Steve Jobs: the ultimate brand leader

 Picture 2 Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs is the ultimate brand leader in my eyes. There is no better example of leading through actions, not words. He doesn’t tell people about the Apple brand. He IS the Apple brand personified. Jobs has just been named CEO of the decade by Fortune magazine, and the fascinating articles in this special issue give some great insights into his brand leadership and the stunning results it has produced. I share a few of my favourite highlights below.

Steve achieves
Jobs’ transformation of Apple is truly remarkable. Try and get your heads round these numbers:
– Market capitalization in 2000 = $5billion
– Market capitalization in 2009 = $170billion
– Increase in market cap = 3400%

This vertiginous climb out of the depths of despair has been achieved by transforming not one, or even two, but three industries: personal computers, music and mobile phones. You could even say four if you add retailing. And five if you add what he did with Pixar in digital animated movies.

Leader, not follower
Don’t let people kid you that Apple are a challenger brand, focusing on ‘thought leadership’, and content with a small market share. Jobs is a brand leader. And Apple is a Leader Brand. In 2001 Apple had a paltry 2% of the U.S. PC market and it now has 9%. But that’s not the real story. In high-end computers over $1000 it has a 90% share, according to NPD group. Apple has a dominant 73% of the U.S. MP3 player market. Jobs has focused on market segments where Apple can lead.
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Still ‘making pots’
Business people all start out ‘making pots’. In other words, they learn
a craft, whether it be marketing, product design or law. Over time,
many leave behind their craft, and ‘run a pottery’, often losing touch
with the customer and market. In contrast, Brand Leaders like Jobs
‘keep on making pots’. He still has a passion for the product and the
marketing 33 years after starting Apple in his family's garage (see below); his remains a master-craftsman at heart. Fortune say ‘Jobs
manages the money, the messages, the deals, the design, and more. The
rare pairing of micromanagement with big-picture vision is a Jobs

Picture 1
Consumer empathy, not consumer research

According to Fortune, Jobs ‘does not pay attention to consumer research’, but he does ‘work slavishly to make products customers will buy’. He does this by using highly tuned intution about consumers, what we call ‘consumer empathy’. The article goes on to say ‘Jobs serves as a one-man band of consumer research.’ Part of his approach is picking up on things he sees at ‘the periphery’ of the market, and having a knack for knowing which will become big in time.

Follow the money
A common mis-conception is that Jobs is a maverick creative with little time for numbers. In fact, Fortune says ‘Make no mistake: Jobs is all about business. He’s grounded in reality, closely monitoring Apple’s operational and market metrics’.

In conclusion, Jobs is an inspiring example of brand leadership. Have a clear and compelling vision, but also a determination to turn this into action that drives growth. Keep one eye on the numbers, and the other on the craft of product design and marketing. And keep the passion burning throughout your career.