Many companies have attempted, but few have succeeded, in making their owner, CEO or founder the face of the brand. Frank Perdue did manage to become the face of the brand in his family chicken business … but as the story goes, he also believed in the power of a talented advertising agency and did his diligence when he set out to hire one. And with that, Frank’s relationship with Scali, McCabe, Sloves began. As told in Esquire Magazine, Ed McCabe, the copywriter who eventually made Frank famous said, “You know, Frank, I’m not even sure I want your account any more because you’re such a pain in the ass.” Unperturbed, Frank agreed with McCabe and just went right on asking questions and making comments. In the end, the iconic platform line “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” was introduced. By appearing in more than 200 commercials beginning in the 1970s, Frank Perdue became the face, voice and name of the chicken industry. His TV appearances created remarkable name recognition for his company, Perdue Farms. Frank Perdue died in 2005 at age 84. That year, his company achieved over $2.5 billion in sales.
Dave Thomas, The founder of Wendy’s was a regular in the hamburger chain’s commercials – and appeared in over 800 TV spots from 1989 until his death in 2002. Alas, they were never to reach the popularity of the 1984 spot “Where’s the beef?”
Entrepreneurs and business leaders at all stages of their company’s successes have been tempted to put themselves in the spotlight but there are some considerations on such a choice. When Men’s Warehouse changed hands there was something missing in their advertising and that was the voice of George Zimmer, the founder, whose voice was deeply connected with the brand for 25 years. “You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it” was not a campaign they would be able to use again without that signature voice.
Other successful CEOs and founders have been able to make this formula work, among them, Orville Redenbacher, Roger Riney, (Scott-Trade), Charles Schwab, Lee Iacocca and famously successful, Martha Stewart.
That being said, there are many more CEOs, owners and founders that do a poor job of becoming the face of their brands. I often see local advertising for medical procedures, dental offices, law and plastic surgery practices that feature the faces of the practitioners, and I’m not at all sure what they are going for.
Becoming the “face” of a brand can work IF you have the right fit, a strong agency, a sound strategy and a reason to believe. Not every face is ready for prime time … just sayin’.