Apple has a branding problem

What’s that you say?  Is this heresy?  Apple, your favorite example, the paragon of branding, the lords of iEverything – that Apple?  A branding problem?! Surely you jest!

Well I hate to say it, but it is true.  Apple has a branding problem, and its name is Steve Jobs.

Now don’t get me wrong,  I love me some Apple, and I still think that the company is one of the greatest branders of all time, but I callz’em like seez’em and there is a fly in the soup.  The company has so embraced and promoted the Steve Jobs is god message that it has begun to harm the corporate image.  Speculation about Steve’s health prompted by his gaunt appearance earlier this year has caused a ripple of concerns on Wall Street and started a rumor-mill regarding succession planning.  The impression is that Apple, once saved by the return of Steve Jobs, now can’t survive without him.

No doubt, Steve has been the miracle man for Apple and his demanding approach to leadership, insistence on high design, and self-appointed role as chief-presentation-officer have only added to the mystique, but one man does not a company make – especially not a global, multi-billion dollar, public company. As an example, a study of the 5th generation iPod, revealed a supply chain of up to 10 parts vendors with manufacturing occurring in 5 different countries.  Steve gets around, but c’mon this isn’t a one man job.

Steve the mastermind, the guru, the dictator, the showman these are all legitimate parts of Apple’s brand and all grounded in truth.  So what can Apple do to patch this chink in their brand armor?  I think the approach of the Wall Street pundits is wrong – rushing to find a suitable successor will not heal the problem.  I think the thinking is akin to the logic behind ripping off an adhesive bandage – it is going to hurt no matter what, so let’s just get it over with as fast as possible.  However, this thinking assumes that the cut under the bandage has already healed…. pick the successor, take the hit, and performance will solve the brand issue.  But it doesn’t work that way.  People believe in Steve Jobs.  I believe in Steve Jobs.  We’re bought into the cult of thinking different.  To solve the brand problem of Apple can’t be Apple without Steve Jobs the answer is to do what any cult does when faced with the loss of its spiritual founder and leader.   They must be canonized.   The answer to the brand dilemma is to present Steve’s impact as being so profoundly transformative that the culture he catalyzed now has a life of its own.  Yes, I’m saying that Mr. Jobs should be elevated even more than he already is.  Fanboys rejoice!  For his Jobness has bestowed a lasting organization on the principles of Steveitude.  iCommandments anyone?

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