An incident occurred yesterday that got me thinking about the importance of branding. At our company, like many I am sure, we often deliberate about “where to brand”. Recently, there have been some great blog posts and great reads thinking through the question of personal versus corporate branding – the most recent of which I found compelling from a CEO who had tried to transition his personal brand into a corporate success. If you look at some of the models out there – they would tell you that there is success at every level.
Before I go into the more recent of these examples, let’s look at the well known examples. In terms of mixing personal and corporate branding, you need to look no further than Steve Jobs of Apple and Bill Gates of Microsoft. Most people see this model and think – that is it! But there there are other models which I think are very compelling. For instance, look at IDG. For the most part, what IDG has chosen to brand is the product – the business units and their solutions – not the personality and in many ways not even the parent company. And then look at CNET – that is a corporate brand which has then inspired personality brands beneath – but always kept the branding at the corporate level strong and intact. And finally, look at Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart – these are individuals who focused on building the personal brand and then leveraging that brand into a opportunity
So how does a CEO decide?
With the proliferation of social media, there is no question that personal branding is going to be an important part of every branding scenario. To that end, I would suggest that CEO’s do not resist it for themselves or for their employees, but instead encourage it. Ask as many employees as possible to blog, tweet, and promote their brand within the overall umbrella of the company and organization.
But then – there is a decision to make. The decision, I think, comes down to three option – 1) Brand yourself as the leader or 2) Brand the company or 3) Brand the products and solutions you offer. I would suggest that each CEO needs to decide a primary option and push on that. Few of us, if any, can push more than one option and be successful without being diverted. For me, all decisions need a clear focus and what I have focused most on it which will be the most effective in driving revenue and building value. To that end, a CEO can look at each of these options and work through the if-then analysis – if I choose this path where will the organization be whereas if i choose that path where will the organization be. With that in mind, the decision should rise to the top and be obvious to the CEO.
Are you thinking about branding? Are you struggling with the personal versus corporate versus product branding dilemma? What have you decided and why?