Sometimes things go wrong, and brands get damaged.
Sometimes you have a late-night Thanksgiving car accident and your entire personal and professional life unravels before your eyes.
What bad things happen, brands need to rebuild.
For a brand like Nike Golf, once so aligned with Tiger Woods, that presents a daunting challenge. And I like how they’ve handled it. Over the past few months, Nike Golf has been running an ad for their “Method” putter, showcasing the technology behind the club. It is a series of behind-the-scenes shots with pro golfers working together with Nike to create the perfect putter. One of the golfers just happens to be Tiger Woods.
He isn’t the centerpeice of the commercial. This isn’t a commercial about Tiger Woods. This is just a commercial about golf club technology that happens to include Tiger. It is a gentle reintegration of Tiger into the Nike brand. The subtlty of the move is entirely calculated. Nike is being very cautious, because the Tiger Woods brand is dangerous – both because of his personal troubles and his shaky golf ever since the scandal hit.
Plenty of rock stars have bottom out, only to rise again.
For Carlos Santana and Johnny Cash, their comebacks were linked to collaborations with a fresh new generation of musicians. Santana recorded Supernatural with help from Rob Thomas, Everlast, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, and others. Johnny Cash teamed up with producer Rick Rubin and recorded his own interpretations of songs by Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Depeche Mode, and U2.
But Santana and Cash hadn’t commited the kind of social crimes that Tiger Woods did.
Maybe a better comparison is Chris Brown, who is still rebuilding his career after assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Brown was carefully reintroduced at a Michael Jackson tribute, where he performed an emotional version of “Man In The Mirror” that left many people feeling like the singer deserved another chance. But then in March controversy arose again when Brown was accused of becoming violent in his dressing room after a Good Morning America interview that probed into the Rihanna affair and the restraining order against him. It remains to be seen if the career of the very talented Chris Brown can be rebuilt.
What can a brand in trouble learn from Tiger Woods, Chris Brown, Santana, and Johnny Cash?
* Take it slowly. Don’t try to conquer the world right away.
* Don’t make it about you. Instead, be humble. Tiger is doing that with the new Nike ads. Chris Brown did it with the Michael Jackson tribute.
* Find a few friends who can lend you credibility. Santana and Johnny Cash did that with tremendous results.
* In the end, being honest and straightforward will win you a lot of friends. Just ask Hugh Grant, who famously quipped “I did a bad thing, and there you have it” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, shortly after Grant was arrested with a prostitute. Hugh’s career would have probably suffered a great deal more had he not been so forthcoming.
Chapter Thirteen of Brand Like a Rock Star is all about reviving brands that have been left for dead. What can your business learn from Johnny Cash and Old Spice? Find out when you pre-order the book now.