Tag Archives: ford

brand leadership

Strong brands have strong leaders with strong personalities. This branded leadership will help organizations succeed because the audience will have confidence that the leaders will respond to their needs.

colonel sandersLeaders of the organization (at all levels) can influence brand perception. How they exercise that influence can have positive or negative effects.

But where does this leadership come from? There are three primary sources:

Shoppers trust Joe down at Joe’s Butcher Shop more than the corporate meat cutter behind the glass at the Mega-Low Mart. The product is similar in both instances. Why is there a major perception difference? It’s because shoppers perceive Joe as a guide, curator, and maybe even a friend. His personal integrity stands behind his product. The meat at the big box store is presented as a faceless commodity.

And the naysayers say…

“Well, okay, of course the small mom & pop business can do this stuff, right? That’s their strength. Major national brands can’t do it.”

Perhaps you’re reading this post on a product you picked up down at Steve’s Apple Store.

Steve Jobs was defined by Apple and Apple will always be defined by Steve Jobs (and Woz). Jobs’ personal credibility bled through to the brand. While he was infamously a hands-on micromanager in development and design, he didn’t personally sell iPhones, Macs, and the rest to consumers….Or did he?…You saw the personal connection between him, the brand, and consumers at when he unveiled a new Apple product when he was alive and you certainly saw it when he died.

You’ve seen this strong personal leadership that crossed the veil into the brand at several strong corporate entities. Tony Hsieh at Zappos. Richard Branson at Virgin. Herb Kelleher at SouthWest. Oprah at … Oprah. All individuals whose personal leadership made those brands great.

And the naysayers say…

“Well, okay, of course the founders of these companies made a huge impact on the corporate brand. But our founder is ____. (boring / evil / dead / etc) We can’t do it.”

No doubt Henry Ford, in his day, made as much or more of an influence on his company as any of the people I mentioned above. His influence on the Ford brand is finished. But with social media connections to people like Scott Monty (@ScottMonty), there is a personal leadership and connection to the brand. Through an effective social media strategy, consumers can talk “personally” to a brand and feel a one-on-one connection that is similar to Joe down at the butcher shop.

Another point to remember is that brand leadership happens at every level of the organization. The barista that you interact with every morning who knows your name and you know theirs is more of the face of Starbucks to you than Howard Schultz is. Develop a corporate culture that helps the people who are ambassadors of your brand (employees, volunteers, other customers, and more) show brand leadership.

People want to interact with personalities, not corporations. No matter where the leadership for that personality comes from, organizations will benefit from it whether it be from an employee empowered corporate culture, an interactive social media presence, or a visible dynamic founder.

Look at me

Ad campaigns that feature the owner of a business are like a horrific car accident. You want to look away, but your primal nature wants to see the carnage.

It happens a lot in local ads. When I worked in radio, there was a constant stream of small business owners coming in to read their copy…which, on the air, sounded like they were reading their copy. TV is even worse. Some of these people don’t know any better. And some are just doing it because they like the attention.

Local ads like this usually last a long time because the owner personally sees the results. People come up to them and say “I saw you on TV!” The owner is constantly reassured that people are seeing the commercial…so they buy more. This is one reason these types of ads are so prevalent…media salespeople know that vanity spots are usually good for an extended run. An ad that doesn’t feature the owner (or heaven forbid – his kids/grandkids/etc) is probably just as effective. But since most businesses have no marketing tracking whatsoever, vanity spots are seen as “effective” by the gut check of the owner.

OK. Small businesses don’t know any better. What about larger companies?

Well, when there was a fungus among us in contact lens solution, Bausch & Lomb trotted out their CEO who looked like he was making a hostage tape.

Bill “I’m related to Henry” Ford has all the personality of Al Gore when talking about the innovation and “exciting things” happening at Ford.

Sometimes the owner is so non-camera-compatible that it becomes a hallmark of the ads…and becomes good. Case-in-point: The late Dave Thomas at Wendy’s.

And we’re about to have another instance of “bad becomes good” with the current “Dr. Z” commercials featuring DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche. (I’m actually appalled at one of these spots where Dr. Z and another guy crash…and walk away. The disclaimer is not big enough here.)

The point is that sticking the CEO out front in an ad is not always the best option. Actually, it rarely is. And a good leader/manager/owner will be intelligent enough to realize their own limitations…and decline.