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5 Company Founders Who Jumped Into Their Brand’s TV Commercials

Did you know that some companies feature their founders in commercials? It may not be a well-known advertising tactic, but it’s a smart one!

Why is it smart?

In today’s age of social networking and creating successful brand personalities, it’s imperative to remain transparent and down-to-earth to your customers.

Well, what’s more transparent than featuring a company founder or CEO in a TV commercial?

Now that we have that marketing mumbo-jumbo out of the way, we can move onto the fun stuff: Actually watching their advertisements! Based on my extensive research (mainly me sitting at home on my sofa, channel surfing), it appears there are quite a few companies that bring the founder from behind office doors to the forefront of the company’s image.

Company: Charles Schwab

Founder: Charles Schwab

Advertising Tactic: Humor

I think these commercials will do really well. They have an excellent mix of humor (Annie buying not one or two leather animal masks, but four masks) and still explain what Charles Schwab does (investment/financial planning assistance). They incorporate their infamous “Talk to Chuck” tagline by actually showing people talking to Chuck. This ad is spot-on brilliant!

Company: Virgin Group (about 400 companies)

Founder: Richard Branson

Advertising Tactic: Humor

The ads where companies can poke fun at themselves are always winners in my book. Richard Branson (and the advertising team) does a great job of showing the progression of his mindset and how he’s always been a bit “out there.” His quirkiness plays to the consumer’s advantage, though, because it gives them a company that believes in unlimited data for just $35 a month. A funny commercial to watch, and an effective one too!

Company: Perdue

Current Chairman and Grandson to founder Arthur Perdue: Jim Perdue

Advertising Tactic: Informative

Whether it’s Frank or Jim Perdue in the ads, it doesn’t matter to me; both men have a way of putting consumers at ease when it comes to their products. I can’t even think of another chicken brand out there! You truly know this brand is obsessed with chicken, so much so that the company founders are willing to hop in the ads and really tell people why their chicken is better than other grocery store brands you may find. You don’t see many other food companies doing that (and no, Ronald McDonald doesn’t count).

Company: Boston Beer Company

Founder: Jim Koch

Advertising Tactic: Story-telling

This ad perfectly explains why Jim Koch got into the beer brewing business in the first place, and why he decided to sell it on a much larger scale nationwide. Anyone can read the “About” section of a company’s website, but let’s face it – we’re lazy and we enjoy being told with moving pictures. I always wondered why the beer was named Sam Adams, and because of this ad I can offer that random fact at a moment’s notice. Great party trick!

Company: Men’s Warehouse

Founder: George Zimmer

Advertising Tactic: Story-telling

Zimmer’s voice is like melted caramel (Tim Allen in his ‘Pure Michigan’ commercials has a bit of competition now). It’s so deep and velvety that he could read from the phone book and keep my attention. Personal opinion aside, he really is perfect in the ads, and consumers have grown accustomed to either seeing or hearing him during their commercials.

And the added benefit of having the CEO of a company say, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it”? It definitely makes the store sound more credible than “Stu’s Suit Shack: Where the suits are all under $30″.

Make sure customers remember your company's name and not just the ad where you put a clock on your head

There are few ways to incorporate company founders into a TV ad. Humor is a great way to show that your company isn’t stuffy or stale, but make sure people remember your name and not just the punch line if you go this route. Some spokespeople seize the public attention aspect by speaking (on the customer’s level) about what the company is doing, why they founded the company to begin with, and what makes them different. This more serious tone can really radiate with consumers and make them feel like they have a bond with the company and the founder on a more personal level.

If you want consumers to trust your company, then sometimes you have to go that extra mile for them and show off the person behind the curtain. While not every founder out there has the gumption to put their reputation on the line to do a TV advertisement, these five men sure have the guts, and it has paid off for them!

Disclaimer: I do have a life outside of watching television. I know from my past blogs (like this one, this one, or this one, and this one) it appears that I don’t, but I do!

Did you like one of these company founders’ acting abilities better than another one? Can you think of another company founder who has made their acting debut in TV commercials? Sound off below!

Image credit to Clipart.com.


Amy Swanson

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ content developers and social media coordinators. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on

Comments

  1. Eric

    Take a spliced-together cut of a track off “The Cider House Rules” soundtrack, add the voice from “Home Improvement” star, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, and who the heck knew you’d have as successful an ad campaign as the one Michigan’s been running. I know it isn’t an example, but you did reference it, and it’s probably some of the best marketing I’ve seen. That song comes on, you know what’s up. Michigan’s up. You best be packing your overnight bag and heading there.

    Bran’s humor I admire, especially for someone at his level of wealth.

    You could list the personal approach Sam Adams takes in their commercials, or the Sargento cheese guy (who’s ruined mediocre cheese for me, for life, thanks to his superior product).

    It’s interested to think of all the different approaches, really. That said, really neat post, Amy. I’ll enjoy it more when I can get around to watching the video clips! :)

    • Eric

      Just watched a couple of the videos. “Talk to Chuck” was pretty darn entertaining, too. Just realized Sam’s brewed by the Boston Beer Co. (d’oh!). And although I don’t care much for George Zimmer (or Men’s Warehouse), I have to give it to them: “When everyone is looking at her, she’ll be looking at you” is one hell of a line to sell a suit/tux. Good stuff, Amy!

      • amy

        Thanks so much, Eric!! That Men’s Warehouse ad is from last year I think, but I knew it had to be featured somewhere. Pure. Marketing. Genius! Putting myself in the bride’s shoes I thought, “I want my future husband looking good on my wedding day. Shoot, if I’m dropping all that cash on a dress he’d better look good standing next to me,” hahaha ;)

        I’m so glad you liked the videos, and I’m with you on the Sargento cheese guy ruining “cheap” cheese. A piece of Kraft American cheese was all I needed on a grilled cheese, now I’m loving provolone and monterey jack slices instead. -sigh-

  2. Jay

    As much as I can see a positive side to this, I have to admit that I’m under the impression that most of these people are motivated by their own egos. I don’t care who owns the company on the commercial I’m skipping past on my DVR. I’ll never forget when the CEO of Scottrade showed himself flying a Helicopter in a commercial. We get it dude, you’re rich, no need to advertise it, your first name is in the actual name of the company you own.

    (The Sam Adams guy is annoying as hell. I never like their beer, now I REALLY don’t like it).

    • amy

      I totally forgot about that Scottrade commercial! If I remember correctly, it aired during the middle of the economic recession and didn’t get a good reception from critics or consumers because it wasn’t ‘relate-able’ enough (shocking). I totally agree with you on that example, 100%!!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jay!! :)

  3. Jenna Markowski

    I think it’s great that company founders are appearing in advertisements as a means of conveying transparency. The brands who do so come off as much more trustworthy than others. If the founder of the company is willing to throw himself into the advertisement, it must be something he really believes in, right?

    I love the advertisement for Virgin because the kid has a goatee for his whole life, even as a child. That cracked me up. Although, that one got a little creepy at the end.

    The first brand I thought of related to this was Bush’s Baked Beans. I did some research, and although the guy Jay in the commercials is not the founder, he is the great-grandson of the founder, so that’s close! Very interesting post, Amy! :)

    • amy

      Thanks, Jenna!

      Transparency is really tough for companies to convey and it’s extremely important that they do so. As I know you know, trusting a company is the difference between buying them over their competitor. I’m much more willing to buy or try something a founder or CEO is persuading me rather than some anonymous actor/actress.

      Bush’s Baked Beans is a great example, they’ve been on for so long that imagining a world without them is almost impossible, haha!

  4. Jen

    When I think of company founders in their own t.v. commercials, Jay Bush and Duke (the golden retriever) come to mind. Jay talks about his secret family recipe that has been around since before he was born, while Duke wants to sell the secret and get rich. It’s cute, and I like that it’s always Jay and Duke (they’re very recognizable now). Nice post Amy!

    • amy

      It’s sad, but I always buy Bush’s because of their ads. They have their brand’s name so engrained in my brain that I can’t even think of another brand of baked beans out there. I’m sure they have competition, I just never stop to compare when I’m shopping. I see their label on the shelf, pick it up, and move on.

      Thanks for the comment, Jen :)

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    I hadn’t seen any of the Charles Schwab commercials before, but I wish I had! Shucks, if the CEO is willing to listen to Annie blab about animal masks, the company could certainly help out a mask-less saver like me!

    I like seeing CEOs/Founders/etc. in commercials. It feels like they really care about their services and products when they are. And at this point, I think a Men’s Warehouse commercial would just feel wrong without George Zimmer.

    • amy

      I was pleasantly surprised, I thought all of Chuck’s ads were funny — granted, some funnier than others… you can skip the “gold jacket” one… pretty lame. These ads really struck a cord with me, I mean who couldn’t always use advice for budgeting and saving money, right? Plus, I’ve always kind of liked their tagline “Talk to Chuck” for some reason.

      Totally agree with your statement, “I think a Men’s Warehouse commercial would just feel wrong without George Zimmer”. SO TRUE!! I will probably cry the day he’s not doing the voice-over in their ads :(

  6. Rachel

    The example that came instantly to mind when I started reading this was Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. His face pretty much became synonymous with the Wendy’s brand until he passed away. According to his Wikipedia page, he was in over 800 Wendy’s commercials!! Crazy.

    I like the Charles Schwab, Virgin, and Men’s Warehouse commercials quite a bit … though I mostly find the Sam Adams and Perdue commercials annoying. I think a lot of it comes down to how good/not good of actors each of these people are. Jim Koch and Jim Perdue sound more like borderline-sleazy salespeople to me, whereas with the other commercials, the founder either acts fairly well (Zimmer), doesn’t act so great but in an endearing way (Schwab), or has no speaking lines (Branson). But, as with most things, it all comes down to personal opinion, I guess. :)

    I do love that Men’s Warehouse ad … such a sweet one. Thanks for sharing all of these, Amy! :)

    • amy

      Your Dave Thomas example is perfect, Rachel! I knew it seemed like he was in a lot of their ads, but 800+ is crazy!!!

      It’s funny how each of these men can give off an entirely different personality and selling technique, but in the end they’re all doing the same thing. Selling their product. Whether they do it in a funny way or informative, they’re just hoping it results in higher sales. I’d hate to be an agency dealing with a CEO who thought they were hilarious, but in reality aren’t. Yikes, can you say awkward?!

      Thanks for the read and comment, Rachel :)

  7. Alex Brodsky

    I’m not sure which company started doing it first, but both Domino’s and Papa John’s have their CEOs appearing in commercials now. Obviously one brand did it, the other copied.

    But until their pizzas get better, seeing Mr. Domino or Father John in the commercials isn’t going to make me fork over money for cardboard crust and tomato paste from a tube.

    Cool post, Amy! I like the way you write, I guarantee it.

    • amy

      I remember Papa John’s doing it first and then Domino’s needed help so their CEO jumped in. I think? Great question and you’re right, “Obviously one brand did it, the other copied.” Probably more truth in that than anything else, haha!

      Man, I scored an “Alex Brodsky Guarantee”?!?! I’m one lucky lady today apparently, where’s the closest gas station so I can buy a lottery ticket??? ;) Thanks, Alex!

    • Jay

      I second that. Papa John can go to hell. “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.” REALLY BRO? You do realize that you’re airing this in Chicago where we know about Pizza, not L.A.

      The Domino’s guy is funny… and effective. I like his “I know I know… we used to suck. I get that. BUT… our shit is actually decent now. Plus we spread some garlic/butter-ish substance on the crust now.”

  8. Cybernetic SAM

    Wow this was an awesome post! I LOVE that Richard Branson commercial I remember when I first saw that I laughed so hard! The others were also great examples and they all stick with you. I think it is refreshing to see the CEOs etc… be face to face with the public, after all it is their company…that whole “know your neighbor” kind of thing! Great post!

    • amy

      Thanks so much, Sam! You’re right with your “know your neighbor” idea!! It’s important for a CEO/founder/owner/etc to poke their head out of their office every once in a while and make an appearance. Proves that the company isn’t run by some robot, but an actual person like you or me. Crazy, right? ;)

      I’m so glad you liked it, Sam! Thanks for the comment!!

  9. Jeff Porretto

    The ONE time I bought a couple suits in my life I went to Men’s Warehouse. It was all I could do when buying them not to say “I’m going to like the way I look.” But I was sure they hear that a million times a day. It’s one helluva line though! That get’s my nod as one of the best uses of CEOs in commercials ever.

    • amy

      Quite possibly one of the best taglines ever. When you hear it your mind instantly goes to Men’s Warehouse and you can easily fill it in, “You’re going to like the way you look, _ __________ __”. Thanks for the comment, Jeff!

  10. Jill Tooley

    Good post, Amy! :D

    I have to admit, that Charles Schwab commercial is scary. I don’t like the masks, they freak me out! And I’ve always thought the Perdue chicken guy is creepy… Sorry, not trying to say anything bad about your choices, I promise! Haha. On a positive note, I like George Zimmer and Richard Branson. I don’t know that their presence in these commercials increased my overall trust of Men’s Wearhouse or Virgin, but neither of those brands has ever let me down.

    • amy

      Haha, thanks for the input Jill! As long as I got 2 of them that you liked I consider it a great day :) I haven’t personally worked with Men’s Warehouse but I wouldn’t know where else to go to for men’s suits.

      Thanks for the comment, Jill!!

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