Once upon a time, the brand was a story told by posters and advertisement. The values connected to a brand were conveyed through the products or the service, and not thanks to the people. Years in which an effective unique selling proposition and a good average investment were sufficient to hit the target.
Today, the unbridled attention-seeking behavior of people permeates various environments such as branding, with reference to that world of meanings, values and behaviors that make a brand worth our emotions and our positive judgement. If the logo is the brand’s visual emblem, the CEO may become, in some situation, the “immune carrier” of the brand’s symbolic and cultural values through presence, dialogue, communication and actions, all of them suitable for a social media share.
If we say Virgin, we can only think to Richard Branson. Philantropist tycoon of Virgin Group, Branson is the slightly-freaky man that transformed the gyms into some kind of touristic villages, Virgin Active, the airlines into something more than a mean of transportation, and a brand into a rock radio – to cite only some of his results – creating, in his words, one of the most compelling brand in the world. It is easier to have a dialogue with Richard, a human being (although in a digital format), than to talk with an abstract entity portrayed by a logo. Richard is what we can call a Social CEO: he manages a blog freely accessible from the Virgin website and just labeled “Richard”, and has many active social networks with 2 million likes on Facebook, 1 million on Instagram, many videos on Youtube. If you type “Virgin” on search engines, he is the one that appears. A dreaming, revolutionary, explorer, positive and energetic man, just like the brand he stands for, always looking for new and unexplored business challenges. Brand positioning and CEO behaviour seem to coincide thanks to a precise diffusion on every channel, with full respect to the brand’s consistency.
If Richard is more willing to be part of the virtual square, Elon Musk, a second worth-to-mention Social CEO, is usually spontaneously cited by his fans, and largely shared on the web through articles, quotes and memes. Tesla Motors’ man, Elon is the inventor of the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space X), a virtual arena with more than 7 million followers on Twitter and a series of Facebook profiles opened upon fans’ initiative, that brought science-fiction into product design realizing the dream of many people to drive a car with a space dna.
Visionary, pioneer, innovator, robots’ friend (the web is filled by photomontages of Elon suited up like Iron Man), he looked beyond the boundaries of planet Earth giving to Tesla a humanoid personality that has distinguished this brand form the mare magnum of automotive companies. Successful CEO = successful brand: a good reputation of the number one has a positive reverberation on the product, if it is supported by technology and quality.
These leaders are both bearers of their company’s values that by exposing in first person on the social networks, with at least two active profiles, become to our eyes the brand itself, occupying those position of the Kapferer Prysm connected to culture, personality and brand-audience relationship. Two men that are the main drivers of the growing trend of the Social CEOs, already highlighted by Fortune in 2016, that poses Linkedin as the primary social followed by Facebook and Twitter.
Nowadays, a brand exists if it is social and its CEO has measurable responsibilities also and above all in terms of reputation, goodwill and number of well-managed channels. Meditate, CEOs, meditate.