The uncertain future of the founder-led brand

The mouse outlives his inventor.

Those of us in branding admire often strive to learn from the world’s great brands. These are the brands that always seem to know who they are, what they do, and how to do it. But when you think about it, so many of them are founder-led and/or first generation. It’s hard to think of Virgin without Richard Branson, Google without Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Southwest without Herb Kelleher, Craigslist without Craig Newmark, and Ben and Jerry’s without, well, Ben and Jerry.

And of course, Apple without Steve Jobs.

The world witnessed Apple without its founder once before: The company lost its way, went “corporate,” and nearly went bankrupt. Only the residue of the great brand saved it for long enough that Jobs could return and change our world (four times, in fact). This has happen to other brands as well.

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The Meaning of Steve

So, as you all probably know, Steve Jobs quit. He resigned as CEO of Apple, a company he started, then rejoined, and in 14 years drove from near-bankruptcy to become the largest public firm in the world with more cash than the US government and the world’s most valuable brand.

Consider, for a moment, the meaning of Steve.

Jobs haven’t really invented stuff. He sees the potential in new ideas and then, at the right time, he takes that idea to its full potential. Someone recently said: “Three apples have changed the world. The one that Eve ate, the one that dropped on Newtons head and the one that Steve built.” But Jobs haven’t just changed the world once. By my count, Steve Jobs has changed the world four times. Four.

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– Apple Just Monetised Pirated Music

According to CEO of Tunecore, a digital music distribution service, Apple’s new free iCloud and $24.99 a year iTunes Match, “marries the two disparate ideas of consumer convenience and the monetization of pirated music, providing what could be the ‘missing links’ between consumers, artists, labels, music publishers and the emerging digital music industry,” CEO Jeff Price said on the Tunecore blog. “With its launch, the odometer on the music industry is about to reset itself (again)…And the results, I believe, will be stunning.”

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