‘CEOs must be obsessed with brand or fail’

Chief executives must act like a brand director and be “obsessed with the brand” or they risk damaging the growth of their companies, according to former Vodafone and Coca-Cola marketer David Wheldon.

Boardroom CMO

Speaking at the “Festival of Media” event in Switzerland, Wheldon, who recently joined Barclays to oversee its corporate brand, cited Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and the late Steve Jobs as examples of CEOs that understand the value of brands.

“The real truth of great brands is that the CEO must be the brand director, be obsessed with it and how it is perceived,” he adds.

Wheldon also claimed that the discipline of marketing, despite the emergence of digital technology and an abundance of data, had not changed.

“The basics have not changed. Do you know what makes your product better than others? Do your staff know what it is and deliver that? Does your distribution chain know? Are you delivering what your customers want?”

He adds: “‘If marketing people think that old [ideas] are good or that new ones are better – both are fools. The biggest truth is that marketing has not changed. Three things have, however – the channel, the feedback loop and the boundaries for ideas.”

Wheldon was global brand director at Vodafone before joining Barclays. Previously, he was president of agency network BBDO Europe. He has also had stints as global director of advertising at Coca-Cola and managing director of agency Lowe Howard Spink.

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