According to industry experts, the Men’s Wearhouse needs a fresh young face. However, firing the company’s founder can actually harm the company. While many agree that the company’s image may need a makeover, firing George Zimmer might have a negative effect.
While it’s not unusual for spokesman to get dropped, when the brand image is so closely tied to the founder, it’s more of a challenge to rebrand.
David Allen Ibsen of Five Meetings Before Lunch said, “George Zimmer is the true face of the company. The question is why Men’s Wearhouse would even do this. If it’s because they want to completely fresh start from a brand perspective, then this makes sense. But if they compete with the core DNA of what he was and transfer that to a less personal thing, I think that’s going to be an even harder sell.”
Ibsen added, “The way you handle it is very important. If they fired Zimmer for being old or something negative, consumers will respond in kind by siding with the human they’ve established a relationship with.”
All businesses should have a contingency plan when it comes to rebranding. However, replacing one spokesman with another is not the solution. According to Bertrand Pellegrin of Consulting Firm B, successful brands today don’t depend on a spokesperson. He said, “That’s an antiquated notion. The answer isn’t to bring in another spokesperson. The answers to take a long, hard look at your brand and see what needs to be changed.”
One thing if for certain, the image of a brand needs to be authentic. Eric Gustavsen of branding company Graj & Gustavsen cited Purdue’s campaign and Wendy’s campaign as examples. In the Purdue campaign, the narrative kept going by passing the torch from father to son. In the Wendy’s campaign, Morgan Smith Goodwin bears a striking resemblance to Wendy, and as such resonates with consumers.
So what did Zimmer do to get fired? According to a statement issued by the board of directors, Zimmer gave the Board of Directors an ultimatum. The board said, “Mr. Zimmer presented the board with the choice of either a) continue to support our CEO and the management team on the successful path they had been taking, or b) effectively reinstating Mr. Zimmer as the sole decision-maker.”
Zimmer founded the company 40 years ago and led the company to become one of the largest men’s retailers with a total of 1,143 stores across the nation. Zimmer was the face of the brand and has tagline was, “You’re going to like the way you look: I guarantee it.”
Zimmer said in a statement, “Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the boardroom that has, in part, contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns by terminating me as an executive officer.”
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