Flamboyant CEOs lead their brands from the front. They live their brand and put themselves in the spotlight
It's said that in business, brand is the real celebrity. Everything else comes later. Once in a while though a flamboyant CEO decides to lead his brand from
the front by leveraging his own personality. While the West has had a number of flamboyant CEOs like Richard Branson, Larry Ellison & Steve Jobs promoting
their brands, India is now starting to get its share.
Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant CEO who owns the Kingfisher brand leads his brand from the front. His brand leverages his personality. He owns a yacht once
owned by the famous Elizabeth Taylor, owns plush homes in Dubai and London, has a customised private business jet, brings out a Kingfisher calendar with top
models, throws lavish parties and hobnobs with powerful and beautiful people. For, all that helps him promote his business—of beer, whisky and airlines.
While Mallya’s personality is such that it lends itself to his brand, in the case of Mehul Choksi, the owner of Gitanjali Gems, it is a little different.
He confesses that as a person he is very reserved and for him being flamboyant is a business tactic. “I am in the business of branding and I need to be my
brand,” he says. Gitanjali Gems promotes lifestyle brands such as Nakshatra, Asmi, Gilli and D’Damas. He is part of fashion shows and parties that they
organise purely to create an aspirational appeal for the brand.
Synergy between the nature of business and the person running the show is of utmost significance when it comes to creating brand value for a business.
“One cannot dramatise it all the time. It won’t allure people beyond a point,” says marketing strategist Jagdeep Kapoor who owns Samiska Marketing
Consultants. So while a business like healthcare cannot create a popular brand image with a dynamic fit, businesses such as alcohol, entertainment, apparel,
precious stones, aviation demand people with high style quotient.
British journalist Mick Brown, who has written a biography of entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson agrees. “Branson for instance is an interesting character.
He is an extrovert and he uses that to his advantage to promote his brand Virgin,” he says. Today, if you think Virgin, you think Branson.
Back in 1984 when Branson launched Virgin Atlantic, he used very little money and advertising to promote the airline. Instead, he used the one unique
advertising asset he had—himself. “He quite deliberately put himself in the spotlight,” reiterates Mr Brown.
At a number of new launches, Branson has dressed up as an airline pilot and an Indian Maharaja. “This is for a photo opportunity, to get into the
newspapers. And it is not just for himself—he is not a massive egotist—but for his brand Virgin,” says Mr Brown.
In India today, there are a number of flamboyant CEOs who also act as brand ambassadors for their brands. Anil Ambani, Anand Mahindra, Yash Birla, Gautam
Singhania are some who live life their own unique way and in the process also promote their brands.
Delhi-based brand and marketing consultant and CEO of Counselage Suhel Seth is knowing for being flashy. “Life is short. Be flamboyant,” he says. Being
flamboyant for him is a way to meet people at the same level. “It allows me to talk about multifarious things,” he says. He argues that being flamboyant
means people know you more than others, know what you believe in, what you like and what you don’t like. “It also inspires and motivates others to also live
“If you are your brand, you do not need heavy marketing and advertising budgets,” Mr Seth says, adding that today, Mallya does more for Kingfisher than
any brand ambassador. “He is the king of good times. He is living the brand. He is the aspirational magnet, the denominator of aspiration.”
Interestingly, while Branson’s flamboyance is to purely generate publicity, he has fun doing it. He likes life to be fun and believes that if something
is not fun, one will stop doing it.
Could you tell Lalit Modi from Chirayu Amin, if the former wasn’t his flamboyant self? Would you be able to identify the owners of Deccan Chargers and
Chennai Super Kings? But you all know that Mr Mallya owns Royal Challegers, don’t you?
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