Over the past two weeks I have witnessed quite possibly the fastest destruction of one of the best brands in all of history - the fall of the Tiger. As Bill Simmons at ESPN put it:
it transformed our collective perception of a famous person and made us re-evaluate every opinion we had about him
Your brand is everything. People buy into you and your product, service or company based on the brand. Having a strong and definitive brand is one of the things that sets apart a thriving business from a struggling one - Seth Godin has a great definition of what a brand is here. And Tiger Woods had one of the best brands around - until now.
Enron was considered one of the best energy companies around - people had their life savings in Enron stock and were going to retire on and then the collapse happened. However, the difference between them and Tiger is that unless you were either employed by Enron or were heavily invested in them, you didn't really care that much. With Tiger, he changed the way Golf was watched, played and covered.
Tiger has his own Gatorade named after him, he makes millions upon millions in sponsorships and he skyrockets the ratings of golf when he is in the hunt to win a tournament. Tiger had crafted his brand to be that way - we loved him and wanted to be like him because he was so dominate.
Unfortunately, his actions are causing his brand to fall - and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
In today's world of instant news, gossip dominates coverage (which I despise) and videos go "viral" - events can change the way we look at something in an instant. Communication has changed so much with Twitter, Facebook, e-mails, blogs, etc. that you cannot control the message. It is impossible to control the message - you can have some influence as to the direction of the message, but you cannot control it. Tiger didn't understand that and he still doesn't. He has only given a couple of statements on his website, no interviews, no communication at all.
Because of his lack of communication and attempt to direct the message, he is letting others control that message. Maybe he doesn't have PR people that understand the new world of communication - which means he needs to fire them and find new ones! The world has changed - and Tiger and all celebrities need to understand this. Maybe Tiger needs to take a lesson from Ashton Kutcher. If you would have read that line 5 years ago you would have laughed - but in todays world, Ashton gets it when it comes to the new world of communication and Tiger doesn't.
What we can all learn from this (besides NOT screwing around on your wife) is simple: learn how to communicate in todays world of social media. If you are not sure what you would do if your brand took some kind of a "hit", start working on that plan now. You won't be able to control the message - but hopefully you'll be able to help direct it towards something manageable. Which can mean the difference between survival and destruction of your business.