Men’s Wearhouse has fired its venerable founder, executive chairman and beloved pitchman, George Zimmer. Mr. Zimmer launched the men’s clothing enterprise in 1973 with one store in Texas. Today there are 1,143 locations across North America.
The public came to know and love Mr. Zimmer from the popular commercials featuring his famous slogan “You’re going to love the way you look. I guarantee it.” Not only was Mr. Zimmer the face of the brand, but he also became part of our culture, a sort of everyman that made men who couldn’t afford $5,000 suits feel proud about the way we looked. He guaranteed it. And we believed him. The departure of Mr. Zimmer marks the end of an era.
As PR people who tout the many indisputable benefits of transparency when dealing with the public, we’re bemused by this development and lack of details surrounding it. The public likes Mr. Zimmer. His ousting appears to have been done with an intentional amount of disrespect and disdain. What else could explain the lack of an official statement from the board regarding such an important and controversial decision? Instead of getting in front of this, they did nothing, which is the PR equivalent of pleading the fifth. It’s how guilty people act.
Mr. Zimmer, on the other hand, released a written statement characterizing the toxic relationship between The Men’s Wearhouse board and himself. He explains “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.”
There is more to this story of course, but from a PR standpoint, Mr. Zimmer is in control of the narrative. And public sentiment is on his side. We don’t like the way this looks. We guarantee it.