The CEO’s Personal Brand

The Sea Of Sameness
October 27, 2016
The Way You Make Me Feel
November 10, 2016

Most of us are avid followers of the American Presidential election and many of us are passionate about how the elections will play out. One aspect of the race I have been pondering on is how the elections and its intrigues will affect the lives of the contestants should they lose.

I imagine, should Hilary Clinton lose, she will retire and become a dotting grandmother to Chelsea’s two children. Should Donald Trump lose, riding on his brand equity, he goes back to running Trump Enterprises bearing his name. Some will say really!

Reports coming in suggests his divisive and questionable tactics in his run for president is harming his businesses. Records show patronage has reduced remarkably at Trump branded resorts and golf courses. Surveys show his name now adds less value to products. According to CBS News “He’s become radioactive as mass entertainers and Charities are weary about holding fundraising events at his swanky Mar-a-Lago Resort”.

The Trump brand was associated with success and luxury. His real estate establishments were jostled for by the wealthy and was aspirational for those who craved wealth. This has now changed as a new online poll by Morning Consult found that nearly 40 percent of voters said Trump’s campaign made them “less likely” to buy Trump-related products and about half, 46% said they would not stay at a Trump branded hotel. Before Trump’s bid, there was a constant flow of buyers who demanded to live in his establishments.

It has gone from being a brand that was sought after to a brand that people are turning away from. Trump recently opened a new hotel and for the first time did not personalize the branding. He knows his name is now a liability.

The CEO’s personal brand is very important and is the brand ambassador of the organization. Many CEOs feel, when it comes to branding, the organization is separate from theirs. This is far from the reality as the CEO’s brand equity is closely tied to the corporate brand because it has the power to make or destroy an organization’s brand as can be gleaned from the brand damage to Trump Enterprises. The organizations are being measured and evaluated based on the perception of Donald Trump’s, whose has lost equity.

However, should a CEO have a strong personal brand, a good example in Nigeria is Dangote who also uses his name to brand his businesses. He has a strong brand equity in Nigeria, Africa and globally. We are all witnesses to the continued growth of his business empire. He is trusted, has strong ethics, values and principles making him attractive to investors, his employees and the government. He is known to deliver on his promises and is important to the Nigerian economy. These positive attributes tremendously drive up his personal brand equity.

All CEOs must make it mandatory to protect and upgrade their personal brands because they are the face of the organization, usually are the first point of contact and the giver of the organizations message to the outside world. Karen Tiber Leland, a branding expert says “All CEOs have the daily opportunity and obligation to build their personal brand in service of their own and their corporation’s reputation”.

Their brands need to be impeccable and highly rated, otherwise, they can destroy the organization’s brand, which translates to reduced patronage and growth. People trust the person first before the organization - individuality and authenticity are key.

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Aliko Dangote, are such well-known brands that I do not have to tell you the name of the organizations they represent.

They also:

  • Demonstrate the values and principles of their organizations internally and externally
  • Attract clients, customers and employees. Number 1 PR machine
  • Have industry leadership or are experts which rubs off positively on their organizations
  • Have the ability to negate reputational issues because they are trusted - trust is intrinsic to personal branding
  • Have appropriate pedigree for their industry – technical knowledge, ability to relate, charismatic and polished

The above are key personal brand attributes of a CEO.

My advice to CEOs is that they must protect and promote their brands to showcase their authenticity and individuality which drives up their brand equity. Doing so, should it be positive, will help their organizations grow exponentially.

Dear CEOs, do not be casual about your personal brand, it is extremely important!