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CEOs Are Brands

Posted September. 28, 2005 07:35,   


Hur Dong-soo, chairman and CEO of GS-Caltex, has recently been exposed to the media many times on issues such as his leading the North East Asia oil forum, managing “Kixx,” a comprehensive monitoring center in preparation for high oil prices, meeting with the secretary general of the World Sustainable Development Council, and others.

If his remaining schedule is included, he will have appeared in the media a total of seven times. Next month, he will participate in the Korea, China, Japan Business Forum as the chairman of the Korean committee.

That is part of his strategy, the “President Identity (PI)”; to highlight that he is the “unrivaled energy expert” in Korea.

Hur is a graduate of Yonsei University with a major in chemical engineering. After earning a master’s and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in the U.S., he joined LG-Caltex (GS-Caltex at present) in 1973. He devoted 45 years in the field of energy, earning the nickname “Mr. Oil.”

Why PI? –

Kim Eun-joo, manager of Image Power, an image consulting firm targeting CEOs and politicians, said, “The symbolism of CEOs has an enormous impact on customers and staff members.”

CEOs see the need of PI for five reasons.

First, when they became new CEOs,

Second, when they need risk management to deal with legal problems,

Third, when companies grow in size

Fourth, when they themselves fall into a slump

Fifth, when they are asked to change their image from people surrounding them.

In the case of local companies, to set PI strategies, directors of publicity departments make decisions and team members do the practical work. In this process, image consulting firms are entrusted with dealing with methods.

Kim said, “High-profile figures ask us to establish a PI. The cost runs to the millions of won.”

Image of CEOs Decides the Images of Companies-

Lee Kun-hee, CEO of Samsung, created his image as a manager who predicts the future. To live up to his image, once a year he raises controversial topics.

Among them are “We need to change everything except our wives”(1993), “I feel a chill run down when I think of livelihood 10 years later.”(2001), “One genius feeds 10,000 people.” (2002)

When appearing in the media, Chung Mong-ku, CEO of Hyundai Motors, wears a working cap and clothes in order to stress that he thinks highly of field management. His thrift is also highlighted with the fact that he wears local brand shoes until they wear thin.

The PI of Koo Bon-moo of LG Group is a leader who emphasizes the achievement of “First-Class LG” and the importance of R&D. Usually he wears suits, but he puts on “business casual” clothes with no necktie when visiting fields.

Huh Chang-soo, chairman of GS Group, has a nickname of “reclusive manager” since he is reluctant to appear in the media, but he is trying to change his image as evidenced by the fact that he volunteered to hold a press conference in July. His PI strategy is to make his image as “strong manager” who is equipped with international perspective thanks to his long overseas experience and a long-term view.

The core of PI strategy of Koo Cha-hong of LS Group is “Treat customers and staff as family.” Since 1995 when he was a chairman of LG Electronics, he emphasized, “FUN management,” meaning that the staff should be allowed to work pleasantly. He began to wear shoulder straps in order to give the impression to his staff that he is not stiff. The shoulder straps became his trade mark.

Yun Jong-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, has the faith, “CEOs with good PI are brand power in themselves.” He sometimes makes known the vision of the company at global road shows and gives university lectures with an aim of building a global image.

Are There any More Efficient PI?-

Kwon Oh-yong, executive director in charge of PI for Chey Tae-won of SK Group, has a lot of concerns on his mind.

“There is no CEO of large companies who are forthcoming in doing community work. So for differentiation, I focused PI strategy on youth (the age of 45), passion, and contribution to society. However, some pointed out that the look of CEOs wearing aprons and baking breads does not go well with the image of CEOs.”

Jang Il-hyung, vice-chairman, is in charge of PI for Kim Seung-youn, chairman of Hanwha, and asks people for advice about the desirable image of Hanwha and its chairman.

He said, “The chairman worries that Hanwha does not have the image that can set him apart from others. So I’m currently working on making a fresh PI in order to establish a ‘new’ Hanwha.”