Why Steve Jobs personal brand damages Apple

Steve Jobs

The news yesterday that Steve Jobs will taking another forced health leave of absence from Apple again had a negative effect on the company share price.

The US stock market was closed for a holiday and the company is announcing latest results today, so you can be sure the timing of this was not coincidence, more a hope that good results news will counter the bad to some extent. That was not the case in European markets where the share price dropped by over 5% almost immediately.

To a large degree Steve Jobs personal brand is the brand of Apple;

  • He drives the strategy of the company (even off sick the announcement made sure investors fears were minimized by saying he would continue to be involved in strategic decisions).
  • His controlling leadership and planning and preparation for all news and events makes them even more anticiapted and acted upon. Tim Cook who took over the last time Jobs was off did a great job (he earnt $59 million for a great job!), he was even the spokesperson for last weeks news about Verizon becoming a seller of the iPhone - usually a role reserved for Jobs. This will again likely soften the blow.
  • His creative and innovative process saved the company and now has made it the most valuable tech company in the world, in just over a decade. No doubt innovaion will continue to happen, but the aura around Jobs ability to develop the next greatest success has many wondering if they can do it without him.

Tim Cook is a very able second lieutenant , but the captain of this ships personal brand is so strong and so linked to the name and success of the company there is a danger that at times like these with no obvious answer the Apple brand is damaged and confidence is affected. Time will tell.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Paul, very insightful thoughts about Apple, and I think the business faces an interesting challenge because of it. I wonder if the problem was unavoidable, though, due to the reality of Jobs’ role at Apple?

  • Thanks Jonathan, interesting thought, I wonder though if we would see the same result if Bill Gates or Steve Balmer had a leave of absence, or even Mark Zuckerburg, Sergey Brin or Larry Page – maybe it is the fact that Jobs is the essence of Apple that makes it such an impact – the others perhaps less so.

  • Great insight Paul,
    I think any strong personal brand can be a double-edged sword.
    Think about it, if the Virgin Group were publicly traded on the stock exchange, I’m sure Richard Branson’s balloon trips and crazy challenges in the 1990s would have hit their share price too. Mainly because much of the brand equity within the Virgin brand is down to Branson’s personal brand.
    This is probably the same with the Apple brand and Jobs. The strength of his personal style and brand in getting Apple to the top was a huge asset – but once there, his personal brand can be a liability. At least Branson starts businesses and then establishes teams to run them. So they’re less at risk were anything to happen to him. Whereas Jobs appears to be very hands on (some say ‘controlling) and the way in which he orchestrates and announces new launches leaves Apple wide open to much greater risk every time concerns about his health come up.

  • Imran M. Ismail

    From Jobs example it is obvious that Branding is all about people and perception not product!

  • Great comparison Sital with Branson – the Jobs control factor could be Apples sour bite!

  • Good insight. The 5% drop also reflects how the market to assess the value of a major leader in tech.
    Microsoft didn’t drop that much when Bill Gate left the CEO role 😉
    Laurent
    http://thinksize.com

  • Thx for the comment Laurent. Do you think that Microsoft did not drop as much is becuase Gates was always the background guy and Steve Balmer is the day to day implelenter. so The Street felt more comfortable?