125 Influential People and Ideas
John Sculley III

1896

Through a Wharton fellowship, W.E.B. DuBois undertook his classic study of the social and economic conditions of urban blacks.

Marketing Genius for Pepsi and Apple

John Sculley III, WG’63

John Sculley has become famous for his role in catapulting Pepsi and Apple into two of the world’s best-known brands.

For Sculley, the 1980s and early 1990s were heady, heated days of BusinessWeek covers and accolades ranging from Man of the Year (Financial World) and CEO of the Decade (Financial News Network) to Advertising Man of the Year (Adweek and Ad Age).

As Pepsi CEO he created the Pepsi Challenge taste test advertising campaign in 1980, initiated from Sculley’s own research. The campaign was a cultural phenomenon that significantly increased Pepsi’s market share.

“We were in the business of marketing the experience.”

Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs then recruited Sculley as CEO in 1983, asking him in a now-famous line, “Do you want to sell sugar water all your life, or do you want to change the world?”

The Macintosh had not yet been introduced. At the time, computers were sold largely based on their technology features. The difference for Apple, says Sculley, was their goal to create what Jobs called an “insanely great consumer experience.” “On the one hand, Apple might have missed something big by not being a technology licensing company, but that’s not the business we were in,” Sculley told Wharton Alumni Magazine. “We were in the business of marketing the experience.”

Macintosh become the number-one selling personal computer in the world during Sculley’s tenure as CEO, ending in 1993.

Today, nearly 15 years later, Wharton marketing professor John Zhang describes Sculley as “one of the pioneering marketers in technologies, if not the pioneering marketer. He was one of the first to bring professional marketing skills to an industry that was R&D and production driven and market technology products like consumer goods.” In turn, Sculley cites Wharton Marketing Professor Wroe Alderson as a key influence on his marketing methods.

Now a venture partner at Rho Capital Partners in New York City, Sculley told Wharton Alumni Magazine, “What makes all of this fun is when you are out on the edge. Sure you have the risk of making mistakes and getting the wind knocked out of you. But then you also have the chance to be around when these really cool things are just starting to happen before anyone has perspective of what they might turn into. That’s the real reward.”