CEOs are undoubtedly smart people. They wouldn’t have reached the privileged positions they find themselves in if they weren’t. However, while they are smart, they’re also human, and prone to making costly errors and PR gaffes (which they live to regret).
Some of them, along with earning a spot on the wall of shame, have even had phrases coined after them. One example is “pulling a Ratner.” This is in reference to the British business mogul, Gerald Ratner’s public relations disaster, when he jokingly criticized his company’s products not only cost him his job, but also wiped a hefty $500 million from the value of his business. The company later had to change its name from the Ratner Group to Signet.
Lululemon’s founder Chip Wilson reminded us that the repercussions from a fumble not only affect your brand, but your reputation as well. When questioned on the claims of pilling and shearing his company’s yoga pants, the CEO said, “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for it,” This gaffe ended up costing the company between $82 and $128 million, and Wilson’s later attempt at an apology was ridiculed for being insincere.
Apparently, no one ever told Chip Wilson that it’s bad business to offend your customers, and he resigned from his position shortly after. Current CFO of Lululemon, John Currie, recently stated that the company’s PR gaffes have undeniably had a negative impact of the company’s sales and stock price.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer seems to get rather defensive when questioned about his main competitors’ products, and is rather famous for coming out with some memorable quotes over the years.
Now, of course you wouldn’t expect the head of Microsoft to wax lyrical about a product designed by a rival company like Apple but, when asked about the launch of the iPhone back in 2007, Ballmer did make himself look a little silly. He claimed the device would not be popular with business customers, as it’s not a good device for email, and further stated that “there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
3. Abercrombie and Fitch
Mike Jeffries, CEO of clothing giant Abercrombie and Fitch, has seen his company’s reputation plummet after his ill-advised comments regarding his potential customers. In an interview with Salon magazine, Jeffries went on record as saying he’d prefer that “fat” or “not-so-cool” kids didn’t wear A&F’s clothing.
Even though these comments were made back in 2006, they have recently resurfaced and Jeffries was forced into making a public rebuttal saying the company is opposed to any discrimination.
Godaddy has had more than its fair share of bad press. From the complaints of sexual innuendo in its advertising, to the video of its CEO, Bob Parson, killing an elephant while on safari, it’s a miracle that the domain registrar still has customers.
Their biggest blunder however, was their public support for SOPA; the internet censorship bill.
Boycotts, petitions and thousands of transferred domain names followed soon after. They even got revenge-hacked and lost control of their services for a while. Their email services, all the hosted domains, and those registered through them went offline. That is, until they recanted their support for the bill. Nevertheless, the damage was done and the company is still reeling from the effects of their latest bad move.
#biocottabarilla (Boycott Barilla) was trending on twitter within hours of an interview held on a small radio station in Italy. It was during this interview that the pasta company’s CEO, Guido Barilla, stated that his company’s ads would never feature homosexuals, as they don’t represent the concept of a “sacred family.”
CEOs are constantly being told by subordinates that they are right, and their ideas are wonderful. For the majority of people, this kind of constant praise and affirmation will lead to haughtiness and arrogance. CEOs should probably ensure they are self-disciplined and fully trained on how to deal with the media before making any kind of public appearance.
Image Credits: blogs.gazette.com, weblogs.baltimoresun.com, www.businessinsider.com, wikipedia.org