We spend a lot of our time creating clear and compelling brands for our clients. We develop the positioning and craft the messaging and design. We work with our clients to launch their brand and develop the tools necessary to be sure that the it’s implemented consistently. Recent developments in the news demonstrate how fruitless it all is if the company does not live up to the brand promise that it makes.
Whose brand was more finely crafted, and more tightly managed than Tiger Woods? It was crystal clear what the Tiger Woods brand stood for — Excellence. Character. Determination. Discipline. That’s what we were sold and that’s what we believed. Then it all went wrong. But why is his story so much worse than the countless others we have heard?
Professional athletes are in the news on a regular basis for a broad range of indiscretions, but rarely does it have the impact on their career as this recent scandal has had on Tiger Woods. Is that because of the nature of the “crime”? Many athletes have cheated on their wives, and many have done far worse. Yet nearly all manage to return to their sport with a clean slate. It seems there is no offense that cannot be overcome with a tearful apology in front of TV cameras and of course, a loyal wife sitting quietly by their side. The reason we are so quick to forgive is that we are not surprised. In fact, an athlete misbehaving is being true to their brand. An athlete cheating on his wife is about as surprising as a rock star on drugs.
I believe the power of the Tiger Woods story is not so much in the acts themselves, but in the fact that they are in direct opposition to the Tiger Woods brand that we had been sold.
And the lesson for those of you who live in the B2B world is to make sure that the brand promise you make is one you can deliver upon. Nothing is more damaging than to make a claim that proves not only to be wrong, but to be in direct contradiction to the truth. If you claim to be committed to service, make sure your service operation is top notch. If you stake out a position as an innovator, you better have a pipeline full of innovative products.
Branding is only effective when it is true.