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Article written by Boris Bozic on the 30 Aug 2011 in Current Events

What happens when Brands are Associated with One Individual?

The summer of 2011 will be remembered for the loss, and stepping aside, of two iconic leaders.  One dedicated his life to public service, and the other individual is a cultural icon.  One lived off the public’s dime, while the other individual created massive wealth for himself and shareholders.  Both individuals stepped aside for health reasons.  One individual lost his battle with cancer, while the other individual is stepping aside to fight the horrible disease.  The name Jack Layton and Steve Jobs are synonymous with their respective brands, the NDP and Apple.  Their respective brands today face the difficult task of determining…now what?  Who will fill the shoes of these iconic leaders, and what fate awaits the two brands?

ndp-brand-without-jack-laytonUpon learning that Jack Layton had passed, I was struck by the fact that so many people stated that they were shocked to hear the news.  If you watched his press conference in July, when he announced that he was stepping aside for health reasons, he looked like a man who has been told he should get his personal affairs in order.  Not to sound morbid but I have to wonder if the same doesn’t hold true for Steve Jobs.  It’s been widely reported that Jobs has been fighting cancer for last seven years, and his health today required that he step aside as CEO.  It was announced that Jobs will take on the role as Chairman of Apple, but that role is diametrically opposed to what Jobs role was as CEO.  The Chairman of the board is responsible for corporate governance, and ensuring the company adheres to corporate strategy.  The CEO role is responsible for creating the strategy, and being responsible for the overall business.  When you’re a CEO, you’re in the middle of all the action.  As Chairman your responsibilities are to the board, which customarily meets four times a year.  I suspect that neither Layton or Jobs would be happy unless they were in the trenches, making things happen.

Apple has already determined who their next CEO will be, Tim Cook.  The NDP will have a leadership convention to determineapple without steve jobs who will sit on the throne.  Both individuals will have an impressive CV, but I can assure that it will never be the same.  Quickly, name me two individuals that were a part of Layton’s cabinet, not including his wife?  Or who is Tim Cook, and what revolutionary technology was he directly responsible for creating?  You’ll have to google the answers.  Yet when it comes to Jobs and Layton we can rhyme off a number of their accomplishments.  The NDP would never be the official opposition without Layton, and Apple would never have left every other technology company in the rearview mirror without Jobs.  There’s plenty of examples where companies have thrived with the departure of an irreplaceable” leaders, Walt Disney, Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, IBM etc.  But all these companies lost some of their mojo when their iconic leaders were no longer at the helm, and they all spent time in the business wilderness before making a comeback.  That’s the problem when brands are associated with one individual.  It’s inevitable that brand will take a step back before it finds its footing again.  I have a certain amount of empathy for the two individuals who will be saddled with the responsibility of making the electorate and markets forget about the past.  Joseph Bower, author of The CEO Within, captured it accurately when he said, “acorns seldom flourish in the shade of a great oak”.

Upon reflection I realized that we have a lot of “great oaks” in our industry.  Could that pose a challenge for these companies in the future? Possibly.  But the reality is these companies would never have reached the levels of success they are enjoying today without their leadership.  The one common trait they have is they are founders of their respective companies.  These individuals cast a very wide shadow.  I’ll prove it to you.  Let’s play name association.  I’ll mention four brands in our industry, and what name immediately comes to mind?  VERICO, DLC, TMG and MCAP.  Without a doubt you said Dreyer, Mauris, Thomas and Swift.  I don’t care what kind of credentials one has, filling their shoes would be a difficult task.  Business acumen alone will never trump business street smarts, and emotional attachment.

Until next time.



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Barb Morgan Reply

not to forget MERIX/Bozic!

Boris Bozic Reply

That’s very kind of you Barb. Don’t be stranger.


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