The attempt by individuals to separate a brand from its brand ambassador(s) especially the CEO is an effort in futility. Brand ambassador in this context, I mean the custodians of the brand starting from the top management staff to the least staff, their personalities are directly or indirectly entangled with the brand for the duration they continue to associate with it. The popular saying, “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are”, can also be linked to a brand, show me your custodians and I will tell you what kind of brand you are.
A brand therefore, finds self-expression through the “Brand Persona” driving it from both his/her personal or official capacity and as such whatever affects the persona be it positive or negative would obviously affect the brand in the long run. If it is negative in nature, this may have an adverse effect on the organization and by extension, its market share. At every time custodians of brand must learn to align their lifestyle to their respective brand’s core values, the slightest conflict of interest between the personality and the brand may have a ripple effect on the organization’s equity.
Your brand is your promise to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. The brand is the totality of who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. It is important to state that, perception is key when it comes to a brand.
Brands are important corporate assets, faced with unimaginable choices in every imaginable product and/or service category, customers are everyday challenged to make an informed decision. Therefore, brands with powerful equity allow customers a very reliable external heuristic to sift through options in the market and make informed choices.
However, brand equity not only enables companies to build and enhance their appeal to customers but also endears them to crucial external stakeholders including attracting and retaining the best talent as a competitive advantage. That is why the office of the Chief Executive Officer is as important, as the brand itself, the occupier of the position must be seen to practice what he preaches. This is not the case of “do as I say, but not as I do”. The moral burden of the brand’s survival lies on his shoulder. At all times, he must uphold all professional, moral and ethical standards associated with the brand. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, to whom much is given, much is also expected.
A brand is the most precious asset of a company; it should be nurtured and protected by the CEO and his team, anything short of that could be counter-productive. A brand is nothing without customers who are satisfied and eventually retained. The efforts of custodianship should be towards serving the customers now and in the future.
Therefore, the private life of the CEO is invariably inseparable from the organization or brand its represents as the number one brand ambassador or custodian, that is why at all times he, must guard his personal as well as the organizations reputation jealously.
Fortunately or unfortunately, a brand is no longer, what an enterprise defines and claims on mass media. It has become what consumers say it is, by way of review, complaints, chatter about a product or service, including comments on communication, drive brand perceptions and purchase decisions. So brand custodians need to be careful about messaging, the environment in which they are seen and also be prepared to be under the microscopic lens whenever the need arises.
The actions and inactions of individuals or group of individuals closely associated with a brand creates a periscope in which the consumers and the public view the brand and the organization as whole.
Whenever, there is a conflict of interest between the CEO and the brand, the brand’s interest should supersede no matter what, because most of the times brands outlive CEOs. Let no one be deceived, the CEO and the brand are the same.
John Kokome, a Communications Strategist & Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos