‘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.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here