Loose Lips Sink Ships

Jon Shrair

Jon Shrair, Director of Business Development

Mens WearhouseI woke up this morning to read the news that the iconic pitchman for the Men’s Wearhouse had been abruptly terminated. And, that’s it. No more information than that. The guy who, for decades, has been telling us that we’re going to “like the way you look. I guarantee it.” was sent packing — on the morning of the company’s annual shareholder meeting nonetheless.

My first thoughts were, “I can’t wait to hear why,” simply because of the mysterious way the news read this morning and, then, all the wild images raced through my head. But who can blame me given the litany of curious “indiscretions” that tend to make their way out into the public domain from seemingly nowhere. Remember Marv Albert, aka “the biter”? Or, Anthony Weiner, aka “the sexting wiener”?

Why would a company’s press representative let this story out on the day of its annual shareholder meeting without any details at all? I could not have been the only person who started thinking crazy thoughts when the story first appeared. Can I?

By early afternoon more bits and pieces were released. George Zimmer, himself, released a statement saying the firing had to do with the fact that he and the board are at odds over the direction of the company. So, the rumors are being quelled and the story will begin to come out in a more choreographed fashion. But to what end? And, what damage has already been done (the stock was down 2% in afternoon trading)?

My point is simply that brands are precious. They need to be cultivated and considered at every possible juncture. The lack of information can lead to large implications, especially, when you’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing a brand, and its icon, for four decades (circa 1973). I just find it curious that it came out this way. Didn’t someone in the board’s inner circle realize that the stock was going to take a hit? Or that speculation was going to run rampant? Or, that the brand would suffer?

Your guess is as good as mine.

UPDATE: A CNN Money article posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 explains that the board of directors fired “chairman George Zimmer last week, depicting the founder as power-hungry in his desire to sell the company to private investors.”