strategy that has been working for Apple for decades.

Apple didn’t sell the original iPod by telling us that it was a 5GB MP3 player, even though it was. Rather, they told us that it was 1,000 songs in our pocket. They sold us a possibility, not a series of facts and figures.

Apple marketing told us that this is what it looks like to have 1,000 songs in our pocket. We listened.


Never underestimate the power of the human story. It is the one thing that we all understand. The potential that each one of us has is really what’s for sale. What could I do if I had more time? More money? More brains?

Ask yourself, ‘why does what we do matter to the humans we serve?’

This Apple II ad was selling potential, not computers.

In 1977 the ‘personal computer’ was a pretty bizarre idea. Computers were for work, not school, and they were certainly not for home. Apple didn’t see it this way and they wanted us to understand that about the Apple II. They saw potential. They saw what the average person could do with the personal computer. So, in their marketing for the Apple II they sold that potential rather than the computer. They sold the potential to “paint dazzling color displays” or to go “as far as our imagination can take us.” In some cases, the real story isn’t even written yet.

Think of it like this. Good marketing doesn’t tell us what the product does, it tell us what we can do with the product.

Or, maybe, what we can’t do if we don’t have it.

What story have you told your customers about your product or service? Did it work?