Daniel P. Amos
Chairman and Chief Executive, Aflac, Inc.
Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club of Boston
November 29, 2012
TAKEAWAY: Firing Gilbert Gottfried
Every CEO knows how important it is with your brand. And anything that threatens or tarnishes your name, of one kind or another, brand can do it quickly. And while we were still hearing about the anguish of lives lost, the U.S. voice of the Aflac duck, Gilbert Gottfried, decided to tweet jokes about the situation. They weren’t remotely funny, and they were hurtful and insulting to the Japanese people.
So I was then faced with a decision. Most of you in this room would probably agree that there really wasn’t much of a decision to make at all, when it comes to protecting your brand and reaching that kind of decision. But interestingly, the way we found out about it was it was tweeted, and within a matter of 10 minutes, a reporter had called me and wanted to know my comments.
Now, a few years ago, you would say, “Let me get back with you tomorrow.” But because of the Internet, they were going to respond, and if I had said “I will get back with you tomorrow,” it would have been: Aflac has not reached a decision and they are deliberating what to do. So I asked the reporter for 30 minutes, and within 30 minutes of learning about it—Gilbert’s comments—we had fired him, knowing that every commercial that we had in the United States would have to be pulled immediately.