Friday, 26 August 2011

Apple without Jobs…

What would the most visible technology brand in the world be without the most visible technology brand chief at the helm? Well, we’ll soon find out.

Steve Jobs handed in his letter of resignation to the Apple board on Wednesday and as news broke Apple shares dropped 7% as most tablet competitors went up by 3%. How could one man’s resignation have such a ripple effect upon such an enormous market?

With recognisable charisma to burn, Jobs has for some time been the only visible face of the firm for the wider public. For many, Steve Jobs is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs. I wonder what effect the resignation of Jim Balsillie would have on the wider technology sector (feel free to look him up).

Steve Jobs has been a visionary for Apple but more importantly he has been their brand personality. In a consumer facing role he provided a touch point and a story for Apple which its customers related to. He humanised a company in a sector that is typically hard to humanise. I don’t know of any other brand that inspires such zeal and fervour for its products in the technology industry and the question now for Apple is how much of this was branding and how much of it is the actual product.

I have no doubt that Apple’s offering provides a value exchange that is often superior to its competitors and they will continue to be industry leaders for quite some time. But I am equally certain that the quality of the product is not what inspired Apple ‘groupies’ to eagerly wait outside a store opening in Covent Garden last year as if they were expecting the second coming. The frenzy on display was not rational behaviour – something I would have considered necessary when differentiating between technology products.

Whilst Steve Jobs is still the Chairman of Apple and will no doubt be involved in Apple’s direction over the future, with the abdication of his CEO roles, now to be taken up by Tim Cooper, I wonder to what extent Apple’s branding power has been weakened. Then again, I have no doubt that somewhere down the line Apple’s shares and branding will be boosted upon a return of the king.


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