Lead by example like Aston Martin’s CEO

Aligning and engaging people is a critical part of delivering brand-led growth. But many senior managers over-rely on communicating the brand vision, rather than living it on a day-to-day basis. An exception to this is Aston Martin’s CEO, Andy Palmer, a leader who leads his brand by example, as shown by a recent feature in Aston Martin’s AM magazine that I discuss below.

Problem: ‘Brandwashing’

A big problem with turning brand vision into action is when senior managers enthusiastically ask everyone to deliver the brand vision, whilst failing to align their own behaviour. This is one of the top reasons for brand visioning projects to fail, according to brandgym research with marketing directors (see below). A real-life example of this happened on a project for a company making savoury crackers. The growth strategy was to convert sliced bread occasions into cracker occasions, especially at lunchtime. We sat through a morning of presentations about the strategy. Then, at the end of the presentation the marketing director invited everyone to join him for lunch, at which point he ushered in … a platter of sandwiches!

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Solution: Lead by example’

In a truly ‘brand-led business’ there is no need to agonise over how to communicate the brand vision and values, as these are visible in the way the brand leaders run things on a day-to-day basis. As one famous quote said, “People may doubt what you say. But they will believe what you DO.”

Andy Palmer’s approach to running Aston Martin shows how to lead by example. First, the AM magazine article tells of how Andy broke off from a tour of the brand’s factory to chat to a customer about his new car. Not only did he know the customer’s name, he knew about his business. “It’s a bond you don’t see with many other CEOs of luxury brands,” comments the author of the article.

But most impressive of all is Andy Palmer’s pledge to personally inspect and sign off every one of the first 1,000 new DB11 cars that are rolling out of the factory, “taking hand-on management to a new level for a CEO.” He takes 30 minutes to inspect each vehicle, drawing on his engineering training. That’s a total of 500 hours spent inspecting and signing off cars, or roughly 50 working days!

Andy is literally putting his name on the line with the new model, as each car has a plaque with his name on it. He’s not only talking about the need for ultimate quality, he is demonstrating it with his actions. “I hope my signature will give customers confidence, but they also have my personal email address,” he explains.


In conclusion, in order to engage and align your people behind the vision for your brand in 2017, take a leaf from Andy Palmer’s book and lead by example. Talk less. Do more.

Visit thebrandgym to take action on your brand vision and positioning.