Pity the man who takes the stage after Steve Jobs.
With his trademark minimalist costume and flair for high-flying language, Apple’s founder and longtime CEO knew how to turn a mundane corporate event into a magical communal experience. But now that Jobs has turned over the C-suite to Tim Cook, can the company’s product launch extravaganzas maintain the excitement Apple’s faithful have come to expect?
If the rumors are true, Apple could host its first post-Jobs era iPhone event as early as this month. Some industry observers say that all Apple needs to do is let the products steal the show.
“The product is the star,” said Rich Cline, president of Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli company. “I have witnessed Apple’s famous unveiling events, and they are remarkably consistent and elegant in their simplicity. . . . Apple should stick to the recipe—it works.”
But Ronn Torossian, founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, says that maintaining the status quo is the recipe for only one thing: failure. “There’s a new sheriff in town. You’re entering a new era. And attempting to do what [Steve] did so well is simply not going to work,” Torossian said. “I don’t see how you can win because you’re not going to be as good as he was.” Even a final bow from the Apple founder himself, while a bonus for fans, could risk undercutting Cook, Torossian added: “[Jobs] would be taking over the show and throwing the other guy under the stage.”
Carmine Gallo, a communications coach and author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, says Apple’s formula for product introductions is so perfect, it likely won’t change much. But he thinks Cook, despite his finance and operations background, needs to light up the stage with high-octane passion and remember that his job isn’t just to inform, but entertain.
“Steve Jobs never just introduced a product. . . . He turned it into a show,” said Gallo. “And a show has heroes and villains; it has those shocking moments, those twists and turns. Tim Cook needs to do that.”
No one can replace Jobs, Gallo said, but “maybe Tim Cook can carve out his own rock star experience—not the same lead singer, but it can still be a really fun band to watch.”