Earlier this week, Steve Jobs passed away. I don’t recall the many CEO passings but it was all over the blogosphere and social media on top of being over the regular news channels. Many fans of Apple mourned him including myself. He was many things to many people. To CEOs, he was a visionary leader – able to see trends and industries well before others could. To other business leaders he was an amazing CEO, able to turn around a struggling company. To many he was an inspiration. A baby born out of wedlock, who was adopted, dropped out of college to pursue a dream, built a successful company, got fired from said successful company, start a few more (NeXT and Pixar), and went back to the original company and created wave after wave of hit products. To consumers, he was the guy who they associated with their wonderful Apple products.

What struck me was how many people mourned him. This is a man who runs a company, not a Hollywood celebrity or a rockstar. I doubt many CEOs would have this much impact when their time comes. There are so many products that are much more fundamental to our everyday lives yet we hardly think of them. For example electricity and clean water are essential necessities, but I doubt people care for say Thomas Edison or the CEO of ComEd the way they do Steve Jobs. The other CEO that I can think has this much fame would be Bill Gates who I think mostly people associated with being the richest man in the world at the time. No other person I can think of has been so closely associated with their brand. For example, I know people love their Wii or Xbox, but could they identify the creator? Probably no. People also love their cars and expensive watches, but I also highly doubt those people could identify their makers.

With every product launch Steve Jobs has been at the helm of the presentation giving every keynote until he was no longer able to physically do so. By doing that, he made him and the brand inseparable. When the products and the company became successful because of his absolute focus on quality, design and the whole user experience, he became a pop culture icon. People loved Apple products – Steve’s products, and thus they loved him.

Not only did he represent great products, he symbolized an ideal. His commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 revealed a man who believed in only doing things that mattered because life was short. In his own words, he wanted to make a dent in the universe. He believed in not living someone else’s life. I can’t imagine how this message could not resonate with most people.

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