The CEO as the Brand



By Distinguished Professor Robert M. Donnelly


Brand equity is the most valuable asset that any company has and the CEO needs to reflect that cultural DNA.


Jeff Bezos has become the wealthiest man in the world by creating the Amazon brand. Amazon is Bezos and Bezos is Amazon. His customer centric philosophy has changed the way we shop and the “Everything Store’ is rapidly becoming where the world shops.


Bezos has adopted the philosophy of Peter Drucker, the guru of modern management, who stated that “the purpose of a business is to create a customer, and the purpose of the leader is to grow the value of the customer”. Drucker went on to proclaim that business is about “marketing and innovation”.


Bezos is certainly Drucker’s disciple by adopting innovation in the form of starting with the customer and determining what can Amazon do to deliver a faster, better, and cheaper service. Then market/promote the improved service across the internet.


His customer centric strategy, belief in data, and long term results at the sacrifice of short term profits, certainly has turned Amazon into a global business success story. He has proven that his formula for success and belief that there is always a way to deliver better customer service has sustained his forays into related and distinctly unrelated markets including cloud storage, media, health care, space exploration and beyond. With 64 million Amazon Prime users (and growing) each new venture Bezos gets involved with gives them a “click away” access to better ways to improve their lives.


He has created a reality we never thought possible and now cannot imagine living without. In the process Bezos has made Amazon into an economy unto itself providing jobs for 542,000 people worldwide, and growing.


Bezos is not alone in his creativity. He challenges his employees to constantly think of ways to improve customer service. Amazon is the epitome of the entrepreneurial concept of faster, better, and cheaper. His customer centric management style and frugal desire to accomplish more with less has developed into what Amazon employees describe as “Jeffisms” – repetitive pronouncements from Bezos reinforcing his principles.


Bezos is a unique entrepreneurial character, both a missionary and a mercenary. He sacrifices short term profitability for long term dominance, quite contrary in a business world that lives and dies on quarterly results.


Bezos, with a prescient notion of the future, continues to delight customers. His philosophy of starting with the customer and working backward into each new market he tales an interest in to discover a faster, better, and cheaper way to deliver superior service has been repeated in every business he becomes involved with.


Real entrepreneurs can feel and see the future at a very young age. Others, like Bezos become the brand. Steve Jobs envisioned devices that people did not know they needed and packaged them in what became known as the “epitome of cool” in design. Ralph Lauren (Polo) had only one word in his high school yearbook: Millionaire.

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