"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, the world has lost an amazing human being." This is an excerpt from Apple's tribute to Steve Jobs after his passing last week. The word "visionary" which by definition is - one who can envision the future - is so much powerful than CEO or Chairman of the Board, words that often are used to describe the head of corporations. So why aren't there many other CEOs deserving of this title?
Frankly I have been reflecting on this the past few days which led me to write this article. In my opinion, I think that innovation - which is an easier metaphor for visionary - has been replaced with short-term earnings estimates, internal politics and greed, which are often the causes of troubled companies in this economic downturn such as Netflix and HP among others.
To be able to launch products or services that change the way people live their lives - such as the Ipod, Iphone and Ipad - CEO's need to know their customers, empower their employees and create a culture of brand advocates both inside and outside the company. This is true specially today in the age of social media where companies can no longer "sell" products to consumers. They need to engage and enchant people who in turn will check with their friends, read reviews and make the purchasing decision by themselves. The era of "push" advertising is over, now consumers "pull" the information they need based on their time, needs and wants.
"Creative genius" is another powerful legacy of Steve Jobs. He was a Marketing guru who was able to make people believe they couldn't live without the latest Apple gadget. The line between need and want got blurred and I am living proof that this line exists. I am one of the few people who doesn't own any of Apple's products even though I am quite a fan of the company. The secrecy around Apple's product pipelines, the notorious product launch presentations are a few examples of how effective these simple Marketing strategies were in generating demand for their products. And demand they did, much so that people stood in line for days to get their hands on the next Ipod, Ipad and Iphone.
Steve Job's also proved to be very business sawy when he made the decision to open the Apple stores. At the time, competitors like Gateway and Dell were focusing on direct sales to lower its costs, but Jobs vision was to give consumers the best experince to learn about Apple products. It paid off. The company opened its iconic stores in high end addresses such as New York Fifth Avenue, which sells the equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz C300 in iPods, MacBooks and iPhones per square foot and is the top-selling store in "tony street". Not to mention the four Apple stores recently opened in China, that generate, on average, the highest traffic and highest revenue of any company stores in the world.
So why is Apple different? Because it empowers its employees, enchants its customers and is constantly innovating. It's not complicated but it requires leadership. Leadership by visionaries like Steve Jobs who are bold enough to take risks. Thank you Steve Jobs.