Friday, November 20, 2015

CEO As Chief Brand Advocate

While the marketing department should have the skill sets necessary to create the brand’s identity, communicate its promise, increase its awareness and generally promote the brand, it takes the entire organization to consistently deliver on the brand’s promise.

A brand’s promise is delivered through its product, but also though its services, including the services that are wrapped around the product. And the promise is delivered by something broader than its products and services - the entire customer experience of the brand from first awareness of the brand through brand purchase and usage. That is, the brand’s promise is either delivered or not at each point of contact the customer has with the brand.

This is why employee selection, training and management are critical to the brand’s success. This is why organization culture is critical to the brand’s success…and business metrics, systems and processes are critical to the brand’s success, as are investment and budgeting decisions. Everything must be aligned in support of delivering the brand’s promise. Otherwise, the brand is just making a hollow promise, which is much more likely to fail.

The marketer who has primary responsibility for the brand needs to be well respected throughout the organization. He or she needs to be an outstanding communicator and a highly skilled influencer as many actions that need to be taken on the brand’s behalf will exist outside of his or her formal authority.  However, ultimately, the CEO should hold the brand’s vision, embody its values and carry its torch. This is the only way to ensure that the customer experience of the brand is correctly and consistently delivered each time he or she encounters the brand.

In my experience, CEOs like taking on the role of chief brand architect and advocate because the brand is a very useful vehicle through which they can deliver their vision for their organization’s success. CEOs can talk about the brand’s mission, vision and values. They can talk about its essence, promise and DNA. They can talk about its personality and how it should treat its customers. CEOs can even use the brand to talk about business models and competitive strategy.

In my ideal design of brand support, the CEO is the chief brand architect and advocate. He or she is assisted by a senior level marketer who is assigned overall responsibility for management of the brand. And together, they enlist the support of all employees as enthusiastic brand advocates.

Understanding of and delivery against the brand’s promise is an enterprise-wide activity. This is why it requires vision and support from the top and all-hands support throughout the enterprise. The marketer with primary responsibility for the brand has the heady task of being advisor to the king (CEO), but also the king’s designated “point person” in ensuring that the organization’s resources are aligned in support of the brand’s promise. While this is not an easy job, it is a very rewarding one.

So, I am arguing that the CEO should be chief brand architect and advocate but that it is also important to assign a senior marketer the task of managing the brand on a daily basis.  And finally, I am arguing that all employees be enlisted in support of the brand’s promise.

If this feels very different from the way you support your organization’s brand, consider how you can move your organization toward a top to bottom approach to brand advocacy.

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