It’s worth noting – with absolutely no disregard for Mr. Job’s creative drive, vision, and force of personality – that this isn’t the first time Mr. Jobs has taken time off to address health issues. It’s happened twice before and the company has prospered despite those sabbaticals. Mr. Jobs may be the face, and even the heart of the company – much like Richard Branson, the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur of the Virgin brand – but, happily, from a management perspective, he isn’t the only talent Apple possesses.
Outside of the tech and investment arenas, names like Tim Cook, Phillip Schiller, Scott Forstall, Jonathan Ive, and Ron Johnson (COO, Worldwide Product Marketing, iPhone engineering, Industrial Design, and Retail respectively) may not cause techies’ hearts to flutter, but they are the management team that drives the company. But in this instance it’s important to remember that what drives the consumer is the brand.
When it comes to brand loyalty, Apple generally leads competitors in better meeting – even exceeding – customer expectations. According to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, they were far and away the strongest brand in the Computer Category. When we supplemented the mobile sector with the then newish Smartphone Category, they led there too. We dropped the MP3 Play category because despite the actually brand consumer owned, they persisted on call them “iPods,” which made accurate assessments really difficult.
See, people may admire CEOs, but they buy brands. Today real 21st century “brands” are products or services that are so strongly imbued with values and articulated meaning that they are easily differentiated from the competition. Or in the case of the Apple iPod, just plain out own the category, (because really, when’s the last time you saw somebody listening to their Zune or Archos?).
There’s a Russian maxim that goes “visionaries are leaders with a poorly developed sense of fear.” And while there may be only one Steve Jobs, the fact that there’s also only one Apple brand should help allay shareholder fears.