By Godfrey Dube

This article seeks to contribute on the role of executive leadership in product development and brand building. Deal and Kennedy (2000) postulate that leadership is about the future, it is about change and it is about values and emotions. He further argues that a mixture of transactional and transformational skills is needed for most management and leadership roles in product development and branding, and that leadership is the centre of company activities.

Product development

The development of products to be sold to potential and existing customers improves the growth vector of the company in the existing market where existing products are declining. In contrast to competing companies, new products or offerings may be created to replace existing ones to raise market share. Alkier, Milojica and Roblek (2015) point out that in the case of product development, the business will attempt to increase profitability and growth by introducing new products targeted at the existing customer base. This involves the creation and development of new products.

Strategies for product development enable companies to reinvent and look at new ways of extending their current products’ life cycle. This growth strategy involves the production and alteration of stock goods in order to make them preferential and thereby increase market activity (Butler, 2006). It seeks to expand products and make use of common trademarks, and provides businesses with growth by creating new products for established markets to solve the problems of consumers. Carson et al. (2001) asserts that firms have to give those solutions and be aware of their underlying needs, wants and demands of customers, which will consequently gives you an opportunity to develop new solutions for existing customers. Lufthans (2012) points out that there is a significant correlation between the development of new products and the growth of companies.

Role of executive leadership on corporate branding

Brands need to provide a meaningful reason for consumers to buy the products. These value-related reasons might refer to values such as trustworthiness, integrity, aesthetics, heritage, authenticity, accountability, sustainability or social and environmental responsibility and financial solidity. Executive leadership should have a clear focus and effective communication of these values which might not only contribute to avert the pressures but give the company even a differential and competitive advantage. For organisations to be successful in the competitive environment they should develop corporate brand orientated leaders with its core task of creating a corporate culture to authentically reflect the core values of the brand

Executive leaders should ensure that a corporate brand identifies, differentiate and position the organization, based on a single and unified message, the entire product offering in the minds of all the organization’s stakeholders to build trust in the entire organization. Its source for originality, uniqueness and individuality is the organization’s heritage and the values and beliefs that the corporation and all its stakeholders hold in common. Corporate branding intends to attract and remind stakeholders of why they belong to or should join the community of values.

Corporate branding enables an organization to more economically and emotionally differentiate their products, increase communication effectiveness and respond to social trends.

Brand oriented leadership

Brand-oriented leadership is the catalyst to brand building behaviour in terms of influencing employees’ brand-related behaviours effectively. The leadership culture of the organization plays a very important role in brand building. For corporate brands to be successful, employees should also be empowered to live brand values themselves. Such leadership results in an increase of brand commitment by strengthening employees’ identification with the organization. Organisational transformation will occur when employees have accepted the corporate brand values as their own.

Executive leadership as organisational leaders should be brand oriented. Intangible assets such as corporate and executive leadership reputation and credibility, and customer relationships affect customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some organisations have lost customers and suppliers due to the bad reputation of some executive leaders. Many company managers have recognized the significance of these factors in attempting to attract and retain customers in long-term relationships. Executive leadership and corporate reputation, leadership, relationships and communication are inseparably related because they contribute to executive leadership ability to direct and responsibly control desired outcomes. Customer satisfaction and corporate credibility play important roles when creating good relationships and maintaining customer loyalty to a company as well as public faith.

The executive leadership’s image and a corporation’s reputation both play significant roles in determining a company’s success in building relationships with various publics, which is why media coverage of any executive leadership or corporate activity is considered important and has the potential to alter the relationship-building process.

Negative publicity about companies and their products can influence other aspects of their operations, such as human resources or reputation, as well as the markets that sell the company products. Negative information is considered to exercise greater influence than positive information does, unfavourably affecting a company’s image. The negative impact of such coverage makes marketing communications a critical issue.

CEO and brand reputation

The CEO is an important component of credibility that is influential in persuading consumers to patronize the organisation. Thus, the CEO’s corporate credibility is one important aspect of a corporation’s reputation. Fombrun finds that companies with positive reputations are in a better position to change consumers’ attitudes than are those with negative reputations, and that a company’s perceived credibility is closely related to its sales record. There is an association between a CEO’s positive reputation and the success of a company. Reputation is credited with playing a major role in generating market capitalization for a company and many argue that it should be treated as its most important long-term asset. Managers and leaders, although both are important, are profoundly different. To manage means to bring about outcomes, to accomplish something, to take charge of or responsibility for, to supervise transactions. Leading involves influencing people to modify their behaviour by providing direction, charting a course, stimulating action or altering opinion. Leaders can shape and elevate the motives and goals of followers.

Effective leadership should be closely related to successful organizational outcomes and that successful organizations focus on leadership factors and understand the need to provide employees with the necessary skills, networking opportunities and training to prepare them to address economic challenges. Furthermore, it can be assumed that a strong and capable leader will contribute in a very positive way to the future configuration of an organization.

Mr Dube is the pioneer, past president and current Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. He is the Head – Marketing and Business Development at the Standards Association of Zimbabwe. He is a PHD candidate and a holder of a Master of Science in Governance and Leadership degree among other qualifications.