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Steve Jobs: The Ultimate Brand Relevance Champion

November 24, 2011

Under Steve Jobs, Apple developed innovations five times in a single decade that created sets of “must haves” defining new categories and subcategories. It’s the only way, with rare exceptions, to achieve growth.

There was iPod, iTunes, the Apple stores, iPhone and iPad. Incredible achievements! In my view, Jobs is the champion brand relevance competitor. I have opined elsewhere that he is, in my view, the top CEO of the last decade.

Jobs had seven skills that made these innovations possible. He had exceptional:

Insight: In each case, he relied on his gut judgment that his innovations would succeed in the marketplace. He famously did not believe in asking customers for guidance.

Timing: He went to market when the technology, the market and his firm were all ready. Competitors had prematurely released each of these innovations years earlier in some form.

Flair for design: His uncanny design sense helped make each of these innovations, including the Apple store, super cool and created a design “must have.”

Ability to create competitive barriers: The new “must haves” were protected through a host of methods including ongoing innovation, enhancing the Apple brand, building a core base of loyal customers, generating scale and creating synergistic value including the world of apps.

Marketing talent: His offering introductions were perceived as so intriguing, so appealing and so visible that they generated momentum right from the start.

Confidence in his product vision plus unwillingness to compromise: He simply raised the bar and kept it there. That is rare, especially in the high tech world.

Ability to motivate people: Even though he was known to be abrupt, unreasonably demanding, autocratic (even cruel), hypercritical, one who rarely gave credit to others, and generally the antithesis of the Theory Y manager, he did, in his own way, motivate. He provided a higher vision that was inspiring, and his praise, on those rare occasions when it appeared, was so highly valued that it made up for the lack of quantity. He was a winner – and winners, whether it is Douglas MacArthur or Bobby Knight, are forgiven for style limitations.

Again and again, I find that successful firms and executives have around six key characteristics. They are not additive, and each is indispensible. If even one were removed, the whole venture would be in jeopardy.

Jobs was a case in point. All seven characteristics made the man.

David Aaker

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From → Branding, Innovation

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