Death of a Salesman: Will Men’s Wearhouse Salvage Their Brand?

Last week it was announced that Men’s Wearhouse founder, George Zimmer, would be terminated from his role as Executive Chairman for what appears to be no good reason. Some have speculated that it’s to make a quick buck. Others have speculated that it’s to get away from some of his unconventional business practices. Official rationalization has yet to be announced, but this appears to be a poor branding movie.

When a company generates $2.48 BILLION in revenue, you have to wonder why they’d want to change anything. George Zimmer isn’t just a representative of Men’s Wearhouse ; he is Men’s Wearhouse. He’s the “You’re gonna like the way you look” guy. We all know who he is. George Zimmer is the guy every man in America could relate to in some way. Here’s what I think could happen as a result of Zimmer’s absence:

Men’s Wearhouse will lose customers

Death of a Salesman: Will Men’s Wearhouse Salvage Their Brand? image MensWearhouseZimmerDeath of a Salesman: Will Men’s Wearhouse Salvage Their Brand?

As soon as word got out about George Zimmer’s termination, the Men’s Wearhouse Facebook page (not surprisingly) experienced a tremendous amount of heat from loyal customers. Many also took to the comment sections of various news outlets to express their grief. Many comments consisted of “I’ll never shop there again” or “why would you fire the founder?” Actions are indeed louder than words, but you’d be surprised at how adamant people are to keep their word – especially if they’re pissed off.
What’s even scarier about this situation—for Men’s Wearhouse—is that this isn’t a religious or political issue, so they won’t have that nice customer balancing act to work with. There appear to be very few people actually agreeing with the Board of Directors’ decision. It’s plain to see that most people believe that “fair is fair,” and that Zimmer should be able to hold on to what he worked so hard to earn.

They won’t be profitable among their loyal customers

Here’s the sad and honest truth: Men’s Wearhouse is always going to be profitable. I don’t necessarily agree that brands always solve problems, but it’s the only way to describe this particular brand’s situation. In Men’s Wearhouse’s case, they really are solving a “problem.” You need an affordable suit or tuxedo that will comfortably fit your body and your body alone? Men’s Wearhouse will give you just that–and you’re going to look damn good in it. One look at one of those shoddy, overpriced prom outlet stores and you’ll be running to a higher quality, cheaper alternative like Men’s Wearhouse. They’re solving a problem because many companies don’t have the kind of solution they have.

Unfortunately, the loss of George Zimmer will make loyal customers feel confused and maybe even a little betrayed. George Zimmer is the “every man” who made customers feel comfortable about buying their product.

Without that guiding light, who’s going to give them the confidence to shop there? Without nice guy George Zimmer, Men’s Wearhouse will undoubtedly be open to drastic change. Progressive Insurance has been around since the 1930’s, and they didn’t introduce Flo until 2008. The difference between Men’s Wearhouse and Progressive, however, is that Progressive’s changes were a remarkably good thing. They only made a strong brand even stronger.

It’s clear that Progressive was trying to target a younger audience—and rightfully so. Teenagers just now getting behind the wheel don’t want to be lectured about driving safety, insurance and what not—they want to be spoken to with dignity. More importantly, they just want to drive. Men’s Wearhouse may be trying to go for a younger audience, but they really didn’t need to oust Zimmer to do so. Not only did Zimmer play the “everyman,” but he played the ideal father figure. Zimmer embodied with the word “comfort.”

There could be a very legitimate reason to fire George Zimmer; there could be a very stupid reason. It doesn’t matter. He was the reason Men’s Wearhouse was successful. People wouldn’t know about the great products and services Men’s Wearhouse offered if it weren’t for Zimmer’s calm and suave outreach. People trusted George Zimmer, and that’s the definition of a strong brand. In order for a potential customer to be enticed, they need to trust who’s feeding them information.

Do you think Men’s Wearhouse brand will withstand this major change? Tell us in the comments.

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