Tag Archives: PR

Men’s Wearhouse: The calm before the storm

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk.

Former Men’s Wearhouse spokesperson, George Zimmer.  Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk.

With the recent firing of Men’s Wearhouse spokesperson, George Zimmer, many opinions have surfaced addressing the question, “What would you have done differently?”

In order to ensure a successful transition of the founder out of his role as company spokesperson, here are just a few of the things that I would have done:

  1. Create a transition plan – Identify who will take over the role of company spokesperson when Zimmer leaves.  Not necessarily someone just like Zimmer, but an individual who will fill the role appropriately and also bring his own unique traits to the table.   So, for example, Zimmer was never really a strikingly handsome man.  Perhaps to fill his role, Men’s Wearhouse should consider hiring an attractive, young man who could serve as Zimmer’s protégé of sorts.  This would also assist with maintaining the presence of a familiar face in the branding efforts.  Doug Haslam calls this as the “Trapper John/BJ” effect, referring to characters from the popular television show M*A*S*H.
  2. Be honest with customers early on via social media and other traditional PR avenues as to why Zimmer was being let go and where the company plans to go from here. Otherwise customers are left to draw their own conclusions, and we all know how that story typically unfolds…
  3. Place emphasis on the voice of the company itself and its products and services, with Zimmer providing a benefit, but not being the entire draw. By placing emphasis on what Men’s Wearhouse is truly all about, the suits, it would help alleviate some of the pressure placed on Zimmer as the spokesperson.
  4. One last favor – Ask Zimmer to either appear in one last advertisement with a farewell message or to release a statement explaining his exit from the company.  By having Zimmer actively participate in his final statement, it would help add credibility to the message.
  5. Focus on the positives – Perhaps host a National Suit Drive during the transition featuring the new spokesperson and his commitment to giving back to the community and those less fortunate.
Men's Wearhouse National Suit Drive.  Photo courtesy of Brandon Doran.

Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.                           Photo courtesy of Brandon Doran.

Hindsight is always 20/20

On the flipside, if I was brought in to consult after the crisis, I would likely employ the following steps:

  1. Identify a target audience for a response to the criticism.  Pinpoint specific talkers and customers and respond to them directly with honest and straightforward answers.
  2. Focus on responding to the audience that is talking to us in the way they want to hear from us. Because Men’s Wearhouse customers are avid social media users, it would behoove the company to respond directly to folks in those spaces.  A standard press release might not be the best bet in this case.
  3. Record our own YouTube video responding to the criticism ensuring that we will do all that we can to reverse any wrongdoings and restore the Men’s Wearhouse brand image.  Domino’s Pizza is a great example of a company that did this very well in 2009 when responding to criticism regarding the quality of its food.
  4. Launch a campaign similar to what LIVESTRONG did when responding to the Lance Armstrong crisis.  The company made it very clear to its customers that LIVESTRONG is about more than just one person:

“Thank you for standing with the Foundation — now, in the past, and most importantly, in the future. Your encouragement energizes us and we are going strong, serving people affected by cancer. People are in the fight of their lives. This place has never been about one man, and we are grateful beyond measure for every message of hope and good will that we receive.” LIVESTRONG.

Photo courtesy of LIVESTRONG.ORG

Photo courtesy of LIVESTRONG.ORG

So it turns out that being successful in life does hinge significantly on how you look.  Lesson learned for Men’s Wearhouse.  This time around we can pretty much guarantee that the company did not like they way they looked.

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Homeless hotspots? Not so hot for SXSW

“Hi, I’m Caleb and I’m a 4G hotspot.”  While a creative idea, and most certainly a way for the homeless population in Austin to make some extra money, is it really worth the message they are sending to potential customers?  And does it reflect positively on South By Southwest?  But most importantly, is it even ethical behavior?


Perpetuating the stigma of homelessness

There is already a negative stigma surrounding the homeless populations in most cites and countries, but now we are making it even worse by exploiting the group’s state of desperation.  How embarrassing it must be for these individuals – in many ways, no better than holding out an empty Styrofoam coffee cup asking for change.  Some might say I am not being progressive enough with my thought process.  But if being progressive means exploiting our homeless populations to benefit the already privileged and overly connected population, then I don’t want to be progressive.

Try on their shoes for a moment


For the sake of empathy, I used my younger brother’s name in the first sentence of this blog post.  Caleb could be homeless had his cards been stacked differently in life.  All of us could be.  But we aren’t.  We are lucky, fortunate, blessed – whichever one falls in line with your particular belief system.  So fortunate in fact that the lines have become so blurred for us that we cannot distinguish what human behavior is appropriate and what human behavior is inappropriate.  Turning homeless individuals into Wi-Fi hotspots, I’m afraid, is far beyond inappropriate.  It’s downright careless.

Where is the buy in?

Yes, the extra money is nice I am sure.  But let’s take a look at the systemic problem with homelessness.  Is paying these individuals $20 a day to become walking, talking Internet machines really helping the homeless?  Is it really getting to the root of the problem?  No.  Show me an idea that pays the homeless $20 a day to work, develop a skill set, and foster abilities they will help get them off the streets.  Now that’s an idea I will buy into.

According to ABC News, it looks like other folks are having trouble with the buy in factor as well.  After following one homeless man around for almost an hour, not one person took advantage of the Wi-Fi hotspot.  Was it guilt?  Shame?  Or maybe even something far worse?  “I am not using Wi-Fi that is coming from a homeless person?  That’s gross.”  Either way, the thought process is not natural because the act is not natural.  These people are human beings, just like you and I.  Let’s step out of our self-involved, internet-obsessed lives for a moment and acknowledge this simple fact.  Shame on South By Southwest for employing such a cavalier tactic.

Just ask Paula

One of the many Paula Deen comics that surfaced.

One of the many Paula Deen comics that surfaced.

This example begs the larger question, “Is all press good press?”  And the very simple answer to that question is “No.”  I hate to use such a glaringly obvious and contested example, but Paula Deen pretty much stole the show with “bad press” this summer.  Some may argue this fact, but the proof is in the pudding (bad-um ching).  My apologies for the terrible pun.  In all honesty though, whichever side you take on the popular Paula Deen debate, it is tough to deny that all of the negative press has ultimately hurt the celebrity and will be next to impossible to recover from.

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