Cabals can make or break a leader’s brand vision

Published in Business Friday, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 30, 2016

CABALS exist in every organization, industry and association.

Cabals are like-minded people, often bonded by common viewpoints, social interests and intrigues, whose personal motivations are unknown to people outside their group.

Terence Deal and Allan Kennedy, authors of the landmark book, Corporate Cultures, The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, describe how cabals create a larger than life perception of themselves in and outside of organizations.

Often, the target of their attention remains an organization’s key leader who drives the company’s and brand vision and whose influence in the organization is systemic.

Unfortunately, some company leaders are naïve to the ulterior designs and machinations of cabal members.


Brand visions run contrary to the status quo that often men and women cabals and cabal organizations have difficulty appreciating them.

A product has become a brand because it has a clear differentiating story to tell resulting in clear mental maps or mental images in the consumer minds.

A brand becomes the economic fuel of a visionary company.

Men and women cabals in organizations and cabal companies in an industry or category are driven by like-mindedness and what they actually see around them. Hence, cabals have difficulty visualizing a leader’s company or brand vision specially if it is not yet real or happening or is still a work in progress. Worse, cabals can influence a naïve leader who may have a sound vision but may be distracted from implementing his vision by the like-minded thinking of cabals.

Brand visions begin as future mental maps whose decisive action of the leader to actualize the vision is driven by a focused, sustained and a differentiated strategic message meant to hammer the brand’s story in the consumer minds. Visionary brands are a handful.

Jollibee, with nearly forty years in existence leapfrogged other restaurants and diners by investing in a branding campaign that helped establish a mental map or image in the minds of consumers.

Despite the threat posed by McDonald’s entry in a Philippine environment heavily influenced by colonial mentality, Jollibee remained resolute in pushing its brand story of the unique Filipino taste and smell of Jollibee’s yumburgers, spaghetti and chickenjoy.

Jollibee Foods Corporation, already a brand visionary back then enjoys a world apart from a cabal of Philippine restaurants also in existence nearly forty years ago which may be extinct today or continue to be laggards in their industry.

Jollibee today has over 3,000 outlets enjoys worldwide presence and reported FY 100Bil revenue in 2015.


Cabal leaders have a larger than life and inflexible perception of themselves as opposed to visionary leaders who are open-minded, insightful, bold and know what their priorities are.

Leadership guru Stephen Covey has often been quoted as saying ‘that visionary leaders know when they are leaning against the right wall’.

Visionary leaders set their priorities right and uncannily have an intuitive feeling of like-minded visionary expert resources helping them make their big dreams come true.

In the industry of branding, advertising and marketing, company owners are often besieged with cabal recommendations to simply flood the airwaves and out of home with advertising materials that often use celebrities and rely heavily only on media weights.

After all, this cabal business strategy is the quickest to implement while finding a differentiating, relevant and sustaining story is the most difficult to actualize.

Media weights

Some years ago, Herbs and Nature Corporation relied on celebrity endorsements and heavy media weights to build its brands of food supplements.

Unfortunately, the cabal twin recommendations of extensive celebrity use and heavy media weights was not sustainable for the company simply because there is no real differentiating story to tell.

Not so long ago, O+Plus used Maine Mendoza, who had more than ten endorsements at the time to push the brand of smart phone brand matched it with heavy media weights.

Similarly Oppo tapped singer and actress Sarah Geronimo to do the same thing.

While the celebrity endorsements helped boost brand recall, there is still no mental image formed among consumers because there is no differentiating story to tell.


Brand visionary leaders are driven by a strong force of personal energy that helps them to sustain the vision not only in their lifetime but also in the lifetime of succeeding generations.

Brand visionary leaders have seen their product rise to become a brand that stands out from other commodity products in the category.

These leaders no longer see themselves as traders or retailers of the moment. Rather, they see the magic of a long ride. They welcome new challenges as new hurdles to be overcome. As Millenial icon Mark Zuckerberg, despite Facebook being one of the world’s top ten most valuable brands, told Today Show in an interview at Facebook’s California headquarters, “I’ve spent a lot of late nights pacing around my living room with teammates just trying to plot out what our next move can be in order to keep pushing forward on this mission, but there’s always a next move”.

The writer is Chief Brand Strategist of MKS Marketing Consulting and is an alumna of Oxford University’s SAID Graduate School of Business Strategic Leadership Executive Education and Stanford Graduate School of Business Strategic Marketing Executive Education. De Asis is also an alumna of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and a PhD graduate of the De La Salle Graduate School, Taft Campus. Reach the author who is also a member of the Global Strategic Consulting Network at

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