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					                                                                                                                than Victor Kiam? Or Lee Iacocca’s
THE                                                                                                             “the buck stops here” approach for




CEO
                                                                                                                Chrysler? Witness folksy Dave
                                                                                                                Thomas hawking burgers in more
                                                                                                                than 500 ads for Wendy’s
                                                                                                                International. Or Frank Perdue, and
                                                                                                                later, son Jim, talking tough about
                                                                                                                tender chickens.

                                                                                                                Company Becomes Person
                                                                                                                Richard Branson’s irreverence and

                                                           AS BRAND                                             zeal for life have personified Virgin’s
                                                                                                                empire of record stores, airlines and
                                                                                                                soft drinks. Iconoclastic, hard-driving
                                                                                                                Steve Jobs, whose anti-establishment
     Their names are synonymous with their                                                                      approach permeates Apple Computer
     companies’ products—and that presents a                                                                    Inc., created a lasting impression of
                                                                                                                the brand that trickles down to users
     slew of unique challenges.                                                                                 who identify themselves as Mac devo-
                                                                                                                tees. “The company becomes about
     By Karen Benezra                                                                                           the person, and it has a personality to
                                                                                                                it,” says Robert Kahn, executive direc-
                                                                                                                tor at global brand consulting firm
                             an a balding, mid-                    Trademarks Personified                        Enterprise IG. “The CEO is the




         C
                             dle-aged man with a                   Signing on to be the company’s               absolute bottom line for a company.
                             big nose and goofy                    spokesperson isn’t the only path to          There’s a lot of power in that.”
                             grin really sell chick-               brand CEO status, though—nor is it                Iacocca, by going on TV and mak-
                             en? No, not alone,                    the only requirement. Brand CEOs             ing a personal statement, assured
                             says Jim Perdue. His                  are those who have come to personify         wary Americans that Chrysler was
           mug helps to market tender birds,                       their companies’ trademarks, whether         committed to delivering high-quality
           but the 51-year-old poultry company                     through family ties, a strong personal-      automobiles. And if a consumer could
           scion refuses to take sole credit for                   ity or high visibility.                      find a better car, he urged them to
           the success of a national TV advertis-                      Think Martha, Oprah, Jack, Bill,         buy it. It was a rare but perfect fit of
           ing campaign that features his smil-                    and “Chainsaw” Al. These power exec-         strategy and personality, says Brendan
           ing face peering through the window                     utives play—or played—such an inte-          Ryan, CEO of ad agency FCB
           of a warm oven. Consumer tests have                     gral role in defining their companies         Worldwide and chairman of the
           shown the advertisement has sparked                     that employees, customers and                American Association of Advertising
           above-average brand recognition and                     investors refer to them on a first-name       Agencies. “That moment demanded a
           interest among non-Perdue buyers.                       basis. They glad-hand dignitaries. They      personality to epitomize what
               Perdue attributes the success of his                testify before Congress. They with-          Chrysler was all about and why it was
           company’s branding efforts to the                       stand pitched battles with sharehold-        worth saving,” he says. “He got out
           quality of its product—chicken, in all                  ers. In effect, these captains of industry   and owned the problem.”
           its golden, plump glory—also fea-                       are brand icons inexorably linked to
           tured in the ad. If the product weren’t                 the reputations of Martha Stewart            Poked in the Public Eye
           excellent, no ad campaign, no matter                    Living Omnimedia, Harpo, General             There are reasons why CEOs should
           how good, would salvage the Perdue                      Electric, Microsoft and Sunbeam.             stay out of the spotlight, of course.
           brand image, he points out.                                 Such a role assumes greater chal-        Sometimes these brand icons suffer at
               But Perdue is wrong to discount                     lenges and, perhaps, yields greater ben-     the hands of corporate foes. Frank
           the weight of his name when it comes                    efits than those experienced by lesser-       Perdue was dogged by animal rights
           to building the corporate image and                     known bosses. The lasting impressions        activists opposed to factory farming—
           its most famous products. After all,                    these CEOs have bestowed upon their          and was once attacked. In 1992, a
           his is the company’s name; his father,                  businesses—and the corporate cultures        woman dressed in a chicken suit
           Frank, spent years on TV telling con-                   they have uniquely defined—set them           rushed the CEO during a public meet-
           sumers, “It takes a tough man to                        apart from the pack. Through their           ing and hurled a cream pie in his face.
           make a tender chicken.” As a result,                    strong leadership styles, corporate             Some industries simply don’t lend
           Perdue, as CEO of Perdue Farms Inc.,                    vision is communicated loudly and            themselves to vocal bosses who show
           shoulders a special responsibility: to                  clearly, and brand images are carved         their faces on TV. The late adman
           serve as the fresh face behind the                      out for years to come.                       David Ogilvy opposed CEOs’ appear-
           name and to represent the brand’s                           Who could better sell a turn-            ing in advertisements for their
           renewed message.                                        around story for Remington shavers           brands. “Only in the direst of cases,


24         D E CA D i m e n s i o n s   No v e m b e r / D e c e mb e r 2 0 0 6
show your clients’ faces,” was one of      ing up distressed companies and            Ellison, who started their companies
his favorite maxims. Ogilvy believed       slashing thousands of jobs to boost        from day one and became their public
such a ploy could be viewed as a sign      profitability before dressing them up       face” makes more sense, says Ryan.
of weakness, and that the agency that      for another sale. “At the end of the           And therein lies another challenge
developed such a campaign had no           day, they’re all people and they have      brand CEOs face: passing on the
good ideas of its own to sell a prod-      foibles and can find themselves in sit-     brand identity they’ve developed to a
uct. Ogilvy also reasoned that CEOs        uations that aren’t positive for a         successor. Jack Welch’s departure
come and go, creating a risk in associ-    brand,” says Kahn. “Nobody’s really        from GE created more than just one
ating a product or service with a sin-     perfect for a long time.”                  of the most closely watched horse
gle individual.                                But CEO-centered advertising can       races in succession history. He also
    Even if the CEO stays put, creating    be very effective for certain compa-       left his successor Jeffrey Immelt a dif-
a culture around his or her personali-     nies. Take Coors Brewing Co., for          ficult task: to create a name
ty can make the corporate brand            example. For more than 10 years, that      for himself in the
more vulnerable. Consider AT&T’s           company’s campaigns have featured          wake of his
Robert Allen, GM’s Roger Smith, or         Peter Coors, 55. “I [started by doing] a
IBM’s John Akers; each showed that         series [of national TV ads] talking
when egos get in the way, CEOs can         about the quality of our water,” says
grow arrogant. They stop listening to      Coors, who figured it was a one-time
trusted advisors and begin to breed        deal. But then Coors’ agency, FCB
negative energy, reflecting that back       Worldwide in Chicago, invited him to
on the company. “Roger Smith               do more, this time on drinking
became shorthand for a generation of       responsibly. The advertisements have
managerial puppetry,” says Jeffrey         done so well in helping Coors reach its
Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief         target audience of young men, that
Executive Leadership Institute and an      even though Coors is no longer
associate dean at the Yale School of       CEO—he was succeeded in 2000
Management.                                by W. Leo Kiely III—he
    To be sure, when highly visible        remains the focal point of
CEOs make bad decisions or fail            advertisements. “We’ve
entirely, their companies suffer as        built up the equity of my
well. “Personal actions, such as politi-   image,” he says.
cal decisions, take on more weight,”           Coors says he feels a responsibility
says Peter H. Coors, former CEO and        to represent his family and the compa-
now chairman of the eponymous              ny in his community. “There are non-
brewing company founded by his             family CEOs who use [their status] as      famous
great-grandfather in 1873. “What we        a tool to move their companies for-        boss’s departure, and
might do personally would have an          ward, as well. But perhaps it’s more       to develop an equivalent emotional
impact on the company.”                    natural if you have the name and           bond. Among Immelt’s first, and
    “People won’t feel good about          that’s what you like to do,” he says.      some say defining, moves was step-
buying your product if they don’t feel         The challenge for corporate lead-      ping up to donate $10 million to the
good about your company,” he adds.         ers is to determine when a CEO             September 11 disaster fund just two
     For years, the company bore the       should lend his or her personality to      days after the terrorist attacks.
reputation of a union-buster stem-         build the brand, although most agree         Many CEOs believe that if a compa-
ming from labor disputes at the brew-      the circumstances should specifically       ny’s values are solid, and if the image
ery from 1977 to 1987—not the best         call for it. “There are times when it is   of a product or service is strong, it
image to have when your main cus-          appropriate for a CEO to become            should be able to weather the depar-
tomers are young and blue collar.          involved, such as in times of crisis or    ture of a brand name CEO.
Coors says he “spent a great deal of       doubt,” says William R. Johnson, 52,         In order for the company’s products
time patching relationships with the       chairman, president, and CEO of the        to have a voice and an image inde-
community and unions” following            H.J. Heinz Co.                             pendent of the top executive, the
that chapter of the company’s history.                                                brand CEO has to have done a good
                                           Changing of the Guard                      job of establishing what the company
Nobody’s Perfect                           Much of a brand CEO’s success              stands for, communicating that
For years, quick-tempered George           depends on his or her personality or       vision to employees and motivating
Steinbrenner, a.k.a. “Boss Bluster,”       career history. Someone like Lou           them to develop a genuine connec-
was famous for firing Yankee coaches        Gerstner, for example, who was             tion to customers. ❖
and players on a whim. Even before         imported to IBM from another
the latest revelations about the miss-     industry, wouldn’t necessarily make a      Karen Benezra writes for Chief Executive
ing years on his resume, turnaround        good brand spokesman. But “some-           magazine, in which this article was origi-
artist Al Dunlap was known for pick-       one like Gates or [Oracle’s Larry]         nally published.



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