Working in a brand agency, one of the most common questions we get asked by our clients is, “How do I get my CEO on board with this brand project?”

It’s not surprising why this question keeps coming up. The CEO is the single most important person in the brand building process. They must believe in the brand, embrace it, then imbue it from the top down.

If you don’t have their buy-in, you won’t have a brand project. Simple as that.

So how do you get your CEO on side?

The first step is to understand your CEO’s mindset. You can then push the right buttons to sell in why it’s important and necessary to undertake the brand project.

From experience CEOs tend to fall into one of the following personality types. Which one is your CEO?

The Optimist

This CEO presents the greatest challenge, believing ‘we just need a new logo’ or new ‘look and feel’. There is no need to engage with people in the business or with clients, ‘all we need to do is freshen things up a bit’. With this mindset, he can be heavily price driven. Focusing on what value the brand project will bring to the bottom line is critical.

The Realist 

This CEO knows a new or refined brand means organisational change. It means listening, engaging and having an open mind. This CEO knows they have to sell the brand internally and externally. This CEO knows the power of a new idea to unite and invigorate the team. Put simply, they get it. Your job’s already half done.

The Skeptic

This CEO has either been burnt in the past, has poorly executed a brand rollout, or simply undervalues the role of marketing and design within his business. Change is slow, the business becomes paralysed with indecision and missed opportunities to innovate. The Skeptic needs to see a brand strategy succeed multiple times with other companies prior to taking action. By this point the market has already moved on.

The only way to bring them with you is to prove that it will work – and why. Your brand agency has to play a major part in this – draw on them. They need to give you enough ammunition from past performance and insights to convince this CEO to take that leap of faith.

The Defeatist

“We are never going to change the culture of the business”. This CEO fluffs around the edges of the brand, making superficial changes that they can ‘control’. Change management and engagement with the team is seen as futile and too hard. There’s no easy path here. You have to take the reins of selling in the brand to your team and empowering others to become brand ambassadors – then hopefully your CEO will do the same.

In Denial 

This CEO is not aware of a changing environment around them. New competitors. New communication channels. Changing customer needs. Inconsistent messages going out. Again, get the help of your brand agency to open their eyes to the challenges facing the company – and the opportunities.

The Jumper

This CEO can start with the best of intentions, but they end up jumping in and out of the branding process at vital times. This results in half-hearted involvement in, and adoption of, the brand. You have to be the driver and stay true to the course to firstly get the project off the ground – and then keep it on track.

The Latecomer

Pays little interest in the branding project until launch and then changes key pillars of the brand late in the game, weakening the foundation of the tactical execution and frustrating the team. Again, there’s not much you can do here. The positive is that it’s likely you’ll get their buy-in at the start. The negative is you never know what curve ball is waiting for you. Whatever they put up, come back to what will be true to the brand. It may be that you just need to tweak the messaging and execution to appease the whims of the CEO, but still maintain the integrity of the brand.

The Absentee 

Plays no role in the brand building and leaves it to the marketing team. This CEO then wonders why the brand is shallow and hasn’t been able to get internal buy-in. It’s in your best interests to involve your CEO in the process as much as you can, no matter how reluctant they may be. A CEO who truly believes and connects with the brand is a powerful force – and a huge help to your role.

 

If you understand how your CEO thinks and acts and tackle this early in the project, then you can be proactive in guiding the outcome. The best way to start is with candid and open discussions, along with support from your brand agency.

Once you’ve worked out how you can get your CEO on board, keep them involved in the process as much as the situation calls for – based on their personality.

Hopefully then, you can provide the CEO with the tools required for them to lead the brand – and to make it a success.

Richard Foster
BY Richard Foster ON 18 May 2012
Richard Foster is the head of writing at Melbourne branding agency TANK. Richard’s focus is helping organisations find clarity and meaning in their written and spoken communications. For more information visit tankbranding.com.au