Ever since the passing of Steve Jobs, two years ago, all eyes have been on Apple waiting to see how the tech company will do without it’s iconic leader. If Apple’s latest product release is any indication, then things don’t bode so well, and it may stand as a shining example of why it is so important to stick consistently to your brand.

iphoneFirst there is the release of the iPhone 5C, or the “cheap” iPhone as some are calling it. (Though, even at $100, it’s still pretty expensive.) The new plasticy-covered phones come in a range of bright (borderline-tacky) colors- which by itself is already a departure from the norm. Apple products are known for their sleek colors and look. It adds to the “cool factor” that have made their products so popular in the first place.

But there’s more… the very idea of a cheap iPhone just sounds off, as much as a cheap Armani watch. The problem is that by offering such a product in the first place, by even allowing the word iPhone to be in the same sentence as Walmart, Radio Shack and just $45, it shows that Apple leadership is willing to move far from their brand in order to satisfy the whims of key analysts and investors.

I don’t know if Apple has been able to achieve its goals of penetrating the lower end of the mobile market. But, according to some recent reports, there’s pretty good indication that demand for the devices may be weaker than expected. Not a good sign.

Then there’s the gold iPhone and iPad. While I can at least hear the argument that this product may uphold the theme of exclusivity and trend-setting that fans of Apple have grown accustomed to, by choosing to deck out their device in gold, they’ve left the realm of hip and are walking dangerously close to flashy and cheesy. That’s my opinion, anyway.

At any rate, this recent product release just doesn’t look like Apple, and that’s a problem. It seems as though Apple’s lost it’s mojo. If the company continues to step away from the carefully crafted identity that has been built over the past decade, if it divests itself of its brand, then it won’t be long before it will start to fade away into tech oblivion.

As a small business owner, don’t ever forget that your brand has a very real value. It’s an asset, even if it may be hard to put a number on it. When you work long and hard to build a certain image, don’t just go and change it, unless you’ve got some really compelling reasons for doing so. The more you stay true to your key competencies instead of trying to be something you’re not, the more you will invest in your business some real staying power, and that’s no tall tale.

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