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Monday, October 9

The CEO as Brand Ambassador

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!


harshal said...

Hey, nice refreshing post. There are actually a few precedents to this.

There's the Ask Dr. Z campaign done by Energy BBDO in the recent past for Chrysler. But more of a case of the Chief Executive as mythical character. (easy to jettison if it doesn't work!)

On the other hand, there are the Sun Microsystems blogs - open to every one on the internet space. A rather nice way of showcasing thought leadership, i think.

Perhaps what the CEO does as brand, as opposed to CEO-speak as brand is critical to success?

Manish said...

Exactly... let me chk out the Sun Microsysstem blogs..havent really got around to do that!

Can you source the Chrysler communication?

harshal said...

The YouTube links

Also The Official Website

Sun's blogs are nice. But it really boils down to the culture more than anything else. Blogs as reflection of culture..hmm, truism that :)

pooR_Planner said...

Great post ... Here's my thought:

No idea how many consumer/ youngster know Rajeev Bakshi as the CEO of Pepsi and what difference he gonna make by going on air to help build confidence (thumbs down in all its true sense)

Vijay Mallaya, no matter what, is still the best brand ambassabor for UB Group especially Kingfisher and consumers want to know about his flamboyant lifestyle which even if little, adds some credibitlity (Arrogant leadership)

NRN & Premji makes sense because they build highly successful organizations (Leadership by example)

Bill Gates or Steve Jobs never featured in their ad campaign but helped build a strong brand and an equally strong consumer bond (Visionary Leadership)

Lastly, Brand Channel raised the same debate "CEO Pitchman" last year, post DrZ's success... (Nice examples Harshal)

The latest campaign from DHL www.dhl.com/alltheway is another good example of CEO/MD promoting their own brand in a great manner.


meraj said...

everyone forgot to mention Mr Virgin Branson.

Mr Sinha, you blog is turning into one ad-industry bashing exercise...and its highly justified!

Manish said...

hey thanks guys for all the examples... i am bad at this, or maybe its just my ignorance showing! is it the right time for having an offline version of our small forum? let me know your views. and how do we go about planning an APG India...

pooR_Planner said...

1.List out all participants, take a hefty fee, decide the topic for the day

2. Hire a shack ... Goa is a great place ;-) ... if not... we can manage at Chowpatty Beach (in that case participants should bring their own mattress)

3. Spend the day discussing about the topic, bitch about the pathetic condition of Indian advertisers, agencies, media neutral ideas, exceptional ambient executions. Sum up the day in 5 A3 sheets of white paper.

4. Before leaving and saying ba bye to fellow planners, we will take a pledge, fix the next meeting date, have bhel puri, meet the wayside astrologer for forecast on new business wins, get back home happily.

5. Lastly, send a CD and an invitation to Russell Davies, John Grant, Martin Sorell and John Wren.

Manish, pardon me for my bad sense of humour ... let's do it (am serious) ... its high time!!