Salesforce Splurged $20 Million on the Face of its AI Strategy

  • Salesforce spent $20 million to license Albert Einstein’s likeness for its AI branding.
  • The move distinguishes Salesforce in the competitive AI landscape.
  • Einstein’s image licensing proceeds benefit the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • Salesforce strategically positioned itself as a trusted intermediary amid AI safety concerns.
  • Matthew McConaughey features in Salesforce commercials, adding star power to the AI narrative.
  • Clara Shih leads Salesforce’s AI initiatives, emphasizing education about AI risks.
  • The use of Einstein’s image has been hailed as one of Salesforce’s best branding decisions.

Main AI News:

Nearly 900 individuals congregated in a San Francisco conference hall adorned in identical white lab coats, wigs, and mustaches. Guinness World Records hailed it as the largest-ever “Gathering of People Dressed as Albert Einstein” and honored Salesforce Inc., the orchestrator of the March gathering.

Albert Einstein, long deceased, now serves as the mascot for the software company’s artificial intelligence functionalities. This endeavor came at a considerable cost—Salesforce forked out over $20 million to procure the rights to Einstein’s likeness in a deal struck almost ten years ago, as disclosed by a confidential source.

In the realm of technology firms engaged in artificial intelligence, standing out proves to be a daunting task. Salesforce has strategically employed a lovable portrayal of the renowned physicist to convey the forward-thinking and secure nature of its AI products. Additionally, the company has sought to cast doubt on the safety of large language models from entities such as OpenAI, advocating for an intermediary. “Everyone’s an Einstein with Salesforce” resonates as the tagline in a recent commercial within Salesforce’s relentless stream of advertisements, depicting customers transforming into the scientist upon utilizing AI features.

The proceeds derived from Einstein’s image licensing benefit the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an institution Einstein helped establish and bequeathed his intellectual property to upon his demise. Paul Morizet, who previously oversaw licensing agreements for the estates of deceased celebrities, including Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, indicated that the university exercises great caution in the usage of Einstein’s image. Proposals such as emblazoning Einstein’s visage on napkins or milk containers faced rejection, emphasizing the university’s preference for substantial deals that uphold the brand’s integrity.

Almost a decade ago, Salesforce marketers were tasked with devising a brand identity for disparate AI features, including a tool for predicting potential sales prospects. Initially, mundane monikers such as Compass or Salesforce AI were floated, according to Colin Fleming, a marketing executive at Salesforce. However, when CEO Marc Benioff proposed “Einstein,” the marketers hesitated, per sources familiar with the deliberations. The name seemed too reminiscent of Watson, International Business Machines Corp.’s AI tool, which had failed to achieve significant impact beyond its victory on the game show Jeopardy! Despite opposition and a consumer research study favoring an alternative name, Benioff persisted, securing the domain “” and embarking on the licensing process.

The Hebrew University embraced Salesforce’s proposition, solidifying Salesforce as the sole business-oriented software company permitted to utilize Einstein’s likeness for twenty years, according to insider information. Fleming asserted that Salesforce has made minimal modifications to the agreement since its inception. A university spokesperson expressed gratitude for being entrusted by Albert Einstein to safeguard his valuable intellectual property posthumously.

In the past year, every major software company has introduced generative AI features with product names reflecting their strategies. Microsoft Corp. employs “Copilot” to illustrate the consultative role of its new tools in daily operations. Inc.’s “Bedrock” solution for AI model deployment underscores its ambition to dominate the infrastructure layer. Google rebranded its AI chatbot as “Gemini,” departing from “Bard,” presumably because an antiquated poet doesn’t inspire confidence as a fact-finder. IBM revived its Watson branding for a platform intended to enable companies to securely utilize and train AI models.

Salesforce has launched a plethora of Einstein-branded AI features in its customer-management applications, facilitating the swift generation of content such as pitch emails, service responses, or e-commerce product descriptions. Benioff even controversially suggested that Einstein would imminently attain artificial general intelligence, a term fiercely debated, denoting AI on par with human intelligence.

What sets Salesforce’s AI positioning apart is its assertion that the new technology poses risks and necessitates management. Benioff has vehemently argued that large language models, the backbone of generative AI, compromise business data integrity and “mislead” by disseminating inaccurate information, implicitly advocating for an intermediary. Salesforce touts its “Einstein Trust Layer,” which screens large language models from entities like OpenAI or Anthropic, preventing them from either accessing proprietary data or generating toxic content detrimental to customer relations.

In a frequently aired Salesforce television commercial, Matthew McConaughey—creative advisor to Salesforce, reportedly earning over $10 million annually according to the Wall Street Journal—portrays a cowboy character, likening AI to the wild west. McConaughey also lends his voice to the narration in Einstein-themed commercials.

Clara Shih, who spearheads Salesforce’s AI endeavors, remarked, “There’s a substantial educational effort required because not everyone comprehends how these large language models are trained and the associated drawbacks.” While the company hasn’t disclosed the revenue generated by its AI tools, Shih highlighted the “indirect” sales resulting from its AI capabilities.

The emphasis on safety, bolstered by a trusted figure like Einstein, resonates strongly. Fleming remarked, “He’s an extraordinary individual—one of the most widely quoted figures globally. Incorporating Einstein into our branding has undoubtedly been one of the most astute decisions we’ve made as a company.”


Salesforce’s substantial investment in licensing Einstein’s likeness for its AI branding underscores its commitment to standing out in the AI market. By associating itself with a trusted figure like Einstein and emphasizing AI safety, Salesforce aims to carve a unique niche in the industry. This move highlights the growing importance of brand identity and trust in the competitive AI landscape, setting a precedent for other players to follow suit in strategic branding initiatives.