'1984' Apple marketer remembers Jobs' early years

Published: Friday, Oct. 7 2011 10:46 a.m. MDT

Mike Murray, chairman of Unitus Labs, a non-profit organization working to reduce global poverty, worked for Steve Jobs for four years. His most notable work at Apple Computers was the famous '1984' commercial, which ran during the Super Bowl.

Courtesy of Mike Murray

“Hi. I’m Steve Jobs.”

So said the man wearing jeans, a button-down long sleeve shirt and a suit vest as he spoke to Stanford Graduate School of Business students. It was 1980. Unlike most speakers who stood behind the desk, this presenter sat on top of it.

Mike Murray, then a 25-year-old MBA student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and others in the audience thought Jobs was a student. He brought nothing. No briefcase. No presentation equipment. Rather, he spoke plainly about his company, Apple, and how they were trying to change the world with something called “personal computers.” After 15 minutes, Murray was hooked.

"I was so attracted to him because of his charisma, speaking style, personality and the things he was working on," Murray said during a telephone interview from his home in Redmond, Washington. "I thought, 'Wow, I want to work for this guy.'"

That excitement continued years later as Murray, then an employee at Apple oversaw the company’s marketing and the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial based on George Orwell’s “1984” novel.

Later Murray became vice president of human relations and administration at Microsoft and then the co-founder of Unitus Labs, a non-profit organization working to reduce global poverty. Last year, he completed his position as mission president in Philadelphia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jobs “was not impacted by normal boundary conditions,” Murray said. “Boundaries restrict our thinking and actions. He had no such boundaries, and this allowed him to think very broadly, deeply and precisely about what it was he was trying to achieve.”

After Murray’s initial meeting with Jobs in 1980 he pestered Jobs’ secretary for an interview each day for the next two weeks, which led to a summer job as a market research analyst. Then in 1982 he joined the company’s Macintosh marketing team.

Those four years at Apple were “the stepping stone for the rest of my career,” Murray said.

Though ideas didn’t primarily come from Jobs, his ability to harbor a culture of innovation promoted ideas.

“He created a culture of innovation, risk taking and creativity,” said Murray.

As Apple was about to launch their Macintosh, the IBM personal computer was slowly becoming the industry standard. Apple was losing its hold on the market.

“We needed to introduce Macintosh into the American lexicon and do it in an extremely arresting way,” Murray said recalling his time at Apple and its 1984 Super Bowl commercial. “That was the point of that ad and it was exceptionally successful in achieving that.”

As a leader, Jobs' ability to partner with others furthered the company’s products. Murray and Jobs worked with Adobe to develop the first desktop publishing system. Later Jobs’ relationship with music companies helped the iPod succeed after it was introduced in 2001.

The iPod was first introduced in October 2001. It became a huge success, but without Jobs’ charisma and his relationship with music companies, it might not have taken off, Murray said.

“There is a whole ecosystem that goes on behind the scenes as you try to launch a new product into the marketplace,” Murray, whose entire family of six own iPhones, said.

Murray converted to the LDS church as a 19-year-old engineering student at Stanford. Murray compares his experience with Apple to his development as a husband, father and church leader.

“I often saw our efforts at Apple -- that of taking an non-standard, unproven technology and attempting to change the world -- similar to what we do in the Church -- that of taking a non-standard, unproven religion and attempting to change the world,” Murray said. “Both with visions for a better future. Both paddling upstream against the current.”

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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