Then there are healthy obsessions, like that of the brand-obsessed CEO. This is the chief executive officer who treats brand cultivation and stewardship with the ardor of a runner training for a big race.
These CEOs understand that, now more than ever, brand is everything and everything is brand. In our hyper-digital world, where people have instant access to more information than ever before in human history, and when a single tweet can make or break a company's reputation, the brand must be an all-consuming fixation for the CEO.
Here are five things a brand-obsessed CEO does every day:
1. Guards the corporate image. Today's all-in-one-brand CEO recognizes that corporate image has become inextricably linked with brand image. Many top companies are showing remarkable levels of social consciousness -- because the CEOs are passionate in their beliefs, no doubt, but also because people are increasingly mindful of the values and ethics of the companies they buy from, partner with or work for.
2. Never underestimates the power of social media. An estimated 2.8 billion people worldwide are on social media. A CEO who doesn't believe it's part of the job to regularly think about how to harness this unprecedented communication engine for brand advantage -- or protect the company from a social media disaster -- is missing the boat.
No CEO can (or should) be involved in every detail of their company's social media strategy, but they need to be having frequent conversations with those who are. Their personal sign-off on any major campaign that includes a social media component should be required. And they need to be weighing their own social media presence representing the company -- where they should be and what they should be saying.
3. Relishes external communications activities. The brand-obsessed CEO grasps that good PR remains a potent force in shaping a brand. He or she sticks close to the head communications person, in many cases having that executive report directly to the CEO, rather than, say, through the CMO. The CEO makes time for opportunities to talk to important reporters, analysts and other influencers, rather than delegating those tasks to others, and works hard on polishing their speaking skills at conferences.
4. Doesn't act stupid in a crisis. All the work that goes into nurturing a brand can be undone in one day with a misguided move by the CEO. (Take, for example, United Airlines and its lame response to a brand-altering incident in April, when a ticketed passenger was told to give up his seat to a United crew member.)
Crises happen, but how a company responds can define the brand for months or years. Come across as anything less than honest, transparent and caring, and you're asking for trouble.
5. Shows brand sensibilities in structuring the company. It may not sound sexy, but a CEO's main priority in organizing the company's teams should be how they serve the brand.
In today's world, the CEO has no choice but to sweat every aspect of brand image and lead the company accordingly. It's perhaps the healthiest obsession a business leader can have.