When the Man is the Brand

Apple's Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs died this week an immediate concern was, “Can Apple be the same innovative company without him?”  It’s because the man had become the brand. For Apple, this was a good thing. But for some companies, being so closely associated with their top man has not always been ideal.

A century ago, John D. Rockefeller, head of Standard Oil, was so hated for his monopolistic and callous ways, that he hired one of the fathers of modern public relations, Ivy Ledbetter Lee, to tell him how to change his image and with it, public perceptions of his businesses. Henry Ford was highly successful and respected but put his company at risk when it was revealed that he supported Adolf Hitler, and subsequently for decades there were thousands of people who wouldn’t by a Ford. Conversely, Ford’s friend Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors ever known, could do no wrong. The public revered him and his companies benefited by his popularity.

In my lifetime, hundreds of CEOs and founders have become TV pitchmen for the products that bear their names. The late Tom Carvel, Frank Purdue and Orville Redenbacher, for example, created well-known products which the public, by design, closely identified with them. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Bill Gates’ Microsoft are more current examples of how closely companies can become associated with their founders. In many circles, Murdoch’s media power has become a liability for his firm. Gates might have had a similar fate to Rockefeller until he also began sharing most of his wealth with those less fortunate, thereby making his unimaginable success more palatable to the public.

My guess is that innovation won’t stop at Apple. But I doubt that anyone else will rise to actually become the Apple brand. Few have done it–and done it so successfully–as Steve Jobs. Your thoughts?

17 thoughts on “When the Man is the Brand

  1. Jamie Hagan

    There is no doubt in my mind that dead or alive Steve Jobs will forever be the man linked to apple and its successes. Though he most definitely was a large part of Apple’s branding i do not think his death will slow down apples progression. Because Apple is so carefully and tightly branded even in his absence the brad will continue to hold true and does not need to seek a replacement. After all who would replace Steve Jobs?

  2. Clarissa Kouri

    I think Steve Jobs is like Henry Ford, in terns of the ultimate innovator. Today we have zillionaires of cars, every conceivable type. However, we remember Henry Ford as the creator of the car. Steve Jobs will be remembered as the creator of the personal computer and all the gadgets that followed. His name is those gadgets, even if others make them. Apple will survive and continue to innovate; however, it will take another innovator to take the next leap into the next big thing.

  3. Nick Schweers

    Two months later, and Apple is still thriving and dominating the market during the holiday season. Jobs was so successful in building the Apple brand that I don’t see any sales dropping anytime soon. He developed a strong team and innovative products will continue to come out in stores. Maybe they will be a little slower for the next year or so, but I am sure Jobs planned the future of Apple while he was still healthy enough. There will probably never be a face of the company again, but people will always recognize and love that Apple logo that lights up across the world on everyones computers, iPods, and iPads.

  4. Mike Remsen

    Steve Jobs legacy and iconic status will never die, and as such will allow Apple to maintain their superiority in its industry. It’s true that Steve Jobs ultimately became the face of his company but it is certainly false to think that because of his unfortunate passing that Apple will struggle to move forward. The absence of Job’s brilliant ideas, innovations, and leadership is something that will be noticed over time, but that is not a reason to suspect that Apple will not survive. I do believe though even with such a lose, Apple will thrive because of the team/CEO currently in place who were hand-picked up Jobs , which means he felt comfortable at end knowing that his company would be good hands with him gone.

  5. Jahlisa

    I too fear that the brand might not maintain the level of success as it did
    the years Steve jobs was CEO. He was an innovator like no other. He created
    and executed gadgets that have revolutionized the way we use and need
    technology. The brand will forever be connected to Steve Jobs. I do feel
    his predecessors do have their work cut out for them. He’s as some would
    say ‘a tough act to follow.

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  7. Kaitlin Simensky

    I agree that innovation will not stop with Apple. I think that it will be years, if every, for someone else to come close to becoming as associated with Apple as Steve Jobs.

    Steve Jobs did an outstanding job building up his company and was a great spokesperson. I don’t think the company will completely lose credibility amongst stockowners or the public; however, in the absence of Steve Jobs, the company will have to work even harder to retain and gain the support of the public. I believe they will continue to be the same innovative company without him, but what is most important for Apple is to remind the public that while Steve Jobs was an amazing component of the company, he was not the only innovator.

    Steve jobs will forever be an important piece of history; he was an inventor and will always be remembered as one of the great minds of the twentieth/twenty-first centuries. However, he was not the only innovator at the company, and he has helped the Apple become one of the greatest breading grounds for American technological ingenuity, and will continue to be so even in his absence.

  8. prshopgirl2232

    I believe that the only way that apple will survive the passing of Steve Jobs is by a complete product presentation over hall. Yes, Mr.Jobs was the face of apple, but they cannot continue to remind the audience that he is not longer the “main guy.” Apple needs to start from scratch and reinvent their methods of product presentation. Cook may be fit for the job but the salty haired, older aged man with mono chromatic clothing just reminds the audience of who is missing from the equation. Apple has always been progressive and cutting edge. They have always managed to reinvent themselves, so why reinvent the wheel? They should lead by their own example and reinvent their black screens and Jobs impersonator; take a different path or build their own. Either way, they need an obvious change. Steering the company away from the memory of Jobs (respectfully) is key to their survival.

  9. Anna

    I mean this is a big loss for Apple, Jobs went above and beyond and literally became the face of the company. Truthfully, in order for Apple to keep rising and continue success , they are going to have to keep the reputation that Jobs left. If Apple starts to do poorly, people will start to say that Apple is going downhill because Jobs is gone. He definetly left his mark on the company and they need to keep the expectations that people have for their products.

  10. darrahrachman

    While I agree that no one will ever represent Apple like Steve Jobs did, I do believe that the company will be just fine. Steve Jobs was an innovator but also an iconic figure to the public. Apple will continue to be great– despite the fact that the “brain” behind the products is gone. I do not think that Apple is in any hurry to find the next replacement of its brand. I think that even though Steve Jobs has passed away, his legacy over the brand will remain for years to come.

  11. Chris Scheben

    I think Apple will be fine without him. While Jobs did have the final word on product decisions, most people seem to forget that he wasn’t the one developing the hardware and software Apple produced. What Apple does need to do however, is find someone to present their products to the public in an engaging manner. Jobs was a master public speaker and product presenter. I can only imagine how amazing his presentation of SIRI would have been. Tim Cook will likely be a great CEO, but he needs to stay away from Apple’s Keynote presentations. If I were him, I would find a young, intelligent, and truly engaging person to present new products. Perhaps they should try looking on their own campus!

  12. Thanishap

    I completely agree with the notion that Steve Jobs IS Apple. I mean everyone knows exactly who he is and its not because his last name is Apple which is the main reason why many other names are known with their companies. This man was a great influence to the world. I mean, he’s even known for his black turtle neck.
    As fas as Apple being the same innovative company without Steve Jobs. I believe that it will. Steve Jobs did his PR correctly before his demise. He let the public know of his sickness and personally chose his successor. He even mapped out the next few years for Apple.
    The fact that Jobs was transparent leaves the public comfortable with the transition and even left sympathy for Jobs.

  13. AOkPR

    I believe that Apple’s popularity will be enough to motivate the company to keep innovating. Steve Jobs certainly was a friendly face to associate with the company and products, but I do not think that his absence will affect the popularity or innovation of Apple.

  14. alipr107

    I had a discussion in one of my classes, before Steve left apple and passed away, about whether the public will be still be able to trust the brand if he is not the spokesperson. I think that apple will still be trusted as a great brand, and instead of being looked at differently, I think that it will be revered as a legacy that has been passed down by one of the most innovative people in our time. Ive been doing research on Apple’s stock, and most of the articles that I have read say that the technology will speak for itself, and that apple seems to be still on the path of greatness.

  15. samwilbur

    I don’t believe anyone will ever become the face of Apple again, but I’m fairly confident they’ll continue to be one of the more innovative companies of our time. There is pressure, however on Apple now that Jobs is gone and I’m sure PR people will be on call for those types of issues–when dealing with the media and consumers, about the next series of products and ideas.

  16. Lindsay Shulman

    I don’t think anyone will want to try and “replace” Jobs and “become the brand” but certainly people will have to step up in order to Apple to continue being the most innovative product on the market.

  17. Jon Fisco

    I doubt anyone will ever come close to Jobs. He was constantly referred to as the mind behind the iPad, iPod, and iPhone. Regardless of the fact that Apple has hundreds of employees trying to come up with products Jobs was billed as the key. I think we’ll see better iterations of current products, like the iPhone 4S, but I don’t know if anything as earth shattering as Jobs’ innovation will rock Apples foundation anytime soon.


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