The Limits of Leadership Branding

With Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple, everyone’s in a tizzy over what this will mean for Apple’s future stability. After all, Jobs was a visionary, and has transformed technology for the average consumer over and over – five times, by AdAge’s count.

First, let’s get real. Apple may have started as two guys in Jobs’ parents’ garage, but these days, this company is huge. Jobs is not pulling all this off on his own. The reason for all the commotion here is that Jobs has been so integral to Apple branding.

For the most part this has been a very effective tactic for Apple. Except that people are still human, with human limits. Meaning we get sick. Eventually we die.  A solid brand doesn’t waver every time that happens. The times that Jobs has had to step away from Apple, there is always a huge buzz about what lies ahead for Apple. That is not good for a brand.

A brand has to be consistent, iconic. It has to stand the test of time. Think Coca-Cola, which has had the same logo for about 100 years and the most recognizable brand in the world. When you limit a brand to a person, the brand takes on the limits of that person. I completely get why Jobs became so integral to the Apple brand. It was a fantastic move in a lot of ways.

But now, the Apple brand is in a position where a lot of the public will doubt it. It will have to prove it is capable of innovation and quality all over again, re-earn its street cred. With all the careful effort, not to mention dollars, put into marketing campaigns, that’s got to hurt.


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