How Building a CEO Brand Can also Build a Better Company

Peter Drucker, the guru of modern management theory, said these now famous words: “the purpose of a business is to create a customer, and the purpose of the leader is to grow the value of the customer.”

Sounds like the customer-centric vision of Jeff Bezos, that he is bringing to fruition with his concept of the “everything store.”

In reality, the most successful companies reflect the vision of the founder/CEO. Apple was Steve Jobs, and Jobs was Apple. Polo is Ralph Lauren, and Lauren is Polo. Starbucks is Schultz, and Schultz is Starbucks, Amazon/Bezos, etc. etc.

As these examples illustrate, the culture of the leader has become inculcated in their company and their vision reflected in the firms brand/logo. They—and the brand they have created—are indivisible—the CEO is the brand, and the brand is the CEO.

However, many CEOs have not adopted this brand-bonding relationship and see themselves more as managers of a brand, not reflections of the company’s brand. The result of this is a more daunting task of having to perpetually develop and monitor strategies to maintain and grow brand equity, more as a professional manager than an entrepreneurial integral part of the process.

These CEOs are more like grandparents than parents—minding their grandchildren, rather than participating in the growth of the kids every day.

This is why many companies struggle to keep up with technology and the changing requirements of their customers. For the CEO to morph into the brand of the company they are managing, they have to forge a passionate bond with the brand, or change the brand to reflect their vision for the future. They have to become a customer and adopt the Bezos philosophy of “customer-centricity.”

Tips for CEOs
• Ask yourself: “how compatible is your vision with the culture of the company you run?”
• Is every member of your team able to contextualize his or her role in embracing the company’s unique value proposition—its’ brand identity?
• How closely does your day-to-day behavior mirror the brand you are championing a la Jobs, Bezos, Lauren and Schultz?

While the business landscape has become more complicated, competitive and electronic, the battle for the customer’s mind remains the same. Brands exist in the mind and as the CEO. You have to decide what share-of-mind you want to own, and how you as the CEO can be the embodiment of that position.


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