Posts Tagged 'brands in crisis'

Brand strategies for redeeming the Tiger Woods brand

What should the Tiger Woods brand manager do in this situation?  Each day brings new leaks about trade secrets of the man best known for bearing the Tiger Woods brand name and likeness.

The natural impulse is to find another person to adopt the Tiger Woods brand name, likeness and visual identity.  For instance, if Vijay Singh changed his name to Tiger Woods, he might be a viable option on the golf course.   Unfortunately that strategy will not work with so much media attention concentrated on the Tiger Woods brand.

In the last post I listed the first steps for immediate responses.  This post contains a strategic framework for redemption of the Tiger Woods brand.

1. Be visible through Corporate Social Responsibility:  Elevate visibility of the Tiger Woods Foundation through events, press releases, a news conference with the Executive Director.  Brands are multi-facted complex concepts.  The more positive facets you can add, the stronger will be your brand.  That is why having a strong Corporate Social Responsibility program can mitigate the impact of a crisis on brand reputation.

In branding terms, this creates moral goodness which counter-acts moral brand avoidance.

Tiger Woods Foundation2. Elevate the brand image through Product Innovation and Performance:  Introducing a truly superior product will give people reason to rethink the Tiger Woods brand.  Redemption can be won on the fairway and green!  The brand’s reputation was earned on the golf course and that is a major source for strength of the brand in the future.  Breaking golf records will place the Tiger Woods brand into an untouchable pantheon.

To achieve this breakthrough, I recommend that the Tiger Woods brand use the advisor and Golf Expert, Dr. Joseph Parent, author of Zen Golf.  Dr. Parent has advised many pro golfers including Vijay Singh and David Toms.

Steal the spotlight!  Performance on the fairway will become another strand in the Tiger Woods brand story.  By putting this facet of the brand center stage, it will take some of the spotlight away from the other pieces of the current story.

3. Recast the narrative of brand activities and actions.  A formal presentation and plausible explanation of the Tiger Woods brand activities over the past year will act as a counter-narrative to the one being spun by media pundits, late night comedians and guys hanging around in bars. Avoid the “Sanford Strategy” developed by Governor Stanford (“I was hiking the Appalachian Trail”) — market testing has shown this strategy to be devoid of any redeeming value.

By recasting the explanation of  Tiger Woods brand activities to larger societal issues, the Tiger Woods brand can achieve greater personal relevance.  I recommend exploring ways to cast the narrative through the lens of the economic pressures sweeping through this country .  This economic crisis has wrecked havoc in many families, ruining the lives of many decent people.  If possible, show how investments into the great fraud of Bernie Madoff pushed the Tiger Woods brand to the brink of financial disaster. The Tiger Woods brand is just another casualty of the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

A few last notes on this topic before moving on to other marketing matters:

Last night at dinner with 3 friends — all incredible branding experts — there was much professional discussion on how to redeem the Tiger Woods brand.  Here is a sample of ideas generated:  Have the brand live for six months in a rural Ugandan village teaching AIDS orphans how to read.  Arrange a quick second “marriage” of the Tiger Woods brand to the Oprah brand.  Demonstrations of public remorse on 60 Minutes and the Daily Show.  The point being that there are many tactics and executional programs that the Tiger Woods brand can adopt in face of this crisis.

A final note: Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes has publicly denied rumors that the image of Tony the Tiger has been affected by the Tiger Woods brand crisis.  Tony the Tiger will remain the a visible, strong and vibrant element of their communications.

Tiger Woods: A brand in crisis!

Tiger Woods is a brand in crisis.

This is clearly a case where a brand’s image has been dragged through the mud.  This is a direct result of non-marketing related activities by it’s spokesperson, a 33-year-old man who has licensed the Tiger Woods name and likeness.

As consumers and business partners learn more about the activities of the Tiger Woods spokesperson, they are backing way from a close association or desire to personally identify with the Tiger Woods brand.  Gillette and AT&T are limiting their use of Tiger Woods, which may be a polite way of saying that they will be canceling their contracts.  (Note, at the NY Daily News link you can see a full photo essay).  This directly threatens the $110 million annual revenue  of the Tiger Woods brand.

It was recently announced that the Tiger Woods brand would be taking an “indefinite break” from professional golf, which is the main image building activity of the brand.  As Jon Stewart observed, the problem that Tiger Woods is facing isn’t about golf.

This appears to be a clear case of what Professor Michael Wells has called “moral avoidance” in his recent work on Brand Avoidance.  (see my previous post).

I have been trying to get through to the Tiger Woods brand manager to suggest a brand strategy.  However, there have been reports that the current brand manager, Elin Woods, has resigned the position and will leave after the crucial holiday shopping season.  This will only add to the Tiger Woods brand crisis.  In the meantime, I will outline an appropriate branding strategy in this and the next post.

The first four steps:

1. Assess the situation.  Many brand managers might make the simple, and understandable, error of thinking that Tiger Woods is an actual person.   That error might lead them to say that Tiger Woods is entitled to his personal privacy while he deals with the issues that have damaged the brand reputation.  The brand manager needs to recognize that this is wrong. The spokesman who has licensed the brand’s  trademarked name and likeness (aka visual identity) should not be confused with the Tiger Woods brand.  They are separate and need to be dealt with separately.

The brand manager must do a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  Clearly the Threats are extremely important to a brand in crisis.  This means undertaking a full assessment  of the situation by having the spokesperson being candid with the brand manager of all activities not previously made public that may also influence the Tiger Woods brand image. For the moment these should be considered “trade secrets.”  However, without a legally binding non-disclosure agreement, these trade secrets will soon be publicized.

This is not time for the brand manager to penalize the spokesperson for violating the brand guidelines and license agreements.

It is a time for 2 to 3 brand training workshops to reinforce the 5 elements (as outlined in Narrative Branding(R)) of the Tiger Woods brand story: a) Relationship of the Tiger Woods brand with key audiences, b) Verbal brand story including the backstory of how the brand was born and came to world prominence, c) Visual story including the visual metaphors for the brand such as golf clubs, color palette of clothing, d) Branded behaviors, actions and activities that define the Tiger Woods brand, including performance on and off the putting green and e) the customer journey of when consumers come into contact with the Tiger Woods brand and how the brand story unfolds over time.

2. Monitor the impact on brand image.  Conduct a series of surveys over the next 6 weeks to understand the image shifts in the Tiger Woods brand.  It is particularly important that the study have an visual image  association similar to the ZMET methodology.  This will get at the deeper mental structures of how people are relating to the narrative of the Tiger Woods brand.

3. Put a new narrative into the marketplace. Avoid the popular “no comment” strategy.  Silence is never a good strategy when your brand is in crisis.  The newest chapter in the Tiger Woods brand story is being written by media commentators, such as Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live, as well as bloggers around the world.  A good brand will have an emergency plan in preparation for such a moment.  It is time to dust that plan off, adjust it to the current situation and get it out there through PR, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other media, both traditional and digital.  This is particularly important if the assessment from step 1 uncovers other unreported actions or behaviors by the spokesperson who has licensed the Tiger Woods brand name and likeness.  The best strategy is to act as if it is inevitable that the other trade secrets of the brand will be revealed to the public.

4. Benchmark best-practices of brand damage control: Distill the most effective strategic and tactical responses from other brands that have gone through a similar crisis.  Some of the cases to consider are Tylenol, Bill Clinton, Jack-in-the-Box and Nike.  All of these brands had their images impeached and were able to find redemption and restore brand value.

The next post will include an brand strategy for shifting the narrative trajectory of the Tiger Woods brand, as well as a roadmap for brand redemption.


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