Executive Branding and What it Can Do for Your Business
Executive branding is a relatively new concept in marketing. It centres around the idea of using an individual as marketing leverage, rather than the business itself. It utilises the relatively intuitive concept that potential customers are more likely to be drawn to the actions of a person within a business, than the entire business.
Essentially, executive branding is the process of developing a personal brand. You market yourself, so that people know who you are, what you stand for, and what your strengths are. Personal branding can be a great way to draw positive attention to yourself. Technology today means you can build an online profile of yourself, through LinkedIn, Twitter, and various other forums. This means potential employers know why you'd be a good fit for them before they even meet you.
Where this personal branding can really excel, however, is when its used as leverage for a larger company. Executives and other high ranking figures - hence the name executive branding - can utilise their significant space in public forum to help develop their personal brand. This has a subsequent effect on the company itself. By being more transparent, the public will be more inclined to trust these executives, and in turn their company.
Different strategies for different businesses
Think of this very simple, yet very common scenario. Company A is attempting to demonstrate its social consciousness, and desire to leave a positive footprint on the world. The company puts out a statement, declaring its concern for various social cause, and the need for major businesses to contribute positively to them. Let's say you read this statement - what do you think? You might think, 'great, I agree, hopefully they walk the walk'. You might also think 'this is an obvious publicity stunt, and Company A is doing it purely to put themselves in a positive light and gain more customers'.
Now consider Company B. Company B, like Company A, wants to showcase its propensity for corporate social responsibility. Instead of using the company itself to demonstrate this, though, Company B uses its employees who have positions of reach to highlight the company's values. For example, John Smith, a high ranking executive within the company, may be positioned to influence numerous potential customers. Mr. Smith makes a point of continually highlighting his own concern for social issues. He notes what he thinks are some ways to make positive change in the world. Likewise, the company CEO continually references his desire to help those less fortunate than him in public forums.
When people see this, they react very differently to the way they might have reacted to Company A's corporate social responsibility statement. This time, people are likely to think 'gee, John Smith seems like a really nice guy'. Maybe they think 'Company B's CEO seems to genuinely care about others'. See where this is going? The ensuing thought is inevitably about Company B, and how great it is that the high ranking people within the company have such strong values. The logical conclusion is that the company will be run in a way that reflects these values.
How does it help your company?
Let's say Company A and Company B are in direct competition. They are selling a similar product for similar prices, and most people have very little reason to care which of the two companies they purchase from. With these different strategies though, the effective use of executive branding by Company B could be the tipping point for many customers. Many people who had no preference for either company now have a reason to choose Company B instead of Company A. They believe more in what Company B's employees were saying than what Company A was saying as an organisation. People believe people more than businesses.
Executive branding helps to develop trust. It ensures that potential customers feel connected to your organisation by giving them an insight into the people within it. Simply attempting to develop your brand using your brand itself is not always effective. In contrast, helping the public to see your employees creates an element of transparency, and helps to ensure your company is branded with a positive image. Basically, you brand yourself before you brand your company.
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