Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

You da brand.

It’s always been about branding. But now it’s about branding the CEO.

I grew up in a world where the biggest brands were Kodak, Coke, Xerox, Sears, and Chevrolet. Today the biggest brands are Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Marc Andreessen, and Richard Branson.

The point is that we’re in an era today where the brand of the CEO is at least as important as the brand of the company. Even Tim Cook, a relatively under-the-radar guy, has 14 million Twitter followers who hang on his every word. Meanwhile Apple, the actual brand, has only 8 million Twitter followers. That’s right — the CEO of the most valuable brand in the world has nearly 2x the followers as the company itself. Read that again.

This is why Jessica Lessin, who runs a leading team of business journalists, recently told her reporting staff “the best way to understand the future of business is going to be to follow people, not companies”

That pretty much says it all.

So what does this mean for entrepreneurs and innovators today? I think what it means is that thought leadership and personal brand building are more important that ever before. If you are going to found a startup today, you better build a personal social media following, write to Medium regularly, be active on LinkedIn, launch a podcast, maybe do some TikTok dancing. 🕺

This isn’t news, of course, things have been trending this way for a long time.

But I think we have reached a tipping point. And maybe that tipping point was this week, as the richest man in the world (with 84 million Twitter followers) used his wealth to buy the leading personal brand-building platform. It’s one of the largest public-to-private transactions ever.

It’s about branding, baby.

This was adapted from a recent edition of my weekly missive for entrepreneurs and innovators.



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Bret Waters

Bret Waters

Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, run the 4thly Startup Accelerator, and coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center. Also, I love fish tacos.