Tuning Into Brand Resonance: The Altman-Musk Effect

The Gist

  • CEO impact crucial. Altman and Musk show CEO actions crucially influence brand resonance, impacting customer connection and experience.
  • Brand resonance challenges. Effective brand resonance management requires evolving with technology and media, a task both Altman and Musk navigate.
  • Multiple brand risks. Musk’s actions risk harming multiple brands, demonstrating the interconnected effects of a CEO’s public behavior. 

The business world is simmering down from the chaos around Sam Altman’s tenure at OpenAI and the criticism of Elon Musk’s antisemitic comment on his platform X. Both situations are as different as circumstances can be, yet both reflect how a CEO’s presence influences brand resonance — the messaging that connects brands to customer experiences on a deeper, more emotional level.

Understanding the interplay between leadership and brand resonance is crucial for preventing missteps that can worsen customer experience and lead to customer loss.

Sam Altman wears a casual blue shirt and a headset while speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt conference in piece about brand resonance.
Understanding the interplay between leadership and brand resonance is crucial for preventing missteps.TechCrunch on Wikimedia Commons


Brand Resonance: The Current Score on Altman and Musk

Repercussions from the climax of both well-known stories are still emerging as I type. For Altman, OpenAI rehired him as CEO only a few days after firing him and after 700 employees declared they would follow Altman to Microsoft if he was not reinstated. Microsoft, a major investor, had also hired Altman immediately to keep him within the decision management team and visible to ChatGPT users.

Meanwhile Elon Musk endorsed an antisemitic tweet, agreeing with a message displaying a violent antisemitic conspiracy theory. This theory was similar to that espoused by the perpetrator of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue attack, sparking a flood of criticism and censure. 

Criticism is mounting as Twitter, renamed X, has fallen out of favor with advertisers, one of the platform’s core customer audiences. Following Musk’s $44 billion acquisition in October 2022, advertisers have deserted the platform, concerned that current moderation fails to shield brands from misinformation and conspiracy theories. Reuters reported that more than 200 advertisers, like IBM, Disney, Apple and Ubisoft, paused or scrapped campaigns due to these controversies.

Related Article: Why ‘X’? What Lessons Does Twitter Rebranding Hold for Marketers?

What Is Brand Resonance?

Brand resonance describes the bond a brand forms with its customers, connecting deeply and emotionally. It’s a brand development stage where customers cultivate strong loyalty and emotional attachment, resonating with the brand’s message.

This connection often leads to repeat purchases and word-of-mouth promotion. Brand resonance is built over time and is the result of consistent positive experiences and emotional engagement. It’s considered the ultimate goal in brand building, as it represents a strong, personal, and often community-like bond between the brand and its customers.

Related Article: Don’t Decimate Your CX Strategy When You Leave Twitter

No One Will Influence Like Steve Jobs Did

Years after his death, Steve Jobs continues to inspire today’s technologists. Representing the apex of business and entrepreneurship, Jobs’ infamous 1985 dismissal from Apple and triumphant return, sparking a golden era, solidified the notion that leadership is crucial to a brand’s success. His story exemplifies how a brand can become intertwined with a CEO’s narrative in the marketplace.

However, Jobs’ shortcomings — notably, his reputation for overworking employees — and successes unfolded in an era vastly different from the media-centric landscape that Altman, Musk, and other contemporary entrepreneurs navigate today.

Media, being more diffuse and open to dialogue, makes it challenging for leaders to ensure all actions and messages align with the key elements that resonate with customers.

Musk frequently speaks off the cuff on X, reinforcing his assertion that freedom of speech is under threat online.

That’s not the issue. 

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