The CEO Must Drive The Brand

Martin RollApril 7, 20092132 min

The CEO Must Drive The Brand

In the next five years, we will see a rapidly changing landscape across the globe, where the opportunities for businesses to benefit from corporate and product branding efforts will be larger than ever before.

The growing emphasis on branding will move up the boardroom agenda and I strongly believe that branding will become one of the most prominent drivers of value across the globe in the next two decades. Businesses with a sustainable business model and with a visionary and passionate CEO with branding talent will benefit from the rising opportunities for competing in the modern marketplace and potentially taking on the global scene.

It needs to be no less than the CEO who embodies the branding efforts and serves as the company’s and thereby the brand’s primary advocate and nurturer. The approach is particularly well suited to companies whose top executives have a passion and talent for brand strategy, but in tomorrow’s tough environment all top-executives must be able to represent and lead the brand. World-class companies like Sony, Virgin, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nokia, Giorgio Armani, Singapore Airlines, L’Oreal and Nestle all meet that description. Their top executives are directly involved in leading the branding vision, strategy and implementation, and spend a significant amount of their work hours to drive their brands forward and to achieve even better results.

Tomorrow’s CEO must be a brand champion who leads corporate and product branding strategies, all strategic brand-portfolio decisions and constantly monitors the implementation of the brand locally, regionally and globally. A strong CEO has credibility and respect not only because of business talent and organizational power but also because of the depth of experience, knowledge, and insight. A suggestion from a visionary CEO with branding talent and managerial experience in branding and marketing is the key driver of the branding efforts and results in any successful organization – internally and externally.

But having the branding know-how and sophisticated marketing technology is no longer adequate. The modern business leader needs to be a complete player, who covers a broad range of managerial capabilities and experiences, and have the vision to constantly monitor and improve. Being a marketing wizard is no longer enough. One also has to be an excellent business leader and a passionate brand marketer with a truly international edge.

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  • Craig Sutton

    April 7, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Fantastic, While I am a Small Business Owner. I could not agree more with this article. The CEO has to have his or her thumb on the pulse of its company. It’s brand and the customers response to it are a major artery.

  • Denise Lee Yohn

    April 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Amen! Thanks for the call to arms. Indeed we need more CEOs who recognize the value of their brand as a management tool (vs. simply a marketing one).

    Specifically, CEOs should drive the business with the brand by:
    – applying brand thinking to the generation of insights about the business–its strengths, its challenges, and its opportunities.
    – using the brand to facilitate choices that are consistent with the values and attributes that the CEO hopes to embody as an organization and to deliver to customers.
    – embedding brand discipline in the execution of business activities through tools and processes that facilitate brand execution.

  • Brandon R Allen

    April 7, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I agree with the post but I also think that a CEO doesn’t have to be a “brand” expert to be successful. Branding your business internally is walking the walk and staying true to what your company is about. This is what true and effective leadership is all about.

  • James

    April 8, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    This seems like a good idea but, in my experience, it has some pitfalls.

    The CEO as brand champion has to be very careful that the brand doesn’t look at itself from his inside-out perspective. This may have worked in earlier decades but, in today’s consumer-centric, social-media-driven marketplace, it leaves the brand vulnerable to competitors positioned from the consumer’s outside-in perspective.

  • Brady Bone

    April 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm


    Microsoft doesn’t know brand. $300+ million marketing spend and even they still do not know what their brand truly stands for. I don’t think Ballmer could give the same answer twice in the same week.

    If there are two CEO’s that drive the brand of their companies it’s Sir Richard Branson and Steve Jobs. They know full well what their brands stand for, what they look like, what they mean to not just them but their customers. And they ensure everyone down the line drives the brand as well.

    – Bone

  • Adam Kranitz

    April 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Likewise, it’s incumbent on the CEO to foster a company culture that encourages an authentic, transparent and measurable dialog with customers. This is the foundation of building a social organization and must be undertaken long before the marketing department picks up the tools/channels of social media.

  • Bhavana Jaiswal

    May 20, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I agree with the fact that CEOs need to be brand champions, I don’t see Virgin as an apt example here. Yes, Sir Branson is a perfect brand champion, but the issue for Virgin is ‘What After Branson?’. The brand is so strongly connected to Sir Branson that it’s impossible to separate the two. Remove Branson from Virgin, and you will realize that you’re hardly left with a brand. Doesn’t such a situatation spell hazard for a brand?

    Would love to hear your opinions on this.

  • N.R.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for your post.

    Simply put, branding should be built on the the truth. The weakest links are where the truth is stretched.

    Be what you are — it’s a position you can defend. If you don’t like what you are, don’t change your marketing message change your offering.

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