Read an article on the subject in the Indian Management- Oct issue
The following sketchy ideas and examples were traded:
1. The CEO as the rescuer of the beleaguered brand(eg. Rajeev Bakshi and Pepsi)
2. Source credibility of such campaigns
3. From Vijay Mallaya to the MDH masala owner, a wide array of CEOs have tried to be the face of their companies with varying degrees of success.
I have my set of thoughts on the subject. Not in any particluar order.
a. The game is about a long term commitment. One can't just play superman saviour or 'CEO as post-it' in times of crisis.
When a Narayan Murthy gets into the Bangalore city management committee, he is believable. When a Rahul Bajaj speaks his mind, he is listened to. But the MDH masala CEO is reduced to a patriarchal caricature in his TVCs. At times, Vijay Mallayas' glamour quotient over-shadows his commitment to his brands!
b. CEO brand endorsement is as much about 'Competency Endorsement' as it is about 'Position Endorsement'. When Kiran Majumdar Shaw talks about bio-tech and its role in the Indian economy, we believe her, but Rajeev Bakshi might be looked at sceptically when he becomes the defence lawyer for Pepsi!
Why should I believe you now? Where were you earlier? What's your POV as a consumer on the risks of pesticide contamination?
c. PR has a bigger role to play than image-based communication. The right environment, a POV on larger macro issues, thought leadership and the subtlety of messaging are required to make CEO-brand-ambassadorship work better.
d. It's more about long term strategic communication than short-term tactical usage and gains.
e. The CEO must find his own style, voice, tonality and the preferred medium. I can expect Narayan Murthy or Azeem Premji maintaining his own blog as the Infosys/ Wipro 'Thought Architects'. Even Biyani on retail would be quite credible!
f. CEOs' deeds are more important than their words. I would prefer Ratan Tata over Mukesh Ambani even though the latter is the recipient of the 'ET Businenessman of the Year award 2006'.
g. Obviously, it won't work for companies where CEO tenureships are short.
We as agencies again largely do not have an opinion on the subject. Even when we do have, our distance from the corner office is directly proportional to our say on the subject. Pity, because in a wired, connected and warp-speed changing world, CEO as brand ambassadors assume great importance!
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