With Steve Jobs' Passing, Apple Loses Its Top Sales, Advertising and PR Man

Last Updated Oct 10, 2011 5:43 PM EDT

The death of Steve Jobs will rock Apple (AAPL) and its employees in a far more personal way than the loss of most CEOs would. As the company's founder, its longtime technology chief and the final arbiter of the company's style esthetics, Apple and Jobs were mostly one and the same thing.

While his death will be mourned most fiercely in the technology world, Jobs was also regarded as a marketing genius in the world of advertising. Citing his company's brands as examples of good marketing is such a frequent occurrence on Madison Avenue that it passed beyond cliche into the equivalent of business law. Jobs perfected the trifecta of good marketing: His products were superior; carried high-status; and he was able to charge premium prices for them.

Those on the advertising and marketing side of the company know that the company has not merely lost its chief executive officer. It has lost its chief marketing officer as well, a man who filled these and more leadership roles:

  • Chief salesman: The introduction of a new product or brand, presaged by a slideshow presentation in which Jobs strode the stage in a black turtleneck and jeans, became one of Apple's biggest and most successful sales rituals. When Apple held one of the shows without him, for the iPhone 4S, the company's stock dropped 5 percent.
  • Chief brand manager: At most companies the CEO doesn't pay much attention to the advertising, except to approve the work of his or her chief marketing officers. CEOs are supposed to be strategists, not art directors, after all. But Jobs had a famously long and close relationship with Apple's ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, and had a hands-on role in the approval of his campaigns.
  • Chief media relations officer: Jobs had a love-hate relationship with the media. (He once called the New York Times' Joe Nocera a "slime bucket.") But this only made him an even more compelling figure for the media, in which he appeared frequently. Dealing with the media isn't easy -- that's why most CEOs don't do it -- but Jobs mastered it.
  • Chief customer relations officer: One of oddest and most charming things about Jobs was his habit of occasionally answering emails sent to him by complete strangers. He once told a reporter during an email chat that the iPhone offered people "freedom from porn." On another occasion he emailed a student reporter who pestered him for a quote, "Please leave us alone." Individually, these incidents probably made his PR people cringe. Collectively, the responses bolstered his reputation as a mercurial deity who may or may not be watching his flock.
  • Chief spokesmodel: Most companies use professional models to show off their new products in the media. You don't see the CEO of Ford lounging on the hood of his new cars, for instance. But Jobs frequently allowed himself to be featured in his own ads or in media coverage doing product demos.
Among advertising and marketing people, Jobs was revered as a god. His passing will make him immortal among those who care about the power of brands.


Images by ACAben, Annie Bananie, CC.