76,568 $m
Few companies have captured our imagination, inspired such devotion, and revolutionized the way we live quite like Apple. While we may assume it’s the products that define Apple, it’s really a certain kind of thinking, a certain set of values, and an unmistakable human touch that pervades everything Apple does — which is why our connections to the brand transcend commerce.

The response to Steve Jobs’ death last year proved how deeply millions connect with Apple on an emotional level. In a world where consumers are oftentimes overwhelmed with information, the role a brand plays in people’s lives has become all the more important to ensuring a business’ overarching success. Nobody understood this better than Steve Jobs. He simplified the complex, democratized technology that was once out of reach, and built a brand so powerful that it forever changed the way consumers think of brands.

Jobs recognized that a brand is so much more than a logo. He instinctively knew that his customers needed to feel a certain way when they picked up an Apple product, when they entered an Apple store, or when they visited the Apple website. He knew that a strong brand should envelop the entire business strategy and positively influence the entire employee base. He also recognized that a brand is what connects a business with the hearts and minds of consumers. Simply put, Steve Jobs understood that a brand is uniquely capable of humanizing a business — and that is precisely why so many of us are Apple ambassadors today.

Steve Jobs also understood the importance of a smooth transfer of power, which is why Apple maintained its momentum throughout 2011. Both the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 launched and went on to crush even the most optimistic expectations. This year, earnings again reached record highs across developed and emerging markets and, not surprisingly, Apple enjoys this year’s biggest increase in brand value — an astounding 129%. Increasingly associated with the luxury sector, Apple now produces items that consumers feel they must own to fit in socially. A feat once pulled off by Nike, transforming the sneaker into a coveted object with a high price tag, Apple’s iPhone and iPad have achieved similar status. The Nike model — a golden age of dominance, before relaxing into a complex market sector — may signal the future of Apple, if it’s not careful. The market may move on if Apple’s products cease being a differentiator of class, taste, or cool, but that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon.

Despite the fact that he was terminally ill, Jobs reportedly worked for more than a year on the products he believed would safeguard the company’s future. Not only was he overseeing the development of the iCloud project and masterminding updated versions of the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and MacBooks, but Apple sources have divulged that he also ensured at least four years worth of products were in the pipeline. Additionally, the historic patent battle between Apple and Samsung has recently come to an end, with the verdict largely favoring Apple. A decision that’s likely to ripple across the entire smartphone industry, the verdict has strengthened Apple’s design identity and will presumably send copycat competitors back to the drawing board to avoid a design infringement lawsuit.

As Steve Jobs himself expressed when he regrettably stepped down as Apple’s CEO, “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.” And if the numbers, the legacy, the potency of the brand, and recent strokes of fate are any indication — it may indeed be a long time before the bloom wears off this Apple.