There are times, however, when it’s possible to be too honest: like when a CEO doesn’t actually like their own product.
“I’m not a man who wears watches, and I’ve never been optimistic about this market,” Eric Xu just told analysts at telecom giant’s Huawei’s annual investor event in China.
The company’s deputy chairman and rotating CEO was responding to a question about the company’s new Watch 2, an Android-based smartwatch that will compete with more dominant offerings from Apple.
He went on: “I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones.”
If that wasn’t enough, he also criticized his staffs’ enthusiasm: “When the smartwatch team in Huawei presents their ideas to me with great excitement, I keep reminding them to consider whether there are tangible needs for these products in the market.”
Xu’s comments, first reported in the South China Morning Post, stand out for their extreme rarity. Of course, many CEOs have been known to criticize their own products, but only begrudgingly in retrospect—not during their launch.
CEOs are far better served actually using their own products to demonstrate their value: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, regularly posts status updates. Warren Buffett is often seen holding a can of Coca-Cola, of which Berkshire Hathaway holds a substantial stake, and even has agreed to have his face put on Cherry Coke cans in China.
And then there’s PPSS CEO Robert Kaiser, who showed confidence in his company’s bullet-proof vests by posting this video of himself online getting shot by a Glock 19 handgun.
As recently reported by Chief Executive, advertisements featuring CEOs often perform better than ads that don’t. After all, few people know a company’s product better than the CEO, who’s genuine enthusiasm could show through while they speak.
A silver lining for Xu is that the market’s going to be very excited if he speaks highly of Huawei’s next product. But for the most part, CEOs in his position should probably follow the old adage: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
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