The Holy Grail – Measuring Tone at the Top

Today McLeod Governance looks to the world of celebrity (of which it has been cruelly and unjustifiably excluded) for a process – that applied appropriately to the world of business – could seek to quantify the previously unquantifiable: the tone at the top of an organisation.

The Davie Brown Index (DBI) is an independent index for brand marketers and agencies that determines a celebrity’s ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchaser intent.

Developed by the talent division of Davie Brown Entertainment, the DBI provides marketers with a systematic approach for quantifying the use of celebrities in their advertising and marketing campaign.

The DBI, goes a step beyond the decades old Q rating approach which is based on two factors, how many people have heard of Celebrity X and how many people name him or her as one of their favourites

The DBI surveys 1.5 million Americans to score on eight key attributes: “appeal,” “notice” (their pop ubiquity), “trendsetter” (their position as such), “influence” (do they have any?), “trust,” “endorsement” (spokespersonability), “aspiration” (do we want his or her life?), and “awareness” (expressed as a percentage).

The scores are then cross-referenced in a database that supposedly will help advertisers decide who among a list of more than 1,500 celebrities will help them hawk their wares.

Access costs $20,000 a year.

As a point of reference, Tiger Woods was once the number one ranked person on the Davie Brown Index.  Certain – how shall we say – integrity related events say him drop down the list.

An article in the Dallas Morning News at the time of Woods’ indiscretions noted

At the outset of 2009, Tiger Woods was a perennial on the DBI Top 10, along with Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.

Woods is now 78th and ranks that high only because he’s the most recognized person on the planet, with an awareness score of 99.79 out of 100.

Before Woods, the worst fall from marketing grace was Mel Gibson after his anti-Semitic tirade in 2006. He disappeared from the top 10 and now ranks 74th overall and 1,935 in endorsement value.

Before the scandal broke, Woods was in a stratosphere that few people can match.

That’s why public opinion turned so vehemently against him, Chown says. “People feel betrayed. He was perceived as a great family man with great values. They feel he’s been misleading them for a decade-plus.”


It is the quantification of a celebrity’s “it” factor that has really got McLeod Governance thinking.

Investors, Boards, employees and a myriad of other stakeholders have often had to rely on gut instinct when it comes to determining whether to install, support or reject Chief Executive Officers and other C suite members.

We know that such key Management have an impact upon the tone of an organisation yet we have never really sought to quantify or understand how that is the case.

Imagine then if there was a corporate version of the DBI.

A C suite member would be ranked by key stakeholders on attributes relevant to the assessment of the tone at the top – walks the talk; holds people accountable; is accountable for decisions; rewards good decisions; addresses poor decisions; is trusted by the employees; is likely to be one day involved in some form of scandal.

If this exercise was conducted within an organisation this would be invaluable information for a C suite member to review and ignore at their peril.

Perhaps, however, the greater use of a corporate DBI would be if there was a central repository of the rankings so that there was an unequivocal assessment of a C Suite member that current and future employers could reference in determining whether the person just about to be employed / considered for a new role would be good not only at the competency elements of their role (something that a corporate DBI could not measure) but the tone at the top issues.

Imagine how such transparency would impact upon the attention that the C Suite gave to the attributes upon which they were now being measured.

Food for thought.

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