Tiger Woods, BP and Apple


Yeah, there it is. Hear it? That faint hissing sound?

That’s air leaking from some of the most established brands on earth. Let’s look at a couple of major businesses.

Mr. Tiger Woods is a mess. Hey, no one is perfect, but he has managed to pull off a shocking trifecta: losing his golf fans, disappointing the marital fidelity crowd and shucking more corporate endorsement deals since Nero lost the fire department, violin and aqueduct accounts.

My golfing buddies still ask if Tiger needed the nocturnal activities to stave off pressure and win during the day, while some ponder how many more tournaments we would have won if he had rested during the evening. What is his brand solution? This Hound has to start winning again.

What about BP? Accidents happen of course, yet oil industry safety-related incident records indicate that BP is Number 1 in mess ups…globally! Way to go, guys. These cost-cutting, safety-ignoring, margin-building scoundrels are as slimy as the tar balls washing up on Gulf beaches.

At the moment BP has only one brand hero: the PR genius who has managed to give “spill” a new definition. It used to mean “Honey, please grab a paper towel, the baby spilled her milk.” Somehow, this gushing explosion of oil – uncontrollable for months – was and continues to be termed a “spill.”

What is BP’s brand solution? Own up to the short cuts that led to sloppy unsafe operating conditions and pledge a commitment to safety, over-fund the clean-up, and quit running those maudlin full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

Even Apple has had its iProblem. “We’re not perfect” squeaked and squirmed Mr. Steve Jobs as he gingerly clasped an iPhone4, then claimed that this antenna-plagued model was no more prone to dropping calls than the non-Apple competition. Come on, even Consumer Reports bashed it.

Compared to Tiger and BP, Apple has a less steep brand mountain to climb. What is their brand solution? They already canned the guy who ran the iPhone4 development – good start. Now they have to position themselves as really caring about their iPhone4 customers. Give everyone who bought the new phone a free cover, include the cover with all new purchases, and partner with AT&T to pick up a surprise month credit for iPhone4/5 AT&T contract renewals.

Every business, personal or otherwise, will run into brand turbulence. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. The winners will identify the cause of the turbulence, address it, and make good with their clients and shareholders.

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