CEO behaviour directly impacts brand health. That’s why it’s prudent to prevent your leader’s personal brand becoming bigger than the company’s. To be fair, this hasn’t happened too frequently in our region. I can count the examples on the fingers of one hand. But, as our economies grow and CEO smugness swells in proportion, we will see more companies getting into trouble this way.
A salutory lesson is showing at the moment at a cinema near you, featuring The Weinstein Company. Last year, Hollywood staggered when the film studio’s eponymous co-founder Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse by more than 80 women. As you’ll have read, the stories are varied but the accusations range from inappropriate behaviour to sexual harassment and rape. It’s also clear that Weinstein represented an extreme version of the wider CEO culture in Hollywood, where wealth and power have encouraged a sense of impunity since the early 1930’s.
The studio has lost film opportunities, stars and filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (now caught up in a toxic news story of his own). No doubt the Board and Shareholders are in the midst of a ‘something must be done’ conversation, and it‘s evident that the whole company culture must be revamped. That’s the big job facing the studio’s new leader who is now, of course, a woman. Maria Contreras-Sweet has been quick to announce that the new Weinstein Company will have private breastfeeding rooms, three free meals a day, and will promote a more open and inclusive work environment. Frankly my dear, I’m not sure anyone gives a damn. What is needed is root canal work, not cosmetic dentistry.
In fairness, Contreras-Sweet is also interviewing ‘many powerful women’ in Hollywood to populate the new Board of Directors. And, perhaps most importantly, she will also be changing the of The Weinstein Company to something less…Weinstein-y. This is a no-brainer. They’re not going to be able to take new films to market under that banner.I can’t wait to see the thought process they go through, and the name that results. More importantly, I’m interested, as always, in what the new name and logo will stand for. Will the vision for the brand change? What will the new brand be creating for audiences, that is markedly different – both from its predecessor and competitors? How will its people behave, when they are not closeted in the breastfeeding room? It’s one thing to come up with a new name and logo. Quite another to build a new brand from a ruined one. A competence we have not needed yet in Africa. But soon we shall.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside