Steve Jobs' resignation: Will it change the way consumers see Apple?

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Steve Jobs is a marketing genius. This is a fact. Some would say his greatest success is illustrated by consumer behavior leading up to and following launches of Apple products. These announcements always have an aura of mystery about them, and in the days leading up to one, rumors abound: “Is he going to show off a new iPhone? Or is Steve going to walk onstage in his turtleneck and jeans and casually demonstrate a new technology that will blow my mind and completely change the way I communicate?” There are quite a few blogs devoted to such Apple whisperings.

The Wall Street Journal even took a ride on the rumor mill today by including in an article on Jobs' resignation that Apple's next reinvention of a common device may be the TV. As we anxiously await Apple's next product launch, one now has to wonder: Will we be meeting iTV for the first time?

Apple product launches grab national headlines and drive consumers to vie for products that are often priced much higher than comparable brand counterparts. The company can accurately boast that its retail sales per square foot of store space is the highest in the nation.

Apple is also right now the most valuable consumer brand in the world, not only beating out such giants as Coca-Cola and McDonalds, but also Google, which came not in second place, but fifth.

Not too bad for a company founded in 1976 that, upon Jobs' return in 1997 (he was forced out in 1985), was, as the Journal put it, “a diminished company, saddled with mediocre products and reputedly only months from bankruptcy.”

Apple products are, of course, considered to be top-of-the-line and are often used as status symbols — The Christian Science Monitor noted that Apple is able to charge a premium for the “fashion statement” of owning Apple products — but much of the brand's popularity can be ascribed to its enigmatic longtime CEO and cofounder. It is Jobs' showmanship, combined with his casual and unchanging uniform, that engages consumers and sparks Silicon Valley excitement. There is even a blog devoted to chronicling Jobs' mock turtleneck choices through the years.  

Perhaps Jobs' best marketing success is in marketing the man himself. And not just when it comes to announcing the launch of a tech device. The news that he would be stepping down as Apple's CEO was met with rumor mongering and headlines, but while most people know about Jobs' health problems, many were unaware that someone else has already been at the helm of Apple as Jobs took time off to address his medical needs. That man, Tim Cook, has been officially named Apple's new CEO. He formerly was the company's COO.

Many news reports, focused on the theme of “what will Apple do without Steve Jobs?” overlooked another important point, which is included in a letter Jobs posted to Apple's website. Jobs may no longer be CEO, but he's not leaving Apple behind. He will remain an Apple employee and has asked to serve as chairman of its board of directors.

Questions remain. For example, will Cook appear in a suit or a turtleneck when he introduces us to the TV of the future?

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