Corporate Eye

Do CEOs Help or Hurt Brands?

In a recent poll conducted by AdWeekMedia via LinkedIn, people were asked to rate the credibility of commercials for brands with and without the company CEOs in those ads.  The key question was — does having the company CEO in an ad make the ad more or less credible?

The results are actually a bit surprising to me.  49% of respondents said that the presence of the CEO made no difference to the credibility of an ad.  I expected that number to be higher.  Furthermore, 36% said that it makes an ad more credible when the CEO is in it while only 14% said it makes an ad less credible.  Again, I’m surprised.  Do over one-third of consumers actually feel that an ad is more credible because the company’s CEO is in it?  I’m amazed by that. 

The results beg the satirical question — should marketing messages come from the CEO?  For example, “I use XYX brand, and so should you.”  I hope not.

Maybe 20 years ago I would believe these statistics, but they amaze me today.  In a world where the news is wrought with stories of CEOs allowing companies to self-destruct, pursuing unethical and/or illegal practices, and taking corporate jets to Washington D.C. hearings while their companies are nearing failure, I have to wonder how accurate these statistics are.

Seeing a CEO in a commercial has no effect on me at all.  If anything, it has a negative effect because it makes me wonder if that’s really the best the marketing team could do.

Just recently, Dominos got a lot of flack from consumers who posted blog posts (example) voicing their dislike of the Dominos CEO Bailout commercials (watch below).  

I think a CEO’s presence in a commercial devalues the message, because most people can’t relate to them and they’re not necessarily thought of that highly anymore.   Certainly, there are some CEOs that can help a commercial and add credibility (e.g., Steve Jobs), but there are far more who either hurt a brand or don’t help at all when they appear in commercials.  In other words, most of the time, the marketing team can do better.

What do you think?  Do CEOs help or hurt brands when the appear in commercials for them?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, TodayShow.com, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
 
Comments

I really enjoy seeing CEOs in commercials. I can see this concept eventually getting over-cooked, but in the era of corporate irresponsibility and social media, I think the strategy is smart especially when a brand is trying to re-invent itself (e.g.: Domino’s). In recent decades, brands became too corporate, too self-indulgent. Putting your CEO front-and-center takes confidence and injects brands with a human personality that stands behind the product. Of course, this is very subjective.

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