From now on, May 26 really ought to be dubbed 'International Branding and Design Day'. Why? Because in 2010, on this day, one man's unshakeable vision of business as art form was vindicated. This was the day Apple's market value hit $229 billion - the day it supplanted long-time rival Microsoft as the world's largest and most important tech company.
But Apple is not just a company; it's a vision that continues to change the way people interact with one another.
More than this, it is one man's vision, for Steve Jobs was Apple, and from the moment Jobs co-founded Apple on April 1, 1976, the vision was unwavering: to change the world.
Jobs set about changing the world one product at a time, beginning with the world's first mass-produced microcomputer, the Apple II, and then the first all-in-one computer, the Macintosh.
Jobs' inspirations around this time included religion and drugs. In 1974, he travelled to India in search of spiritual enlightenment, and came back a Buddhist, with his head shaved and wearing traditional Indian clothing. He also experimented with LSD, saying later, in an interview with the New York Times, that it "was one of the two or three most important things I've ever done in my life". Jobs had always said that people who do not share his countercultural roots can never fully relate to his thinking.
This thinking was responsible for a succession of zeitgeist-catching products - the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. Each is a masterpiece of design and function in perfect harmony, and each is imprinted with Apple's DNA, from components that few ever see, right down to product packaging. Each is imprinted with one's man's unrelenting, unforgiving obsession with perfection.
Unforgiving, because Jobs let nothing, nor nobody, stand between Apple and perfection. A cultural and business icon he may have been, a dream boss he certainly wasn't.
Moody and with a white-hot temper, tales of Jobs' personal abuses are legion. He parked his Mercedes in handicapped spaces on the Apple campus, reduced subordinates to tears, and summarily fired employees.
Author Robert Sutton was compelled to include Jobs in his bestselling 2007 book 'The No Asshole Rule' because "as soon as people heard I was writing a book on assholes, they'd start telling a Steve Jobs story".
But, as venture capitalist and former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gasse observes, "Democracies don't make great products. You need a competent tyrant."
If tyranny is a by-product of perfection as a brand value, then Apple's shareholders don't care a jot. Research firm Millward Brown Optimor (MBO) ranked Apple third in its 2010 Most Valuable Global Brands, behind Google and IBM, but ahead of Microsoft (again). MBO also estimated that year-on-year, Apple's brand value was up by 32% - the biggest increase of any of the 100 brands.
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