What Makes a CEO a Brand Leader?
At DPK Public Relations, we work with company CEOs and presidents to become living embodiments of their brands. If you want your brand to be seen as leading edge, you need to project an image that is leading edge. Get a nice haircut, a tailored suit and a quality watch. If you want your brand to be seen as friendly and approachable, it''s probably not a good idea to be driving around in a Maserati.
What are the characteristics of a "brand leader?" According to Chief Executive Magazine and consulting firm Lippincott Mercer, there are nine potential characteristics that executives should strive for:
- Customer experience
- Foresight and innovation
- Brand investment
- Brand importance
- Brand image management
- Measuring and monitoring
- Marketplace vitality
- Organizational stature
That''s a pretty good list and it''s worth asking how your chief executive stacks up. But the analysis that determined the list of the top 25 CEO brand leaders, which is featured in the October 2005 issue of Chief Executive, didn''t end there. Next, a “short list” was compiled of 100 companies that have earned worldwide recognition for a relevant dimension, such as being a “most admired company.” Finally, using those building blocks, a web-based survey was used to query approximately 450 corporate and marketing executives.
Here''s the top 25:
|1. Apple Computer||Steve Jobs|
|2. Starbucks||Jim Donald|
|3. Dell||Kevin Rollins|
|4. eBay||Meg Whitman|
|5. Harley Davidson||James Ziemer|
|7. Amazon.com||Jeff Bezos|
|8. Southwest Airlines||Gary Kelly|
|9. Virgin||Richard Branson|
|10. Nike||Bill Perez|
|11. Google||Eric Schmidt|
|12. Target||Robert Ulrich|
|13. Coca-Cola||E. Neville Isdell|
|14. JetBlue Airways||David Neeleman|
|15. Walt Disney||Michael Eisner|
|16. American Express||Kenneth Chenault|
|17. Anheuser-Busch||Patrick Stokes|
|18. Microsoft||Steve Ballmer|
|19. BMW||Helmut Panke|
|20. Wal-Mart||H. Lee Scott Jr.|
|21. Procter & Gamble||A.G. Lafley|
|22. McDonald’s||Jim Skinner|
|23. Polo Ralph Lauren||Ralph Lauren|
|24. UPS||Mike Eskew|
|25. Marriott International||Bill Marriott Jr.|
Okay, there are a few in there (Michael Eisner?) that might raise some eyebrows, but for the most part this list is a great reminder of the importance of integrating the image of the CEO with the image of the brand. Certainly three out of the top four -- Jobs, Donald and Whitman -- illustrate the point. Richard Branson may take it a step too far, but it seems to work.
"One very interesting issue raised in this ranking is whether CEOs should use their own personalities to help brand their products," said Chief Executive Magazine Editor in Chief William J. Holstein, who oversaw the ranking process. "In the cases of Steve Jobs and certainly Richard Branson, it works fabulously well for them. But the majority of CEOs rely on teams and processes and are relucant to inject their own personalities. The common thread is that all of these top brand leaders have a knack for what the customer wants, sometimes even before the customer knows it. That instinct may ultimately be more important than whether they choose to use their own personalities or not."