Brand leadership is the province of the CEO

WHERE BRAND OFTEN FAILS: AT THE CEO LEVEL?  HOW IS THE CEO AND BRANDING LINKED?

By Tom Dougherty

brand leadership begins with the CEO
The CEO is the leader in rebranding

As CEO of your company, you might best be represented by the Janus figure of mythology. Your visage must face in two directions at once.

This is not an easy feat to accomplish to say the least. To be successful, your vision must focus on the future and visualize the past; grasping the subtleties of the road the company has journeyed and applies the lessons of past success and failure.

No matter what your company produces or sells, and regardless of the business category, you are personally in the communication business. Your main value resides in the ability to communicate your vision and value proposition for your company or brand because you will live or die based on the brand’s ability to grow.

To successfully govern the ship, it is important to delegate authority to others. To give gifted colleagues ample authority to complete their chartered tasks. Micromanagement is the surest way to fail and, as a style, it ensures your company will end up peopled by codependent bureaucrats.

In order to win you must be able to let go.

Brand Leadership is More Than Marketing

This is true for marketing as well. You must have an able VP of Marketing who is empowered to carry the communication of the brand. Second-guessing only leads to your communications faltering and, in turn, the proposition you hope to ignite will fail.

Brand leadership, however, is a different story from marketing. As a CEO, branding and the responsibility for it belong clearly in your seat. No brand manager can forge it. No marketing director can understand it. The reason for this inability to wrestle with it is because a brand designed to steal market share must cross disciplines. It requires the power of the CEO and the perspective of the Janus figure to make it work. No one except the CEO can make it happen and, once the CEO decides on the course, everyone in the organization takes their cues from the head of the ship.

It does not matter if you are a house of brands (like P&G) or a branded house (like BMW) because the Janus figure still sets the course for unbridled market share growth.

Much more than the marketing needs to change. A tsunami of cultural change must coincide with the new message because change is your only ally. The status quo means market stagnation and no one but you is willing to shoulder that responsibility — no one.

As the CEO, you alone are responsible for change. You start it, fan it and stop it. Everyone else is trying to respond to what they believe you want.

And, by the way, change makes them nervous. They avoid it. They attempt to slow it down. And they pass it on with all of the clarity of whisper down the lane.

How to Motivate the Employee

Good employees maintain the institutions of the company. In a word they are process driven. Most work very well with concrete direction because they then know what is expected of them and what they must accomplish so as to be appreciated.

brand leadership means hard choices
The CEO makes choices

Many of your best employees measure their worth in terms of how well they do their job, not by what their job accomplishes. For example, trainers may measure their worth based on the number of training sessions or employees they train in a given year.

How effective those training sessions are is of little importance. Instead they focus on the things that can be quantified. As a result, a change in the training style or technique, even if it is designed to improve the results, is met with push back. Rather than changing the technique, employees see the change as an attack on themselves personally.

When you make the decision that you must grow market share to survive, everyone is shaken because major change is coming and every sacred cow needs to be reviewed and, more often as not, culled from the heard.

Moving Forward

There are only two choices when judging an activity for success: It either forwards the mission or holds it back. Nothing benign exists. If it is not actively helping you steal share, it is shackling you to the past.

You must reevaluate your messaging in terms of what matters most to the prospect and also your systems and processes with the same focus in order to steal market share. It means forcing a company to turn itself inside out so that everything it does reflects the needs of the prospect, which demands that you ask yourself how does this reinforce our brand’s promise? If it does not reinforce the prospect’s core aspirations and self-fulfillment, it must stop.

Only the CEO can make this happen. The marketing/branding vice presidents can influence the messaging, but only you can institutionalize all of the change necessary to make sure the promise is true. This is not marketing. This is a cultural shift.

When we think about past clients and look at those where success has outstripped even our highest expectations, the projects all have two things in common: 1) The CEO was the main driver and 2) the amount of change was extreme. This means the CEO did not delegate the responsibility for the changes to others and it meant that opportunity exists to those who don’t get in their own way. Brand to change market share? You bet. But it starts at the very top. It is all about brand leadership. That leadership starts with the Chief Executive Officer.

(Read more on the CEO’s role in marketing here)

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