Formal apologies were all the rage last year. The fashion is
wearing a little thin now, not least because, to put it politely, some
apologies sound less sincere than others.
Few can doubt, for example, that the public contrition of Akio
Toyoda, the President and CEO of Toyota, for the serious lapses in the quality
of his company’s products represents a genuine feeling of shame. The Japanese
take these things seriously, and in Toyota’s case there is also family honour
Less credible is Tiger Woods’ forced public apology for his
promiscuous adulteries. It had less to do with repentance than with commercial
pressure to defend the hugely
lucrative Tiger Woods brand image.
Yet he has still lost a number of his most valuable
Since he can no longer pose as a clean cut family man, it is
hardly surprising that he has been suspended by Gillette, but it is interesting
to note that he is still wearing the products of another of his sponsors – Nike
...insert your own obvious joke here.
This leads to the more serious point that there might be a
better strategy to rebuild Brand Tiger. Woods has to accept that his former
wholesome image is gone for good and no fake apology will ever bring it back.
He needs to construct a new image that reflects the changed public perception.
Perhaps it might be easier to embrace his “bad boy” status and start targeting
different markets, selling to youngsters rather than to more conservative middle-aged
The positive reception from the crowd as he practised for
the Masters this week, and then a fine opening day, show that there is still
life left in his brand – but at the same time the negative comments of the
Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club shows the need for a repositioning.
There is still a game to be played – so long as he accepts that the game has
The lesson for those of us trying to establish and manage
less high profile brands is that if Brand Tiger, with big money behind it, must
change in response to market perceptions, it is foolish to assume that we can
impose our own image of ourselves on the public. We can only make the best of
how others see us.