When the CEO dismisses the brand

To brand an organization effectively, you have to start at the top – with executive leadership. The CEO (or equivalent) must be totally committed to the concept of branding and must drive the brand throughout the organization. Otherwise the organization cannot effectively display the right image at all the points at which it reaches its stakeholders.

If you understand the concept and the importance of brand, this much is obvious. But there are still leaders that “don’t get it.” I believe that there are basically two reasons why.

  • The first is that they literally don’t understand branding at all. To them a brand is Coca-Cola or Disney or Starbucks. It’s a marketing or an advertising gimmick. It doesn’t apply to the widgets they produce. It’s flighty and self-promotional and frankly, stupid. It has nothing to do with the organization believing in anything, or communicating a unified image to the outside world. Branding, to them, has to do with creating a TV commercial and maybe buying some ad space in a magazine or two. That’s it.
  • The second is that they refuse, on principle, to operate according to the rules of brand – which is that it is fundamentally your image that creates value for the organization. Even though that image is derived from real actions taken by the company, they don’t want to hear it. They want to focus on actions first, and image later or not at all. They actually believe that they can run the company without paying attention to the image that the company’s actions create. This belief is magnified by the fact that there is little in the way of well-known tangible evidence that “branding” creates real value.

What can you do when your organization’s leader dismisses the brand? That’s a good question…I wish I knew the answer to it. But the first step is to understand what is blocking the CEO in the first place—whether it’s one of these reasons or something else. The road to convincing him or her to implement the brand begins with unblocking the invisible barriers that are lying in the leader’s path.

(See this for more on the importance of the CEO leading the branded organization and for a couple of examples of brand return on investment.)