The Silicon Review
The difference between a product and a brand is a major one and one that is often underestimated. While a product stands for just a physical, tangible commodity, a brand signifies enduring trust and reputation. When you pick a random product for purchase, you are simply buying merchandise. But when you zero in on a product, you do so out of a sentiment of trust, knowing that it measures up to a degree of expectation and adheres to a strict standard. It is for this reason that corporations spend millions of dollars on branding. A product can only have customers, whereas a brand has the ability to cultivate a loyal base of followers and stand for something.
CEO branding is about as effective as the branding of a company. An executive who is widely recognizable often ends up becoming a de-facto marketer-in-chief, establishing a synonymy with his company’s brand. Perhaps the best example of a highly successful executive branding was achieved by Steve Jobs, who became synonymous with his company’s products.
The Ascendant Group is a global marketing and branding firm that specializes in branding CEOs and top executives in order to enhance their profiles. Executives who need to establish their presence and promote their companies often need to establish a media presence that can fuel their persona and Ascendant Group is a global authority on enlarging that persona.
In conversation with the visionary behind the Ascendant Group, Raoul Davis
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
I was an agent for a speaker’s bureau based out of Los Angeles. Two of the clients suggested I start my own company and they would be our first two clients. It was terrifying and exciting and I decided to roll the dice. Fifteen years later it is one of the best decisions I ever made. We expanded our offerings by taking a look at what our clients’ needs were and where the marketplace was. We started out managing public speakers, two years into it we realized it was their popularity or “brand” that determined how much they spoke so we became a personal branding agency. Then a few years later we took a hard look at the business.
What were the challenges that you faced in the early stages of your company?
Thinking I was entitled to growth early on was a falsehood that created major challenges. It led to making irrational spending decisions. I would encourage every entrepreneur to be appreciative for any growth they have had and to continuously strive for more without assuming it.
About adaptability, how do you stay relevant to consumer needs in a highly volatile market?
The secret is to stay ahead of your clients. Businesses can no longer be single industry entities. To satisfy customers today, whether it is B2C or B2B, you must demonstrate an ability to anticipate their needs and grow with them. Those who respond late to market changes lag behind and many companies fail to respond at all, and they end up losing significant market share. Staying up-to-date on trends and having a mentality to be an early adopter and a willingness to adjust your service offering to continually enhance it is paramount.
What are the factors that you believe have played a major role in your company’s growth?
We became the first global business to develop a fully integrated execution model for CEO branding. We develop brand strategy and execute through PR, social media, book deals, design, and strategic positioning. We’ve always been willing to push the envelope and go further. Our offering now includes congressional advisory and a high touch C-level career advisement service.
How do you maintain your customers’ trust and loyalty?
We exposed a weakness within our industry. Most firms in the PR sphere are unwilling to commit to metrics. They tell the customer they can buy time and they will get their “best efforts.” However, that is nebulous and often leads to dissatisfaction. We decided to build our service to have measurable results. This creates more trust from the beginning. We then are willing to go past the initial contract period if we haven’t hit all the metrics for the agreement. This signals to clients we are fully committed to their success.
What is the feedback that you have received from customers over the years?
We listen to our clients and constantly are scanning the marketplace. You have to be very thoughtful in doing this. At one point we were offering too many services and had to go through a complexity reduction exercise to ensure we focused on the things we can be world-class in.
Meet the intrepid entrepreneur behind Ascendant Group’s meteoric rise, Raoul Davis
Raoul Davis is a Partner of Ascendant Group, which helps CEOs, retired athletes,
and executive leaders domestically increase their visibility in front of their target audience through CEO and executive branding. Recently, Ascendant has opened offices in Newark and Wilmington, Delaware, Cairo, Egypt, Lebanon, the Netherlands, and Nova Scotia, Canada, and launched its global practice helping CEOs in China, Switzerland, Peru, and the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) regions receive guaranteed global visibility. Davis has been invited to CEO and small business forums in Egypt, India, The Caribbean, and at the White House, and is considered one of the foremost experts on CEO and executive branding. Under Davis’ leadership, Ascendant has been named a founding member of the Forbes Agency Council, a leading invitation-only group for top PR and advertising executives. Additionally, Ascendant has won awards for design, organizational culture, and public relations work.
“We’ve built a company focused on exceeding the high expectations of an executive clientele – and we are thrilled to officially expand our services on the global scale.”