In her article for The Huffington Post, Penny Herscher reflects on the role of CEOs in brand equity. She states, “…in this age of social media, the world sees the CEO as a key element of the brand, with the associated advantage and liability.”
As we become more integrated and engaged with social media and technology, a CEO and a company’s brand can go hand-in-hand. However, this linking of boss and brand comes with key factors that can inhibit or grow a brand.
The question is, is having the CEO as the face of your brand a good thing?
The short answer is: it depends.
The longer answer is: you will have to be prepared that there will be both positive and negative associations of the brand, depending on the audience.
Good and Bad Examples
Take, for example, Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter. He linked himself directly with the brand of the company for so long. When his controversy came to light it was not good for the overall brand equity of the pizza giant.
However, linking a CEO with a brand’s identity can improve its overall standing. For KFC, even though Colonel Sanders is no longer alive he is still very much the face of the company. This is something that has proven wise for KFC and the KFC brand. The company has even found various actors and actresses to take on the mantle of the colonel.
More relevantly, Bill Gates and his charitable work have become a great image for Microsoft to have as a backdrop. While Microsoft may not necessarily link Gates in all of their branding, knowing that their founder is a good man behind the wheel gives consumers a good feeling about the brand as a whole.
Living a Life Beyond Reproach
The fact is that for both of these organizations, linking the CEO with their brand identity had very different impacts on their brand equity. The key differentiating factor for KFC is that, over time, it transformed a personal brand into a corporate brand. The two became one in the same, not intrinsically linked to the person himself.
If you’re the CEO of an organization and want a synonymous personal and corporate brand, you must be willing to live a life beyond reproach.
If you’re the CEO of an organization and want a synonymous personal and corporate brand, you must be willing to live a life beyond reproach and steer clear of controversies.
— Ryan Kelley, Brand Strategy Account Coordinator