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Apple Losing Control of Its Brand

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play the 1,350-capacity Henry Fonda Theatre last week. Three people deep on the floor, watching Petty lead the band made me feel like I was in the presence of a legend.

No doubt I was. The Heartbreakers without Tom Petty cease to exist. On a similar, albeit much lower level, Journey became something other Journey without Steve Perry.

Obvious comparison, I know. But Apple (AAPL - Get Report) became something other than Apple when Steve Jobs exited Earth and Tim Cook took over as the undisputed leader of the company Jobs built.

Obvious, but worth repeating because, no matter how many times we see evidence of Apple's demise under Cook, most people tend to discount the matter's significance.

We gave Jobs the credit of a legend when alive, but downplay his impact once he's gone. As if a different Apple can be the same great Apple Jobs ran.

It can't be. And, while we probably shouldn't expect Apple to remain exactly the same under Cook and without Jobs, we should do more to guard the latter's legacy and protect the company from spiraling towards run of the mill status.

I write this ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) because I am confident that nothing Apple announces there can possibly change the direction of the game. A game Apple once dictated but does little more than react to these days.

Another case in point. Something that helps illustrate the bigger picture better than anything we can possibly expect to happen at WWDC.

On a big Los Angeles radio station week, I heard a Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) commercial run several times touting its Samsung experience store as "the next big thing." That's an obvious play on the Steve Jobs next big thing franchise. But it's also the not-so-subtle trashing of Apple's brand.

And Tim Cook, along with the rest of the company, stands by and lets it happen? This is the type of thing Jobs would have gone mad over. Lowly Best Buy promoting itself by effectively taking shots at Apple ! As in Samsung assume ownership of the next big thing from Apple.

I have argued that Apple should pull its products from most third-party retailers, particularly Best Buy, Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) and Target (TGT - Get Report). One man's opinion that certainly has valid counterpoints, but speaks directly to one of Apple's biggest problems right now -- its eroding image. It's increasing place as just another copycat.

My understanding is that these are Best Buy commercials, not Samsung spots. But, for the larger point, that really doesn't matter. When Best Buy can insult Apple in its advertising and get away with it, you know somebody (Cook) is either asleep at the wheel or unaware of what's important.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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