Steve Jobs and Apple

The Marketing Doctor says:

Steve Jobs and Apple Need ToTalk Succession Now

 

Steve Jobs has long been one of my favorite brands.  His vision, imagination and amazing ability to make a comeback after being thrown out of the company he created are legendary.  He is a man who knows his brand and success has followed him again and again.

Unfortunately, concerns about Jobs’ health and what this means for the future of Apple are beginning to eclipse Apple and Jobs’ recent successes (see that article here). 

The worries stem from the fact that Jobs and Apple were slow to reveal his cancer a few years back, and rumors are again swirling that the cancer might have returned after he appeared “dramatically thinner” at a presentation.

This would be big news under any circumstances, but it is especially critical because there are no succession plans for Jobs, there hasn’t been openness about his health in the past, and his are extremely big (read, impossible) shoes to fill. 

Fact is, there are two brands here and with the right approach both brands can emerge stronger and put today’s uncertainty far behind them but action has to be taken pronto! 

Brand Number One is Steve Jobs.  Jobs is a classic entrepreneurial brand and ultimately there will be no replacing him he has added untold value to Apple and will hopefully continue to do so for decades to come.  His irreplaceability doesn’t mean Apple is finished after Jobs, it simply means that it would be unrealistic to think that a Steve Jobs clone will be found to take the reins (it would be the equivalent of having to find a clone for Walt Disney to take over that great company it just wasn’t going to happen). 

Historically, entrepreneurial brands like Jobs have never really been replaced and succession has never been easy (think William Paley of CBS who left being the head of the company he founded three times only to return a fourth time at age 85 to takeover again).  

But Brand Number Two is Apple and there is a lot at stake.  There are also examples of strong founders/leaders in other non-tech areas who have taken the bull by the horns when it comes to succession and it has done both their company and their own brands good. 

One recent example is Warren Buffett.  No one can honestly think that Buffett can be replaced, but he has made a point of addressing succession fears by showing that there are people of high quality who have already been tapped to lead Berkshire Hathaway when the time comes. 

The effect of Buffett’s move was to show that his company will continue to grow and prosper when he leaves and also underscore the farsightedness and practicality of his own brand in other words, this kind of move is exactly what we would expect from the Buffett brand (i.e., anticipating a need and dealing with it smoothly).

Now its Steve Jobs’ turn.  Jobs can take the current uncertainty and use it to establish Apple as a corporate brand for the ages a company that will outlast Jobs and the rest of us. 

For Jobs the move will show that his brand is not just ambitious and revolutionary, he is also capable of long-term thinking and leaving a legacy that can endure.  It will show that he cares about Apple’s well-being as a company and it will put to rest the maverick reputation that can make Wall Street nervous. 

The move should not look defensive lest it seems that Job is reacting to a dire, but unacknowledged, situation.  Rather the move needs to make Jobs look groundbreaking again. Something along the lines of “I’ve heard your concerns and we’re going to address them that goes beyond these concerns in a truly innovative way that reflects the challenging realities of running a high-tech company.” 

Given that Gateway and Oracle and many other entrepreneur-driven tech companies have struggled with succession issues, Jobs can lead the pack by introducing the kind of succession strategy that none of his peers have been able to implement.  Perhaps he can unveil a management structure that ensures that product and marketing innovation will be a permanent part of Apple no matter who is ultimately in charge. Whatever the plan is, it must have the dynamic Jobs’ stamp and show that the brand essentials of both Jobs and Apple will be preserved and honored in the future. 

By tackling succession head on now, investors will be able to stop worrying and both Apple and Jobs will be able to put this plan away for when it is needed and get back to work! 

P.S.  I would be more concerned about Microsoft’s future (where there wasn’t much succession turmoil at all) than Apple’s, since Apple really gets it where marketing is concerned and the company has the needs of its target market deeply embedded in its corporate culture an area where Microsoft will likely lag far behind no matter who’s in charge.

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep branding in mind!

 

TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –

When a corporate brand and a personal brand mix, it is important to figure out where one begins and the other one ends for the success of both brands.


 

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  • 3/2/2009 9:08 AM iDISASTER wrote:
    QUOTE;
    "The move should not look defensive lest it seems that Job is reacting to a dire, but unacknowledged, situation. "


    OH DEAR! this just happened in Jan AND since this article was written LAST YEAR, STILL no succession plan has been publicly disclosed.


    *FLUSHES* Apple , Jobs(no active return with malignant recurrence of glucagonoma), both their RENOWN long history of REPUGNANT MACHIAVELLIAN behaviour, the horrific PR/BRAINWASHING and quasi religious braindead cult....and last but not least their cash RAPING broken products like the BROKEN technology that is the 3G iPhone which has caused endless torment for a MAJOR % of its buyers....THANK GOD!
    Reply to this

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