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Of course Salesforce can trash the competition – it has the moral high ground

Forget space travel and the metaverse, treat your employees like family and wear cool hats like Marc Benioff

Salesforce has a new advert (featuring Matthew McConaughey) that manages to trash some of the world’s most famous tech CEOs in just one minute.

“While the others look to the metaverse and mars, let's restore ours,” McConaughey rhythms (almost) while riding in a hot air balloon. The advert starts in Space and riffs on the classic Star Trek line about the final frontier, which is then dismissed as corporate escapism. “It’s not time to escape,” McConaughey explains. “It’s time to engage”.

Now, let’s not be naive. This is nothing but opportunistic marketing by Salesforce; they’ve clearly seen the memes that mock space-obsessed billionaires and decided to incorporate that in their own advertising. There is, however, a beauty in the shade it manages to throw at Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.

Organisations are often a reflection of their leaders; you may have recently heard the phrase “a fish rots from the head down” when people talk about the UK government, for example. It’s, therefore, hard to ignore that a large part of a company’s culture usually comes directly from its CEO.

The feeling I get – having never worked for or met the Salesforce founder and co-CEO, Marc Benioff – is that he is effortlessly cool. He’s cool in a way that Elon Musk would clearly love to be when he’s trying to be a bantersaurus on Twitter; men would rather talk trash on social media than get therapy. Benioff doesn’t go in for that kind of attention-grabbing nonsense. Instead, he strikes the right balance between likeability and respectability. That includes wearing stylish hats and sharing the CEO role for his own company with Bret Taylor.

Marc Benioff wearing a hat and speaking at a live event

Getty Images

Marc Benioff (pictured) is co-CEO of Salesforce alongside Bret Taylor

Amazon founder and former CEO, Jeff Bezos, is also keen on space flight and many people hate him for this. Partly, this is because he seems hell-bent on spending billions of dollars on finding a ‘new world’ while the one we already have slowly burns. Amazon workers – the ones generating his vast wealth – would probably prefer better working conditions and wages than funding his fantasy life on Mars. I doubt they also want to see the city of Rotterdam temporarily dismantle its Koningshaven bridge just to accommodate his massive superyacht, as reported by Dutch media. Men would rather takedown historic buildings than get therapy.

From our perspective on the ground, these billionaires seem to be trying to fly away from certain responsibilities (like proper taxation), which also seems to be the case for Mark Zuckerberg and his virtual world. His company is taking extreme steps to avoid facing the consequences of building a toxic platform, like changing its name to ‘Meta’ and indulging in the dead cat strategy that is the metaverse. Men will literally tank their businesses for a new concept than get therapy.

You don’t see Benioff fobbing off employees for a couple of minutes at the edge of space with Captian Kirk and you certainly don’t see him shirk responsibility. He often refers to the Salesforce ecosystem – partners and employees – as his “Ohana” which is Hawaiian for family. Throughout the pandemic, with the pros and cons of remote working being hashed out by CEOs around the world, Benioff was announcing the end of the nine-to-five and offering more flexibility to his staff.

What’s more, the company is exploring new frontiers here on Earth. It recently announced plans for its own business-focused TV channel last year. We can expect some polished programmes if this latest advert is anything to go by; it’s the best thing McConaughey’s done since Interstellar.

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