George Zimmer may guarantee that you’ll like the way you look, but he won’t be doing it on behalf of the company he founded, Men’s Warehouse, anymore, even though his company’s stock is up 20 percent this year. The Twittersphere is upset.
The decision to use a company’s CEO—or any high profile celebrity or sports figure—as a brand spokesperson always carries some risk. On the one hand, a good celebrity or CEO spokesperson can infuse a soulless corporation with much need personality and emotional connection, such as Lee Iacocca for Chrysler. Or a CEO spokesperson can take the blandest of commodities and make them seem like a high-quality treat, like Orville Redenbacher for his popcorn. Mr. Zimmer’s “I guarantee it” catch phrase has seeped into popular culture, an achievement most brands would kill for.
On the other hand, business that place so much of their brand in the hands of an individual can suffer unexpected (if not exactly unpredictable) consequences. People die (think Steve Jobs). Celebrities and sports stars get in trouble with the law (think…well, that list is so long I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by leaving them out). In Mr. Zimmer’s case, it appears his board just wants him to go away—something he was planning to do anyway—so they can get on with their future. It’s not a terrible reason for firing a spokesperson, but it was handled gracelessly.
Mr. Zimmer’s abrupt departure means that one of the most well-known CEO company spokesman is leaving the stage, but with his mellifluous baritone and most-interesting-man-in-the-world good looks, I’d bet he can pick up another spokesperson gig pretty quickly. In fact, I’d guarantee it.