FORTUNE -- Mozilla received an ugly reminder last week that the CEO title might as well be swapped with CBO -- chief brand officer.
Here's a recap: Shortly after taking over as CEO of Mozilla, the open-source computing company known for its Firefox web browser, Brendan Eich found himself on the receiving end of public outrage over revelations that he'd donated $1,000 to anti-gay marriage legislation in California in 2008. Mozilla employees called for his departure and OKCupid notified Firefox users that visited its dating site about Eich's stance on gay marriage and recommended that they use a different browser.
(As irony would have it, OkCupid co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan once donated to an anti-gay rights congressional candidate.)
Eich resigned on April 3. Upon his leaving the company, Mozilla wrote on its blog that the company "didn't move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech… Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard." In essence, Eich's personal beliefs clashed with Mozilla's reputation as an open, inclusive community.
The takeaway: a CEO is a brand unto him or herself; a brand that undoubtedly melds with the company's own image. If the two don't mesh, it can spell disaster.
"Whether or not it's right, it's not just the [CEO] who holds a certain view. They are blurred with the company, so people assume that the company must also hold that view," says Ravi Dhar, a marking professor at Yale and director of its Center for Customer Insight. "It's not unlike what happens in politics. If Obama or Bush holds a certain view, suddenly the rest of the world thinks all Americans believe the same thing."
The CEO has evolved into a mascot -- the human face of a behemoth company. At the same time, business leaders are constantly under scrutiny and any gaffe or controversial statement can spread across the web in the time it takes to type 140 characters.
The confluence of these factors resulted in ruin for Eich, and the precedent set by his experience doesn't bode well for others, or for the business community overall.
"Unfortunately, it means that CEOs won't talk as much," says Dhar. "They'll become boring since they'll worry that something they say may inadvertently be linked to the brand."
That doesn't sound like such a bad thing, but it could be bad news for the companies these CEOs lead. A study of CEOs co-authored by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld at the Yale School of Management found that the more charismatic a CEO, the better his or her firm performed financially. Depending on the measure, roughly 10% to 15% of a company's performance can be attributed to CEO charisma. A 2006 update to the study found that the impact of CEO charisma was greatest in the early years of a chief exec's tenure -- and then the effect tapers off over time. "But it surely did matter," Sonnenfeld says.
Perhaps these execs can still be extra charismatic, but only on the inside?
A chief marketing officer's top priority should be revenue growth.
By Maryam Banikarim
FORTUNE -- I'm often on panels where I'm asked about the role of the chief marketing officer. Right out of the gate, I explain that there are a variety of CMO roles, and the title often tends to mean many different things depending on the company and even the field in which you operate.
But it shouldn't.
Quite simply, a MOREMar 14, 2014 11:24 AM ET
Fortune speaks with ReD's Christian Madsbjerg about flawed business thinking, the arrogance of Silicon Valley, and why he prefers to hire anthropology majors at his consulting firm.
Interview by Ryan Bradley
FORTUNE -- Christian Madsbjerg likes to talk about how booze companies often forget who their customers really are. Madsbjerg's consulting firm, ReD, had one such client that was spending $100 million on the stuff it gave to bars, which bar owners MOREMar 11, 2014 1:31 PM ET
Branding consultant and author Chris Malone describes the blurry lines of how companies interact with their customers in the 21st century.
Interview by Ryan Bradley, senior editor
FORTUNE -- You're a consultant, and you help companies' marketing departments -- everyone from Coca-Cola (KO) to the NBA to Procter & Gamble (PG) -- better reach their customers. What does this mean?
First, you have to know it's not just snake oil. I majored in business MORESep 25, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Forget Tupperware parties. Several startups are building creative campaigns that make it easy for people to recommend their products to people they know.Aug 28, 2013 5:00 AM ET
The art of putting Big Data to practical use is still young, but it's already more pervasive than you probably realize, says a new book.Anne Fisher, contributor - Apr 17, 2013 12:51 PM ET
A new vitamin business takes a novel approach to athlete endorsements: mitigate risk with a group of stars instead of one.
By Daniel Roberts
FORTUNE -- Professional athletes have hawked everything from sneakers, jeans, and credit cards -- the typical fare -- to more puzzling products like home insurance, domain-name marketplaces, and candy bars. So why not vitamins? Among the wide and often wacky world of endorsement deals, it seems like MORENov 21, 2012 8:50 AM ET
The energy drink brand consumed its parent company, Hansen's Natural. What does it mean to shift from "natural sodas" to caffeine-charged beverages?
FORTUNE -- Energy drinks are hot right now. The market is global, growing, and young. Brands plaster their logos on arenas and extreme sports gear. And while Red Bull dominates the world market, Monster Beverages is catching up, account for a third of the energy drink market in the MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 5, 2012 11:38 AM ET
What's the secret of survival these days? Change quickly, says AT&T's marketing chief, along with your customer.
By Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large
FORTUNE – Bigtime marketing doesn't get much bigger than this: AT&T (T) spends more money -- some $2 billion last year, says Kantar Media -- building a single brand than any other company in America. (Procter & Gamble (PG) wields a larger ad budget but divides it among scores MOREAug 23, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Any company that tries to ask, "Hey Internet, what do you think about me?" should be prepared for a mixed response. By Shelley DuBoisShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Jan 31, 2012 12:42 PM ET
|Many low-wage workers not protected by minimum wage|
|HBO shows coming to Amazon ... not Netflix|
|Students cry foul over athletes unionizing|
|Delinquent IRS employees paid bonuses by the agency|
|Is capitalism driving itself out of business?|