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CEOs's Marc Benioff Uses His Platform to Pitch Products


Photograph by Kim Kulish/Corbis


(Corrects spelling of Benioff’s name in the headline; corrects name of Fitbit in the second paragraph)

Marc Benioff loves his Philips (PHIA:NA) Sonicare toothbrush. Its sensors transmit data to his dentist that show how well Benioff brushes his teeth. The thing is so cool that the (CRM) chief executive officer held it up before a crowd of 3,000 in New York on Jan. 8 and declared that he walked out of Costco (COST) with 50 of them to make sure he always has one in hand. And when did Benioff become so enamored with his Philips’s toothbrush? After meeting Philips CEO Frans van Houten at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Benioff said later, which led to the company becoming a “huge customer.”

Benioff doesn’t just promote his favorite toothbrush. At the Jan. 8 launch of what’s been dubbed the “Salesforce1 World Tour,” Benioff said the Fitbit, another client, “has changed my life.” He talked about how Toyota (TM) chief Akio Toyoda, his friend and longtime customer, is using data to turn your car into your friend. He pulled out his San Francisco 49ers phone shell when talking about how his tech platform transforms sports teams’ relationship with fans. To illustrate the power of connected devices, which Benioff dubs “the Internet of Customers,” he turned to customer Stanley Black & Decker (SWK) for a demonstration of smart tools. He pulled up Sandy Kurtzig of Salesforce-backed venture Kenandy, introducing her as “a legend in the industry.”

Whether Benioff’s love is linked to loyalty may not matter. After all, the biggest brand evangelist for Salesforce is Marc Benioff. Like Amazon’s (AMZN) Jeff Bezos and the late Steve Jobs, he’s openly smitten with his own technology. And he genuinely loves those who share his enthusiasm. That’s made Benioff the Oprah of Silicon Valley, with an unparalleled stream of praise for his favorite things. They’re cool. They’re fun to use. And they run their businesses with cloud-based software from

What makes Benioff’s praise so potent is the platform that he’s created offline. He last pulled out his toothbrush in November, waving it before a crowd of 130,000 at the annual Dreamforce event. Add in Benioff’s blog, Twitter (TWTR) feed, speaker engagements, and media hits, and it’s easy to see why a mention from Marc is a coveted perk for customers. (And why his company ranks ahead of rivals in the cloud computing sector.)

This time, Benioff is drawn to products that illustrate the power of Salesforce1, a mobile-friendly package that lets users connect products, apps, and devices to the Internet and use that data to better serve customers. It’s not just an upgrade, says Benioff. It’s the third wave of computing, a revolution that will transform business. As Benioff’s hands hit the table for emphasis, he looks at his Fitbit. “I just hit 10,000 steps,” he says proudly.

Brady is a senior editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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