Brand Champion Examples to Learn From

Every business needs a brand champion to embody the brand, advocate it, and guard it. To succeed, this person needs buy-in at the executive level to educate people about the brand (both external brand building as well as internal branding) and to build brand equity. Every member of the organization should believe in the brand, and the brand champion’s role is to make sure that happens. But which brand champions have gotten it right?

leaderIt could certainly be argued that no brand champion is perfect, but there are several that provide great examples to learn from. This post features a few of my favorite brand champion examples.

Note that most of these examples from well-known companies supporting corporate brands since they’re the most recognizable for the broadest audience of readers. At the end of each example, I reference the roles of a brand champion outlined in my previous post where the person in the example excels (or excelled).

Hugh Hefner – Playboy (media)

hugh hefnerHugh Hefner is the ultimate brand champion, and that’s why I wrote a book about Building Brand Value the Playboy Way — to demonstrate how a brand with a controversial product can grow to become one of the most powerful brands in the world with deep brand equity. For over half a century, Hugh Hefner has championed and protected the Playboy brand that he created. He became the living embodiment of the men’s lifestyle brand demonstrating the brand’s original promise perfectly.

Of course, the brand has evolved and the company has struggled over the past several years, but thanks to the brand’s equity, it has survived. In fact, the vast majority of Playboy merchandise is now purchased by women, and the brand is becoming highly popular in the Asian region where it is viewed by women as a cute brand closer to Hello Kitty in its promise.

Hugh Hefner’s strongest performance as a brand champion came as Brand Cheerleader and Brand Protector.

Steve Jobs – Apple (technology)

steve jobsDespite his reputation for perfectionism which at times was abrasive (and was the inspiration behind the now retired but still uproariously amusing The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs blog), Steve Jobs brought the Apple company and brand to success twice.

He might have been excessively demanding and even tyrannical in how he treated employees, but he demanded big results and settled for nothing less for Apple.

Now that he has passed, his spirit will forever serve as the champion for Apple’s brand. Check out my article about how to brand like Steve Jobs and Apple to learn more.

Steve Jobs’ strongest performance as brand champion came as Brand Innovator.

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (literature/entertainment)

jk rowlingJ.K. Rowling didn’t set out with plans to be a brand champion but it happened due to her desire to keep the characters and world of Harry Potter true to her vision for them and fans’ expectations for them. I wrote a book about the Harry Potter brand (Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon), and this is a brand that was truly built by consumers who loved it and found ways to live it and share it together.

However, during its skyrocketing growth, J.K. Rowling stepped up as brand guardian and protected the brand from going in directions that were inconsistent with the brand promise.  Did you know that even in the height of Harry Potter popularity, it was not the leading merchandised brand? However, since people talked about the Harry Potter brand so much, it seemed like the brand was everywhere. In reality, J.K. Rowling turned down lucrative merchandising offers, including one from McDonalds, and stopped items like Harry Potter toilet seats from making it to market.

J.K. Rowling’s strongest brand performance as brand champion came as Brand Protector.

Do You Have a Brand Champion?

Now that you understand how different one brand champion can be from another as demonstrated through the examples above, you see there isn’t a cookie-cutter model to follow. As long as there is a person in your organization with authority, visibility, reach, and believability who takes the lead in developing, teaching, advocating, protecting, and living the brand, you’ve got your brand champion. Give the role the importance it deserves, because a strong brand is an extremely powerful business asset.

Images: barunpatro, Alan Light, dfarber, Beacon Radio

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.