Apple Brand Essence

The Apple Brand Without Its Core Essence

By Staff Writer
In September 17, 2013

Two years have passed since Tim Cook took full custody of the Apple brand from Steve Jobs. The new CEO came in after five years of employees increasing threefold, revenue increasing sixfold, profit growing twelvefold and stock that went from $150 to $707 a share. To say the least, these are extraordinary results to follow, but they pale in comparison to the challenge of maintaining one of the most revered brands ever without its co-founder, and later its messiah, Steve Jobs.

When you think about some of the great brands like McDonald’s, IBM, Nike and Coca Cola, for example, what name or names immediately come to mind? Who was the founder of IBM? Whose vision brought Nike to its enviable brand status and who is moving the brand forward today? We all associate Bill Gates with Microsoft, but few consumers are having a love affair with the brand like they do with Apple. The Microsoft business has always needed Bill Gates; the Apple brand has always needed Steve Jobs.

Based on the biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and what analysts and brand followers are saying about the company today, there is a striking similarity between what has happened to Apple since Jobs departure in 2011 compared to the company and brand when Jobs first left (he was ousted) in 1985. Below are a few of those similarities contrasted against how Steve Jobs, the brand, turned things around with his return in 1997.

Like the post-Jobs period from 1985 to 1996, the company today is being well-managed, but is no longer a cult-like culture.

Steve Jobs always held that “the world will be a better place with Apple in it.” Though never formally recorded as a vision or mission statement, employees knew why their company was special. “Think Different” was much more than just a successful advertising campaign. It defined Apple’s internal culture.

Just like the late-’80s before Jobs’s return, today’s management is patient, methodical and business-oriented, but is not captivating the imaginations of shareholders, employees, media and the public.

The passion and charisma of Steve Jobs put his audience into a trance that was sustained long after his presentations. He fought against the business establishment in every way (and won big-time).

Management at Apple today is difficult to read.

Let’s just say: Not so with Steve Jobs. His brutal honesty and lack of concern for the feelings of others was part of the package. His passion was too much for most people.

Recruiters today are seeing more and more resumes from Apple employees. Some of them are disenchanted new hires who are not finding the culture they expected.

Steve Jobs return to Apple in 1996 “would have surpassed the second coming of Elvis.” He said the problem with Apple is “the products are shitty and not sexy anymore” to a standing ovation. Employees were pumped and ex-employees wanted to get back in.

Apple is currently losing share to Samsung and others in emerging markets worldwide.

After Jobs’s ousting in 1985, Apple did nothing but lose share to Microsoft. Jobs said of that situation, “Apple deserved it. After I left, it didn’t invent anything new. The Mac hardly improved. It was a sitting duck for Microsoft.”

Hopefully, history will not repeat itself, but maintaining the affinity the public has with the Apple brand without Steve Jobs is an unprecedented challenge. Great brands like Nike, Coca-Cola and Apple are living entities whose nurturing and growth are passed on from one brand management team to another without sacrificing consistency. Apple needs to understand its own brand (self-expression, state-of-the-future, wonderful product experience, etc.) sans Steve Jobs and move it forward.

Steve Jobs transformed the computer, movie, music, retail and communications industries, just to name a few. Unfortunately, there is little of practical use we can learn from his success — with one exception — because he was a genius and most of us are not. Great brands emanate from the people and culture inside a company first and foremost. If the passion, focus and vision are there, the external success will fall in place.

What can the Apple brand do to succeed long-term after Steve Jobs?

Staff Writer

So who is this mysterious staff writer? Could be anyone really, as long as they meet our very strict criteria. 1) Worked with us in one capacity or another. 2) Have something pretty interesting to say. 3) Want to use our blog to say it. See? Told ya they were strict!