Monday, April 12, 2010

Rise and Fall of a Personal Brand: Is There a Second Chance?

Are you as sick, as I am, of hearing about the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods? Most people I’ve talked to say they are ready to move on to more positive things.  Yet the conversation lingers.  Why is that!

Human beings, by nature, respect and trust highly successful people, with wholesome images.  These “leaders” become our heroes, mentors and role models. Since we look up to them, we hold them to a higher moral standard.

When they let us down we sometimes feel cheated, even deceived.  Their actions make us feel uncomfortable.  We then question our own values, since we chose to follow these people in the first place.

A natural part of the healing process is to discuss our feelings with one another … to search for some understanding, or some closure.  I believe that is what is currently happening, with the Tiger Woods scandal.

The Rise and Fall of a Personal Brand

I am not a “super fan” of professional golf, although I do enjoy watching it, in limited doses.  Yet, when I hear “PGA” what do I think of immediately …. Tiger Woods!  For years I have followed his story, with significant interest.

Few would disagree Tiger’s rise to super-stardom was inspirational.  His work ethic was, and still is, impeccable.  His passion for excellence, in his sport, is unmistakable. His accomplishments on the golf course are historic.  And … off the golf course he has generously given back to the community with his charities, and youth projects.

At his greatest moment, Woods has been called, by some, the world’s most marketable athlete.  Corporations built their wealth around his endorsements, leveraging his “squeaky clean” brand image.” Moms and Dads referenced him proudly, as a role model, with their children.  Those same children looked up to him as an iconic hero.

Unfortunately, that all changed in a matter of hours, with the emergence, in the media,  of “his infidelity issues.”  This story is an important lesson, for business people, as it teaches us the sanctity of branding.  It takes hard work to build your brand, as its foundation is trust, which is not earned easily.  As difficult as it is for a person to become a power brand , that distinction can evaporate easily, with one breach of trust.

Sadly, at some point, for whatever reason, Woods (self-admittedly) decided he was immune to the ethical standards the rest of us are measured by.  Fortunately, he now realizes he made a significant error in judgment.  He has taken steps to atone, for the mistakes he made, and mend his personal brand.

Should Mulligans Be Allowed?

A mulligan, in a game, happens when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action. The practice is also sometimes referred to as a “do-over.”  In golf, a mulligan is a retaken shot on the first tee box, usually due to a previously errant one.

– Wikipedia

Should Tiger Woods Receive a Second Chance (mulligan)? — In my opinion absolutely!  I think we all understand people make mistakes, that no one is perfect.  For all the positive things he has accomplished, during his career, he deserves that opportunity.

Can He Restore His Previous Personal Brand Image? — I don’t believe he can.  When Tiger chose to “raid the hen-house” he relinquished the wholesome component of his reputation. Time heals, so they say.  I believe Woods will emerge with a brand spun with shared learning lessons, derived from this experience.  What do you think?

People are trying to look past Tiger’s personal transgressions, and focus on his return to professional golf.  Most Golf fans (not all) greeted him with an enthusiastic response this past weekend, at the Masters Tournament.  I am certain he will return to prominence in the game of golf.  The game of life… that’s another story … we shall see!

Question:  How do you perceive the Tiger Woods story metaphorically fitting into the business realm?  What lessons can we, as business people learn from this experience?  Would you buy from a post-scandal Tiger Woods-like brand, and why?  Some tough questions…. Hope you have some insightful answers!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Lukazewski April 13, 2010 at 10:03 am

Michael, great post. I too am tired of the Tiger Woods saga and it’s a sad look at the microscope we hold to celebrities in our culture. Though I don’t condone his actions for a second, had Tiger been a golfer in the 60s or 70s, I highly doubt the level of attention surrounding would be a fraction of what it is today.

As you mention, we respect and trust leaders by our own very nature. I also believe, that we desire closure by nature, and part of that is forgiveness. I think our society is very willing to give out second chances to regain respect. Over time, we begin to root for a Robert Downey Jr or Mickey Rourke to overcome their struggles, and I found myself quietly the same for Tiger this past weekend. Normalcy is comforting to us.

I think the same can be said for business IF proper PR is implemented. I believe Toyota will recover from their current situation because they are strategically and successfully controlling it. As a consumer, I have trusted their brand, evaluated their mistakes and coupled with their response, I can look past it and feel comfortable buying ‘post-scandal’.


Michael M McCurry CMP April 13, 2010 at 10:57 am

Hi Eric,

You are so right, people like “normalcy.” Although society is willing to give out second chances, the question plaguing me is can Tiger regain his pre-scandal image? So much of his image was driven by his perceived wholesomeness.

With some of the things he has done, he lost that innocence that would contribute to that squeaky clean image, so that is why I think his brand will look different moving forward.

The same question applies to Toyota.. what will their image look like, moving forward. How will people perceive their brand.

Both Tiger Woods and Toyota are power players in their respective fields. That is not gonna change because they are both high quality entities.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation!



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