Marinaccio: Do you see the Macintosh introduction as a watershed incident in high-tech marketing?
Cunningham: I do, for a number of reasons. Not because what we did was so different -- it was getting it perfected. The idea Regis came up with on how to orchestrate the coverage got much better and we got better at it. And also, it was a great product that changed the world. When you're working with a great product that changes the world, the marketing job is a whole lot easier. That was the case with this particular product.
The woman who worked with me was Jane Anderson, and together we did almost everything that was involved in the launch, from a PR perspective. Of course, the ad agency handled the "1984" commercial and promotional projects, and the "Test Drive a Macintosh" program, and all that sort of stuff. But the PR things were handled by me and Jane. Over time our team grew to about fifteen people, but for the planning and development it was just Jane and I.
What we did was, sit down and think about all the different stories that could be written about this kind of a computer. Then we orchestrated who we would give those stories to in the journalism community. We didn't give everybody everything: every pocket of journalists got a certain angle. At the time, some journalists came up with the phrase "multiple exclusive," which is an oxymoron and can't be done. That wasn't Regis' phrase, and it wasn't our phrase, but in a way, that's what it was: there were a lot of different stories with an exclusive angle to them, so people got certain information that others didn't get.
We gave over one hundred interviews to journalists that lasted over six hours apiece. That had never been done before. That had not been done in the case of the Lisa, and to my knowledge hadn't been done ever. It took us five months to get through all that. We created the story through those six hours. So Jane and I put together a plan by asking ourselves, what feeling did we want the journalists to leave the interview with, and then we figured out what the journalists had to see and do to come away with that feeling in the end. Certain things were pretty obvious. They needed to see Steve Jobs, so Steve Jobs spent an hour with each and every one of those one hundred people. They had to spend time with the design team, so each and every one of those one hundred people spent time with the design team. These were individual interviews -- they weren't done in groups. The journalists were brought into the Mac building, and we recreated the feeling of developing the Macintosh for them.
The other thing we learned early on was that because of the technology involved in the Macintosh, the only way to really understand technology is to sit down and actually use it. This was first time, really, that a mouse had been used in a commercial product, the first time that a graphical user interface had ever been used commercially, so people couldn't really grok the concept unless they sat down and did it. So part of the six-hour interview was to sit down for 45 minutes and actually use the computer. We found that once people actually touched it, it created a magical feeling, and they began to have a relationship with the computer. That was what led to the idea that you could have a relationship with a piece of machinery. So a lot of it developed as we watched how people reacted to things. But overall it was a very orchestrated launch.
Marinaccio: Can you explain how the creative process worked? Whose idea was it for the t-shirt, the sneaks--
Cunningham: I'll start with the sneak. That was part of the Regis McKenna way of launching products. That had been done before: it was done with Lisa, and God knows how many other companies. It was a typical Regis McKenna thing. What Jane and I did with the sneaks was we blew them up into these giant events. Each interview lasted six hours, and there were numerous people who came: they'd start with a meeting with John Sculley, and then they'd move into an hour with Steve Jobs to get the vision, then they'd have 45 minutes with the computer to get what it felt like, then they'd have an hour with the design team. In some cases we'd take them on a tour of the factory. We tried to create a very intensive, one-on-one feeling with each of these sneak interviews.
So that was Regis McKenna thing. I think the t-shirt thing was my idea, but I don't really remember. The press kit was pretty much my project. We gave the press kit out in the same kit with the Macintosh materials and the instruction manuals so it all came in a little box. But the press kit was my project, so I think the t-shirt was my idea.
Marinaccio: Who suggested such an unusually large budget for marketing?
Cunningham: That's a very interesting story. It's kind of amusing. Jane and I wrote the launch plan. We wrote it on Lisa Project; we were using a Lisa to do all this stuff, and Lisa Project was basically PERT project software. I'm telling you, it wrapped around a conference room twice, after we figured out all the things we had to do, everyone we had to see, and all the things that had to happen. So we sat down and looked at this thing and said, "Oh my God, what are we going to budget for this, besides which, there's only me and you, Jane!" So we backward engineered how much it would cost, and we came up with half a million dollars just for the PR part of it. We had never heard of a company spending half a million dollars for the launch of a product before. But we said, "Let's just try it, let's just sell it."
So we went in, and we presented it to Mike Murray, who was the VP of Marketing at the time. Regis came to that meeting, but he had no involvement in the plan; it was the first time he got a look at it. But obviously his philosophy and his thinking, and what he had done with the agency, had been the foundation of it. And we presented this $500,000 budget, and Mike Murray said, "Do you need any more money?" [laughs] Jane and I looked at each other, and we thought, "We don't know how we're going to spend this money!" So it was pretty amazing.
We never had a budget problem. I don't think we even spent all that money. We didn't have enough people to spend it.
Marinaccio: You think it paid off?
Cunningham: I think the real credit goes to the product, because it was a world-changing product. It brought graphical user interfaces, and the mouse, and a whole different way of computing to the masses. By the way, if it hadn't been for the prior success of the Apple II, the Macintosh would have failed just like the Lisa, because the first year of that product was not a success. The only reason the company survived was the Apple II was generating a steady stream of revenue.
But yes, I think it did. I remember the day we launched it, on January 24th, 1984, I remember driving to work in the morning, listening to all the radio programs, and they're all repeating back the press materials that we'd sent out, and it was just the most amazing feeling. It was like everybody was talking about it. It had more covers than any launch I've known about before or since. And again, the product changed the world, but I think what Jane and I were able to do was translate that awesomeness about that product to regular people.