CEO personal brand and company brand

CEO personal brand and company brand



Principal Investigator
Anna Górska Ph.D.
Overall budget
37 840 PLN
Project duration
30.01.2020 – 29.01.2022
Funded by
National Science Centre 2019/33/N/HS4/01574 Preludium

CEOs often act as a “face” of the company that they run, thus how society sees the company’s top leader is reflected in how the entire company is regarded. Steve Jobs from Apple, Jeff Bezos from Amazon or Bill Gates from Microsoft are prominent examples of the phenomena. Since the 90s, we can observe a trend in which CEOs are increasingly active and visible within the traditional and online media. They attract attention and interest of the public opinion and as a result, they attain the “celebrity” status. For example, the private life of Elon Musk provokes more interest in the media that the activities of the companies that he runs. However, whether this has a positive influence on the company’s brand is still unclear. Research so far have focused on the impact of the CEOs personal brand on the value of companies’ stock prices, loyalty and trust among customers. While still there are no research that would examine how personal brand of CEO influences the company brand. The purpose of this study is to fill this research gap. Certainly, the importance of the CEO personal brand is increasing, as the role of the top-level executives is no longer limited to the internal management. CEOs are to represent the company, to spread companies’ mission, values, and ideas. However, whether their personal brand supports company brand is still unknown. In order to answer this question, I investigated the personal brand of CEOs of Polish strongest brands.

For this purpose, I used a 3-year (2014-2017) monitoring of CEOs in the media. The monitoring covered over 80 CEOs of the strongest Polish brands and included CEO activity in press, online, including social media. The study showed that the more CEOs are visible in the media, have higher reach and their value of their appearances is higher, the more it supports the company's brand equity. Conversely, media activity should be primarily in recognizable media with high reach and advertising equivalent. The research clearly showed that it is not the number of mentions but the quality of mentions that are valuable to a company's brand.

Another part of the research was to understand how CEOs create their personal brand in the media, whether it is a conscious, thoughtful, and professionalized process. For this purpose, I conducted 15 interviews with CEOs of the strongest Polish brands in order to better understand their ways of building a personal brand. The interviews showed that this process is becoming more and more professionalized. CEOs are aware of how they are perceived and how their brand is created. They are also aware of how their brand creates value for the company brand. CEOs choose the media in which they are presented appropriately, which shows that they realize the importance of not only their own personal brand but also where that brand is shown. Depending on the media they appear in, they tailor the message to the target audience. This means that their brand is built from a core that is constant and unchanging, it is about their values, skills, and identity, and around it are elements that are adapted to the environment.

This study is important for several reasons. First, it makes an important contribution to the academic and popular literature regarding the importance of CEOs' personal brand in supporting the corporate brand. This study provides a basis for further consideration of the impact of the CEO's personal brand on the company brand. This study introduces additional variables (such as reach or advertising equivalent) to the literature that has not previously used them. However, it is an important topic not only because of the development of science but also practice. As a result, the study will support companies in choosing the right tools for CEOs' personal branding. So, companies will be able to adjust their CEO personal branding activities accordingly.