Strong brands are assets. And whether you believe it or not, the CEO has the greatest responsibility for delivering a brand to market and the greatest burden of proof for its authenticity.
Large publicly traded enterprises, privately held middle market operations and small local businesses alike all benefit when a brand is effectively defined and communicated. When done right, a brand attracts investors, partners and employees and drives profits, stock performance and retention.
To be clear, a brand promise is the statement that identifies for customers what they should expect from all interactions with your people, products and services. And for the brand to be authentic, customers must actually have the promised experience. It is not the name, logo or tagline – those elements represent only the identity portion of the branding mix.
For example, Dell Technology enables its customers to grow and thrive and actively celebrates their achievements with its brand promise “The power to do more.” If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you’ll likely agree that the promise of “lower fares, more flights and more fun” is delivered at every touch point.
Some key attributes of the brand champion CEO are a willingness to embrace the spotlight, leading by example, setting a path to the promise for employees to follow, and personally listening to what customers have to say.
Embrace the spotlight
More than just providing words on paper or a screen, the CEOs of Dell and Southwest, Michael Dell and Gary Kelly, aren’t afraid to step into the spotlight and champion the brand. They personally drive public relations, cement relationships with customers, communicate regularly via traditional and digital channels, and fight for what the company stands for – even under public scrutiny.
And that’s just what we see on the surface as outsiders looking in.
CEOs that successfully champion the brand must also instill passion and respect for the brand into the organizational mindset and daily routine for all employees.
Set an example and a path to the promise for employees
More than one man or woman at the helm, organizations are an entire ecosystem of leaders and employees doing the work the organization does. How will employees know what to do when the CEO is not in the room?
In addition to leading by example, publicly and internally, successful brand champion CEOs establish fundamental operating philosophies, structures and communication processes that support the brand, and reinforce the expectation that everyone must hold one another accountable for their part in delivering the brand promise. A “brand behavior” reward system might be worth considering.
Firing on all cylinders under the heat of the spotlight, and backed up by an engaged workforce that is traveling along the path laid out for them, the effective brand champion CEO can now rest assured the customers are having a positive and authentic experience. Right?
Well, not exactly.
To be an effective brand champion, the CEO must stay dialed in to customer sentiment, and the best way to do that is to stay personally engaged with the CMO and the extended marketing function.
Personally listen to the customer
Some best practices leading brand champion CEOs such as Dell and Kelly employ to stay connected to the customer experience include personally:
- attending top-level marketing committee meetings,
- participating in customer feedback sessions,
- keeping a finger on the pulse of digital, and
- commissioning and reviewing marketing reports, analysis and insights.
Traditional one-way brand messages broadcast to a homogeneous audience are losing effectiveness at a time of unprecedented consumer adoption of digital channels – from the web and email to mobile and social media. Digital paves the way for direct consumer relationships that in the past were the domain of sales teams alone. Customers ultimately decide now who wins and loses.
Customers are as much in control of brand meaning and its value in the market as the company itself is. As markets continue to change rapidly and customers continue to gain power, CEOs and marketers must operate as a tightly knit unit to rigorously defend the master brand and must be more adept at making the strategic connection between the corporate boardroom and the customer.
To learn more about how to Unknot, Align and Market a winning brand position, go to quell.com.