It’s official. Pepsico has pulled their line of sports drinks bearing Tiger Woods’ name citing that they’re exercising the morality clause contained in the contract. The television ads featuring Tiger have been pulled and other contracts will probably follow the Pepsico lead.
The $100 Million + per year branding powerhouse known as Brand Tiger is officially dead.
There are many lessons for businesses big and small to learn from the death of the Tiger Woods brand. What may be the most surprising is the cause of death is not the string of clandestine infidelities or even the late night car crash – but rather its the slimy underbelly which those incidents revealed – and how social media was indeed the bullet that killed one of the most successful brands in recent history.
Transparency killed the Tiger Woods Brand
Long ago, I wrote the post Social Marketing is Like Showing Up Naked to a Cocktail Party which says,
Launching a social marketing campaign is like showing up naked to a cocktail party. If you haven’t been hitting the gym, EVERYONE is going to know as soon as you enter the room. Oh, and if you’re a pre-op transvestite… well THAT fact is going to be obvious as well.
The Tiger Woods brand was built on a house of cards. It’s painfully obvious now that the squeaky clean, family man facade created to sell everything from cars to sports drinks was a fictional character created solely for public consumption – and that is what killed the Tiger Woods brand.
Let me reiterate – the fact that Tiger was having affairs with a porn star is NOT in an act which if exposed would in and of itself be a brand killer. Had Tiger been building an authentic brand – one similar to the brand Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons has built for himself – the revelation of an affair with a porn star would be a brand building PR move.
Instead – because Tiger had been building a brand of affable family man – the news of his trysts is destroying his carefully constructed brand instead of building it. This is truly a case where the publicity generated is definitely BAD for the brand.
What’s sad is – it didn’t have to be this way.
The Tiger Woods brand is built on the foundation of a young man with exceptional talent and athletic ability. In the beginning – when Tiger was setting the world of golf on fire – he was known as a “man about town”. The public certainly accepts and even applauds the sexual promiscuity of an attractive, successful young male athlete. The problem for Woods began when he tried to create a false persona.
In the new “age” of social media – secrets are harder to keep than ever. Social media makes it easy for anyone with internet access to “blow all they know” and share virtually anything via the web.
Blogs are one of the key tools in the new social media explosion – and with over 10 million blogs registered with Technorati – business owners need to be aware that at some point in time, you’re probably doing business with someone who maintains a blog. These blogs are often used to tell customer service stories however, they can also be used to break news as well.
Bloggers love nothing better than a good story. When your business or brand creates one – expect a social media shit storm to erupt in the wake.
There are hundreds of bloggers pointing at the Brand Tiger melt down – saying, “He should have cleared the air. He shouldn’t have remained silent. He should have stepped up and stopped the stories.”
I contend Tiger couldn’t stop the story – because the REAL story here is the betrayal of trust between Tiger and his fans. His fans embraced the clean cut, well mannered family man persona Tiger created for public consumption.
That’s the danger of building an inauthentic brand in the age of social media. Now more than ever, it’s essential to embrace the transparency social media provides.
Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar,” more than a century before the advent of social media. Those words of wisdom are even truer today than they were in Lincoln’s time.
If Tiger had been building the brand of consummate playboy – his stock would be rising instead of falling at this moment. Hugh Hefner may have never been the inspiration for a series of successful video game titles – but his brand has endured more than half a century because it’s built on a foundation of Hefner’s true core beliefs.
In the long run – create a brand based on the truth – and you’ll never have to endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.