Mr. Jobs announced today he’s stepping down from day-to-day management of Apple until June while he copes with a health problem he called “more complicated than I originally thought.” The move came on the heels of months of speculation on Mr. Jobs’ health, fueled by gaunt public appearances, his decision to pull out of the keynote for the MacWorld Expo last week and the company’s vague admission last week that Jobs had been suffering from a “hormone imbalance.”
Mr. Jobs led a turnaround at Apple starting when he returned in 1996, transforming it from a struggling maker of niche personal computers into a mainstream lifestyle brand that represents the best of whatever category it enters, from personal computers to phones to music players.
One could look at Mr. Jobs’ other revolutionary company, Pixar Animation Studios, which has maintained its uniqueness after Mr. Jobs even after it was absorbed into the Walt Disney Co. Part of that was due to the Pixar creative team, led by Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter.
By most accounts, Apple has that team in place and Mr. Jobs’ role is that of an editor, parsing the ideas brought to him by his team. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has led the company before, during Mr. Jobs’ treatment for cancer; Jonathan Ive is the designer behind Apple products; and marketing director Phillip Schiller took Mr. Jobs’ place delivering the keynote at the MacWorld Expo.
Most believe that if Mr. Jobs’ absence is indeed just six months, there might be impact to the stock, but no impact to the brand. “If anything, it stirs up more buzz about him and the company and his role at the company, maybe to the benefit of the brand, but to the detriment of the stock,” said Andrew Murphy, analyst at Piper Jaffray. Mr. Murphy said Apple has had a succession plan for some time, but hasn’t made it public.
“At Glint we believe building a business around an individual versus a strategy is what leads to this type of turmoil. This may not be as significant as the media makes it out to be, however, as a company you always have to be prepared for best and worst case scenarios. To believe there is no plan for succession is absurd. To believe Apple may not thrive with a loss of Steve Jobs is very realistic. We always advise our clients to build their business around what their consumers need and want to see, if Apple has been and continues to do the same it should still thrive. We hope for the best for such an iconic leader. Regardless of Apple’s future, you have to admit they’ve made a mark for themselves…or is that Steve Jobs… in history.” Say’s Craig Lloyd, principal Glint Advertising & Design.
Published: January 15 Advertising Age, edited by Glint Advertising & Design