“Brand” is one of the vaguer business terms out there. Everyone knows a good one when they see it and while excellent branding is important for a businesses’ success, it can be difficult to figure out what exactly a CEO’s role is in the brand creation and maintenance process. A business can only get so far before these issues must be addressed and a strong brand is essential for growth.
Here are issues facing every CEO:
Create One Big Brand or Many Smaller Brands?
Businesses have two options – create an umbrella brand that applies to all products/offerings/services or create a separate brand for each entity. With one overarching identity, one reputation is built under that name and it carries over from project to project giving extra momentum, trust, and recognition – ultimately making it easier for businesses to introduce new offerings. For example, Apple didn’t change its branding when it delved into the mobile phone market, because their reputation for innovation and design was a marketing asset. Likewise, Google never attempted to rebrand Motorola’s phones when it bought the company because Google isn’t renowned for its hardware.
However, an umbrella brand might not work if the offerings are dramatically different. If some offerings are high end but some aren’t, or the target audience of each product is at polar ends of the income or demographic spectrum, segmentation is a better idea. That’s why the major car companies market their luxury vehicles separately . . . Toyota vs. Lexus, Volkswagen vs. Audi. The difference in target audiences somewhat nullifies the benefit of added momentum from an umbrella brand and could mean branding each product is a better fit. The challenge with separate branding means starting from ground zero every time there’s a new product and that can be expensive.
CEO as Spokesperson?
Depending on the business model, the option exists for the CEO to be front and center and the public image of the company. For businesses where the lead executive is meeting buyers and investors regularly in face-to-face meetings, the image of the CEO will be inextricably tied with the business when executing this strategy.
The key is to be transparent, especially in this digital age. Poor execution reflects badly on the company and social media will vilify the less than reputable.
For those who don’t regularly meet directly with customers, going the “Geico gecko” route and outsourcing the public image is a strong strategy. Whether a fictionalized character or a celebrity – like William Shatner for Priceline – someone or something becomes the public image of the company. The risk here is less control over how another person behaves – remember – the “Dell Dude” was arrested on drug related charges.
Maintaining Trust As the Business Grows
Business owners know mistakes will be made. Instead of stressing about potential mistakes, have a contingency plan in place and when mistakes arise, address them as quickly as possible. Mistakes present opportunities to grow the brand when handled properly, but a misstep could be a brand’s undoing.
A good example of this is when Buffer, a popular social media tool, was hacked in October of 2013. They addressed the issue as quickly as possible in a way that minimized damage for both Buffer and their users. This approach is certainly preferable to trying to sweep a situation under the rug or playing the blame game (i.e. “It wasn’t our fault.”). After the customers’ and investors’ concerns are dealt with, the next step is to figure out what can be learned from the mistake and implement the solution immediately.
Keeping all of these things in mind won’t make building the business as easy as assembling that Ikea coffee table – though it can be just as frustrating – but knowing the answers to these questions will serve CEOs through every step of the growth process.
Sal Martinez is the CEO of MX3 Homes, an innovative East Austin home builder specializing in neoürban style. The company also provides unique investment opportunities in the Austin real estate market. Find them online at mx3homes.com
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