When does a CEO need a SEPARATE personality brand?
No, you aren’t fired. But your “official” personality might be. When perception is everything, sometimes the CEO of a company needs a personality brand. But at other times, it’s the LAST thing you need to focus on and detract you from leading your company. A lot of commentary focuses on how to create a personality brand. The unanswered question: WHEN do you need one?
First, let’s clarify what we mean by “personality brand.” This isn’t using the Marlboro Man to give personality to Philip Morris. This is Richard Branson creating an image for himself that appeals to consumers while reminding them of (and selling) Virgin Atlantic.
A personality brand is the perception of an individual held by the public (consumers).
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, Why would I need this? I’m not Taylor Swift. Personal branding isn’t just for politicians and celebrities. The reason you (eventually) need a personality brand is inherently tied to your company: consumers are more interested in commerce with people rather than businesses.
But that doesn’t mean drop everything and focus on how you package and present yourself to the public. You must know when it’s time, otherwise, you’ll distract yourself from important leadership functions. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your personal brand. If you focus on your brand first, not only will that hurt the internal development of your company, but consumers may also miss the link between you and your business. When someone asks “Why do I care about the Kardashians?”, the personality brand has become disconnected from the product.
A personality brand is needed when your business is ready……
Let’s turn back to Richard Branson. What’s the implicit connection? Consumers identify with Richard’s swashbuckling personality by flying Virgin.
But… Virgin happened first (actually, Virgin Records happened first but more on that below). Consumers didn’t start flying Virgin Atlantic because they knew this guy named Branson. The company had to come first, because Branson needed to build credibility as an entrepreneur before consumers would follow him as a personality. In fact, Richard Branson built at least 2 companies before his personality brand took off: Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic. He had to build a business in order to establish his credibility first. Here are 3 factors that help determine when it’s time to build your CEO personality.
- Your company doesn’t need your day-to-day focus.
You should NEVER focus on your personality brand when your company is still getting off the ground and needs your leadership. This is when your focus should remain with building, organizing, and growing the project that inspired you to start your own company. Even if you’ve established yourself as an entrepreneur, if your business still needs leadership, that’s where your focus should be. Be sure your expertise as an entrepreneur is on solid footing, before turning your attention elsewhere.
- Your business needs renewed vigor and personality.
Your business is off the ground. You have a Brand Archetype that drew and built a customer base, yet, something has stalled. Your business has built a visual and verbal identity in multiple channels and yet, something feels flat. If you’ve delegated leadership, then a well-crafted personality brand can help fuel your business brand so that consumers identify with a more human-side of your business.
- You are ready to expand your business interests without changing your current company.
Your passion project is like a finely tuned concert piano, singing to customers with a highly appealing voice. Your Brand Archetype has provided a great personality that resonates with your audience. And you’re ready for more. But you don’t want to rock a boat that is sailing fast and smooth for the horizon: you want to expand without changing a company that works. A personality brand can be used to expand your name into other areas without changing your initial business. It’s not a new subbrand for your company, but a lateral move that customers will follow because they like your personality and you delivered with your first enterprise. They now trust you with something new.
Virgin Records didn’t expand into the airline business. Instead, Branson took his experience as CEO and frustration with a canceled flight, and built a new company. He didn’t dilute his other company’s brand by changing its focus (in fact, he sold Virgin Records to provide capital for Virgin Atlantic).
A personality brand can provide you with the necessary identity to connect in stronger ways with consumers, but the timing must be right. Otherwise, if your business fails due to your neglect, then you may destroy your credibility as an entrepreneur. Your personality brand will become meaningless.
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