Purpose-led Brands and the Role of the CEO

purpose-led brands

Purpose-led leaders lead thriving businesses.

If you are a marketer faced with the task of re-branding or leading a brand strategy for your business, think about the person most influential to its success. Wondering who is essential to be part of the team? Ask yourself:

  • Who has the greatest insight into where your business needs to go?
  • Who can make sure that the company’s brand strategy embodies, and brings to life, this vision?
  • Who sees how the people, processes and policies of the business need to evolve to address future issues and opportunities?
  • Who is the best person to lead the organization forward in a focused, unified and purposeful manner?
  • Who do you need to ensure is on the team and willing to lead this project by your side?


Yet, how many CEOs play a vital role in the development of brand strategy – that is, to the point where they achieve real feeling of ownership of the strategy’s ambition? Going further, what does this mean to the successful deployment  and socialization of the brand strategy across the business?

Unfortunately, all too often, branding is seen as a subset of the business, a line-item in the overall business strategy, and the responsibility of a team (and their agency) reporting to the CMO.

In many cases, the resulting “brand book” invariably features an introduction from the CEO, in which there are a series of predictable, jargon-filled and corporately-safe comments. It may have the signature of the CEO below it, but few honestly believe the CEO has written, or even read, this letter.

Delegated activity, not a transformative business strategy

Indeed, for the CEO, the “brand” often is a mystery and something better left to others. It is something to be delegated and not to be owned. As such, to the CEO it is more of activity resulting in a document, than a key element of a transformative business strategy.

This state of affairs leaves any brand strategy, however meaningful, out on a limb. While the brand team will be passionate advocates of the strategy, everyone else in the company will, like the CEO, think of the brand as “someone else’s job”.

And this, sadly, is where many brand strategies crumble to pieces.

  • A brand strategy becomes a new logo and guidelines.
  • A strong brand promise is created, but it is not clear what it means or why it matters.
  • The brand strategy, while the right one, lives in a file cabinet drawer, or on the wall as a poster.
  • Or worse yet, a brand strategy is developed, yet never fulfilled on.

The brand strategy fails because it was neither truly “top-down” (it came from another “department”, not from the big honcho), nor “bottom-up” (because employees beyond the brand team didn’t see it as their job to do).

The value of CEO ownership

When a CEO is urged, encouraged and, if need be, prodded to take a lead in the brand strategy process, a different result is experienced. It’s not at all that the CEO develops or writes the strategy. Rather, the CEO comes to see how his or her vision is embodied in the brand strategy, and how it can be used as a tool to transform the organization so that it can be stronger today, and better fit for the future.

When a CEO is seen as the chief proponent of, and supporting voice for, the strategy, employees throughout the organization see the strategy as more core to the business, and what they do within that business. They pay attention to strategy (assuming its delivered to them in a personally relevant and emotionally important way) and absorb it’s intent into their work practices (again, assuming they are shown how to do just that).

The value of across-the-board brand activation

Truly purpose-led brands stand out because they not only enjoy top-down support starting at the CEO, but because the brand strategy doesn’t stop at communications to the external world.

In this bottom-up mode, purpose-led brands take an holistic role in transforming how the brand is experienced, both inside and outside the business. No one in the business is left behind, as the brand strategy is deployed and socialized in a way that makes it the company’s “way of being”. Where employees are taught what it means to “Live the brand” each and every day.

When they feel purpose-driven, focused and gratified, employees work individually and in teams to create an energy that attracts the best customers, the most talented recruits, the most potent partners and the right investors. And your business thrives.

Top-down, bottom-up brand purpose-led strategies for better results overall

Brand strategies that embrace this “top-down, bottom-up” thinking aren’t relegated to the sidelines by the organization. Rather, as CEO-empowered forces, the relevant ambitions of the strategy become ideas which shape employee attitudes and behavior across the business.

Being based in the CEO’s vision, these purpose-led brand strategies work harder to point the business in the right direction, move it ahead with greater speed and agility, and lift it to a higher, more meaningful level in the hearts and minds of people.

Interested in learning more about a purpose-led brand strategy? Curious how to transform your business with a brand strategy? Download our white paper below.

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Emotive Brand works with CEO”s to help create purpose-led brand strategies that transform business.

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