Zuckerberg stays true to his brand, despite complaints

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was criticized earlier this month for wearing a hoodie to meet potential investors. Here's how industry experts rated his handling of Facebook's IPO.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg rang the opening bell of the NASDAQ stock exchange on Friday in anticipation of the social network going public at 11 am.

The social media platform sold more than 400 million shares at $38 becoming the largest Internet initial public offering in history.

After the offering, Zuckerberg could be worth more than $20 billion, and many of the 2,500 Facebook employees will also receive a hefty sum.

Despite his wild success, Zuckerberg was criticized this month for his attire and his tardiness when meeting potential investors in New York. He showed up late to a meeting and wore a hooded sweatshirt, causing some analysts to label him as immature. Facebook representatives declined to comment to reporters on the issue.  

However, Facebook's stock ended Friday with only a minor increase in value, closing at $38.27 a share. Earlier today, shares of Facebook fell 11.8% from Friday's close and as much as 25% from its intra-day high of $45 a share, according to Reuters.

The NASDAQ stock exchange was also blamed for a 30-minute delay in the start of trading of the stock on Monday morning. Some brokers and investors reportedly did not know whether their orders had gone through. 

PRWeek contacted industry executives to get their take on how Zuckerberg handled the process leading up to the IPO. A sample of their reaction follows.

Joel Curran, MD for the Midwest, MSLGroup – In general, I think he was true to who he is. A big part of Facebook is represented by Mark Zuckerberg's personality, his work style, and his approach to how he's built that brand.

What I admire about him is he has stayed authentic and genuine throughout. To me, it would have been very strange to see him suddenly donning a suit and trying to look corporate when that's not what he's about.

Over the long run [I think it will be successful]. I think Facebook has a viable business model. Like a lot of the social media platforms, it continues to evolve and what it has continued to show me is that they are staying ahead of user tastes and desires and helping to shape those at the same time. It's a tricky equation when you're trying to balance innovation and trying to show the population what they want. Facebook has always been pushing the edge but never going past it.

Andy Polansky, president, Weber Shandwick - Zuckerberg has stayed true to his brand, and to Facebook's brand. That has certainly worked well for the company to this point, and I suspect it will going forward as well.

Steve Cody, managing partner and co-founder, Peppercom – I think he's stayed true to the brand of Mark Zuckerberg. He is who he is, hoodie and all. I think that sends an important signal to every constituent audience. Despite his amazing wealth, estimated to be $25 billion post-IPO, he's still the same direct -some would say obnoxious - person he's always been. Authenticity is critical to a CEO's image and reputation. Love him or hate him, Zuckerberg is nothing else if not consistent.

Nick Ragone, director, Ketchum's Washington, DC, office – I think he handled it well. The flap about his clothes was much ado about nothing. Hoodies are part of his personal brand, much the same way that mock turtlenecks were part of Steve Jobs' brand. He's not a typical CEO – he's the founder of one of the most disruptive, transformative companies in recent memory. He has license to do things a bit differently.

Mark Shadle, managing director, Zeno Group corporate affairs – When a company goes public, management is under the microscope. Investors want to know exactly who is going to lead their company for the future. In the case of Facebook, this interest is even more acute, since Zuckerberg will have 57% voting control of the company after the IPO. With the public moves Zuckerberg has made, from his choice of apparel to his impulsive move to acquire Instagram, he has delivered, giving everyone a view of who will be leading a company valued at nearly $100 billion. The big question is whether investors will hold the shares because of his moves or in spite of them.

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