Brand Authenticity: Tiger’s Tailspin

Brands must be authentic.    Great brands, like people, create positive enduring relationships based on their credibility and consistency.      While brands have always needed to continuously earn their esteem, social media now makes brand authenticity a mandate.     All eyes are watching your brand, and missteps are reported globally in an instant.    Keep it simple.    Make your brand authentic.

Lack of authenticity is what’s driving the unprecedented demise of the Tiger Woods brand.   His ‘brand truth’ is dramatically different from the carefully honed aspirational brand image.    And it was that faux brand image and esteem that made brand Tiger so ideal for corporate sponsorships.     Incessant media coverage and its exponential visibility in the blogosphere unearthed the size of brand Tiger’s lack of authenticity.     Post-media frenzy, his champion credentials will remain, but the ‘wonderful man’ imagery has been unveiled as a sham.      Brand Tiger’s demise is an extreme, but illustrative example, of the danger of lack of brand authenticity.     Last week, AT&T joined the growing list of multi-million dollar sponsors who really had no choice but to stop aligning their brand with Tiger Woods.    The financial value of the Tiger Woods brand is a fraction of what it was just a month ago.    

Sure, the Tiger Woods brand fiasco is an extreme – but it’s a great reminder of a brand imperative.   Brands only thrive when they are consistently truthful.    You have to be exactly what you say you are – or you’ll be exposed to embarrassment, market share erosion, or general underperformance.    First, your brand needs to meet or exceed the primary benefit you claim.     A simple example:  Coca-Cola is refreshing and tastes the same all the time.    And you have to successfully deliver on your claimed benefit in consumers’ minds, not by biased internal assessments only.   Second, you need to fulfill your brand promise at every customer touch point, not just some.    If you claim great service, it’s well beyond simply the time you are delivering the service.   Gaffes in customer experience, such as customer service, before or after the service delivery can quickly erode your brand.     Think of your most irritating recent customer service experience here, as an example.  Third, be consistent.   Every aspect of your product, pricing, distribution and promotion strategies should reinforce your brand’s unique promise, or you will confuse or lose customers.     For example, everything Whole Foods does reinforces its brand promise of providing superior quality natural and organic foods.    Fourth, correct mistakes immediately.   If your brand has a misstep, don’t hide and deny.   Take it as an opportunity to change and reinforce your brand’s truth.

Great brands thrive and endure because they are authentic.   So should yours.

Lessons Learned:
1.  Make sure your brand’s promise is clear and truthful.    Always deliver on that promise.
2.  Don’t try to communicate or ‘spin’ that your brand is something that it is not.   Consumers are too savvy and connected.
3.  Continuously improve and track the consumers’ experience and perception of your brand.    Brands need to evolve to continue to meet and exceed customer expectations.

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3 thoughts on “Brand Authenticity: Tiger’s Tailspin

    • Thanks for your comment Mark. Brand missteps and issues are often reversible, if the brand has strong brand equity, the infractions are minor, and they continue to deliver on the brand promise. Tiger’s brand remains extremely strong, but the ‘admirable character’ component has been seriously tarnished. This could have been lessened if he had been quicker and more contrite in his responses. Fortunately, for most strong brands, IF they resume delivering on their brand promise, these issues are nearly forgotten. (e.g. Tylenol, Coke, Hugh Grant, David Letterman).

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