Branding is a big deal, and as business leaders, we know this well. But the way the marketing industry positions branding is a little strange. It’s all about your company, products, logos, colors, etc. Rather, it’s all about what the big guys are doing. Coca-Cola basically bought Christmas. Sweet! That’s how branding works, right?

Well, sometimes. Take Tesla, for instance. When you think about Tesla, what comes to mind first—electric cars, a sleek logo or Elon Musk?

The CEO handles the day-to-day of the company, from making boardroom decisions to addressing critical concerns. The CEO is a leader. But what role do they play in marketing? In our current economy, it should be a big one.

It can be challenging to know where and when company leadership should be most involved, so I want to answer the question, “When do I use CEOs in marketing campaigns?” If you’re a CEO, an agency, C-level marketer or have the power to leverage the CEO as an asset, this guide’s for you. And even if you don’t have that power yet, take this opportunity to learn when and where you could position a CEO in the future. Heck, that might even be you one day!

Understanding CEOs, Marketing and Personal Branding

Every CEO should have a role in the marketing department. Whether it’s aligning goals, motivating teams, making product decisions or creating synergy between marketing and sales, CEO contributions are critical to marketing.

But I’m not talking about handling broad activities. What is the CEO’s role in the actual marketing campaigns themselves? CEOs always hustle to sell their company to customers, but what about selling themselves?

CEOs have to take ownership of their brand’s marketing department and think about how they can sell themselves to benefit the company. Customers love to hear about your brand. But your brand is a thing. Sure, customers may associate your brand with “stuff” (e.g., colors, emotions, places, objects, etc.), but what about a person? Is there an empathetic human customers can connect to your brand?

That’s the perfect fit for a CEO. Each is understood as a subject matter expert and they’re positioned to become a key driver in customer acquisition and retention. How does that work? Let’s dig deeper…

When and Where to Include CEOs in Marketing Campaigns

But isn’t the marketing department its own thing? Sure, but a little leadership never hurts. Including CEOs in marketing campaigns serves two purposes:

  1. It helps customers connect with your brand on a deeper level, establishing a personal connection with a person
  2. It builds the CEO’s personal branding, which trickles into your brand

And plenty of campaigns are perfect for CEOs, like about videos, emails, social media and on the product.

About Us Videos

The power of videos in marketing is unbelievable. For instance, videos on your landing page boost conversions up to 80%. Even better, just one video on your homepage makes it 53x more likely to land on the first page of Google search results. No wonder 52% of marketers say that video has the best marketing ROI.

So, use video to help customers connect with your CEO. About Us videos do one thing really well: they make your leads like you, which is a bigger deal than you think. CEOs are positioned to make customers feel special.

About Us videos humanize your company, and they give customers face time with your CEO. That’s important, because 68% of customers will leave if they think the company is indifferent toward them. So many agencies focus on trying to make customers want products, but how are you making customers feel about your company?

An About Us video with your CEO personally engaging with customers is  effective in making them feel wanted. Don’t believe me? HubSpot’s About Us video is one example that hits all the right notes.

Emails from the CEO

Oh, look! I got a new email. Who could it be from? It’s the CEO of that beverage brand I was checking out. Their competitors just sent me a generic email, which didn’t feel personal at all. What’s happening now? Am I special?

Why yes, yes I am.

A personalized letter from a CEO is a game changer. In fact, 81% of execs say it’s critical to have a CEO who is social with customers.

Your approach is the challenging part, based on your lined of business. Product-based businesses have less wiggle room re: custom vs. template email. Templated emails are the default, because there are just too many customers. But don’t forget a few magic fields to personalize those emails. For services-based brands, it’s easy to craft personal emails to big leads or customers and save the templated messages for the “small fries.”

You should also consider when and where these emails are appropriate. Customers shouldn’t think the interaction is scripted, like it’s part of a broad automated campaign. Reserve the CEO’s voice for specific occasions (major company news, crisis response, etc.), so you don’t degrade the power of the email.

Social Media

If you’re a CEO (or you work with a CEO) and you aren’t active on social media, that’s a problem. Your customers expect it from you. They have concerns, questions and big-ticket problems, so you need to be available to answer them.

Food for thought: 82% of consumers are more likely to trust a company if the CEO is active on social media. On top of this, 77% of customers are more likely to buy a product/service if the CEO is active on social media. Oh, and by the way, 49% of your company’s reputation is attributed to the CEO. Whew, enough of the stats lesson for now. Anyway, a little social media kind of goes a long way.

But CEOs have to be careful on social media. Spouting off unprofessional posts is a no-no. It’s all about staying cool, calm and collected. You’re the head person, and what the CEO says has gravity.

On the Product?

Picture the CEO on the package of your product. Okay not really. But did you know Warren Buffet was on every can of Cherry Coke in China?

Is this relevant to what you should do? Sort of. Warren Buffet is one of the world’s best personal marketers. He’s sold himself, and every brand CEO needs to learn how to do that.

So no, don’t put your face on the product (it’s kind of creepy). But do be comfortable engaging with customers and being involved in your product on a personal level.

Putting your face on a product may be the worst way to market yourself as a CEO…or is it? I can think of some things CEOs should definitely NOT do in marketing campaigns.

The DO NOTS for CEOs in Marketing Campaigns

This post wasn’t going to be all fun and games. For every set of best practices comes a list of practices to avoid. So let’s talk about the no-nos CEOs should avoid in their contributions to marketing.

Don’t Be Too Overconfident

As a CEO, you need to have some poise. Get involved in marketing campaigns, but don’t overdo it.

Here’s an example. The CEO of LifeLock thought his product was so amazing that he sent ads with his actual SSN on them. And yes, it’s a true story. So what do you think happened next? His identity got stolen…13 TIMES!

You should be confident in your product, but don’t be overconfident in anything. It’ll hurt your brand twice as much as if it were a random employee’s SSN. You look foolish, which makes customers believe your company is foolish.

So, when you’re giving a speech, making a podcast, sending an email, or posting a social media blurb, keep your cool. You want to be in control and appear confident. But you also want to be trustworthy, knowledgeable and sane.

Don’t Be Bad at Social Media

It’s easy to be just plain bad at social media, but it should be your outlet for customer engagement, exciting news, product launches and brand-related business. It should never be an outlet for your social or political views.

Let’s look at Barilla, one of the world’s largest pasta makers. In 2013, Barilla’s CEO made a homophobic comment. Years later, the company’s social media accounts still field comments from people offended by that situation. The CEO and C-level execs must be in the mix related to social media content for the CEO’s account. Every topic and piece of content must be vetted before you publish them for the world to see.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid tricky situations is to stick to business-only material. But CEOs still need to walk the line in their responses to consumers because they’re the voice of the company. One wrong move can plunge value, lose customer trust and even introduce fines.

Don’t Disconnect From the Brand

As a CEO, you don’t want to disconnect from your brand. So, don’t prioritize personal marketing over brand marketing.

Bill Gates is synonymous with Microsoft. Jeff Bezos is Amazon. And that’s what you want. Mark Zuckerberg, however, is pushing it. He’s becoming an entity outside of Facebook. Don’t do that! Put your company first. Don’t go on tangents or publicize yourself outside your company role.

It’s possible to be too active on social media and too engaged with your customers. It really does happen, and when it does, it almost always lands CEOs in hot water.

Use CEOs in Marketing Campaigns Effectively

Leveraging CEOs as marketing assets improves customer engagement, boosts branding and creates tangible customer relationships. CEOs should be active on social media, create personal videos and send emails to customers and leads. But take extra care when handling their public presence, because there’s a ton at stake.

Want to create some killer social media campaigns around your CEO, but you don’t know how? Contact me.