Posts Tagged ‘Tiger Woods’

Are Canadians more forgiving of Toyota?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

I’m a satisfied Toyota owner (RAV4).  Was I was disappointed with how Toyota handled their recent/ongoing crisis?  Yes, especially after Tiger Woods set the stage for how NOT to handle a crisis.  You’d have thought they would have learned from that very public lesson, but no.  Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, and the Japanese wanted to save face – we’ll never know. 

My car wasn’t part of the recall pool, but during the height of the crisis I did get a letter indicating they’d discovered a potential problem with a part and were offering a time-limited offer to customers for a complementary replacement.  Was my confidence in Toyota starting to waver? Maybe a bit, because it seemed that there was one problem after another – whether big or small.  The stellar reputation for quality was at stake – one of the reasons why we bought the “brand” in the first place.  One isolated incident was perhaps alright, but when it became a series of issues, that called into question the overall quality of the vehicles and the manufacturing process. 

Around that time, I said to my husband that most people’s inclination would be to NOT buy Toyota because of the tarnished reputation on quality, yet my view was that this was probably the best time to buy – knowing that all eyes would be on quality, so buyers would likely be guaranteed to buy a car that was reflective of Toyota’s prior reputation for quality.  Or was it simply deal hunters, figuring that there would be deals to be had for a company with a tarnished reputation? 

Flash forward a few weeks, and it looks like my prediction was right – in Canada at least.  In February – the peak crisis month for Toyota – sales boomed despite these recalls and negative PR – jumping almost 25%.

It’s an entirely different story in the U.S., where Toyota is very much under the microscope, but it seems that we Canadians are more forgiving of Toyota.  I wonder why?  Is it our apologetic and understated manner?  Are we less cynical?  Are we more forgiving?  Do we know something the Americans don’t? 

What do you think?

Brand expectations…

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I’ve been thinking about branding a lot lately – even before the Tiger Woods “fiasco”.  I know things have changed with the proliferation of the Internet, but branding still boils down to some pretty basic principles,which in some ways are even more powerful today.  I remember from my advertising days at Ogilvy & Mather (and all the reading I’d done back in the day) that a brand was on the one hand a promise, but on the other hand it was said to only exist in the minds of consumers – what they thought of your brand. 

Fast-forward to today, and the basics still apply, perhaps even more, but with an interesting twist on the “promise” concept.  I think the concept of brands existing in the minds of consumers – who shape the brand – is still fundamental.  But what I think has changed is the concept of a brand being a promise – this “one way” concept now seems outdated.  The concept I think is more relevant is that of “expectation”.  Yes, this may seem somewhat one-way at first glance, but in the other direction (i.e. consumer-centric), yet it becomes two-way when you factor in how a brand lives up to these expectations by how it acts/delivers.  I know there are others out there whose blogs I’ve been reading who’d agree with me, although with their own “twists”.

If you think about it, an expectation is a pretty basic principle.  I’ve always felt that it generally boils down to expectations – whether for a brand, a relationship, a business situation, or even parenting.  But let’s think about it as relates specifically to brands…consumers have expectations about brands. How a brand then delivers on these expectations – the consumer experience with the brand – then shapes the brand…consistent with the principle that brands exist in the minds of consumers.  Brands are shaped by our experiences with them – how they deliver on our expectations.  The strong brands are the ones that have positive experiences associated with them, meaning they have lived up to the expectations of their consumers. 

Now apply this to Tiger Woods, a brand (not just a person) which has certain expectations built around it as a clean-cut, wholesome, transparent brand (yes also associated with performance and excellence in sports, specifically golf).  Tiger is the brand, and people expect that brand to deliver in a certain way – i.e. act in a certain way consistent with what they’ve come to expect of brand Tiger Woods.  Right now I think there’s a disconnect with the brand, which could prove dangerous for Woods.

I know I blogged on the Tiger Woods story already earlier this week (from a PR perspective), but since we’re talking about branding as an expectation, I thought I’d bring it up again (and because in the end it’s all about branding).  Tiger’s brand will suffer the longer he does not live up to the expectations of his brand – in the mind of his consumers and various stakeholders.  As many have said, his fans (and sponsors) will forgive a mistake, but not a cover-up…especially from Woods, because it is inconsistent with his brand and what they’ve come to expect from brand Tiger Woods.  When a brand lets its consumers down by not delivering to their expectations, the brand weakens, and along with it consumer loyalty.  I wonder how much Tiger is thinking about this these days?  Hopefully someone on his team is.

Call it what you want…I’m calling it “brand expectations”.  And you?

Tiger Woods doesn’t make the cut…when it comes to crisis communications!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Alan Stam beat me to the punch when he posed the following question: “How should Tiger Woods handle car crash questions?”  Ever since I’d heard of the infamous “taking out a fire hydrant and neighbour’s tree” incident at 2:35am, I was shaking my head about how the incident was being handled from a PR perspective.  It amazed me that someone as famous – and public – as Tiger Woods would not have a squeaky clean and stellar crisis communications plan kick into place.  Did he have the wrong team working for him, or was he not heeding their counsel?  

Regardless, he sure missed the basics of crisis communications, which is mind-boggling to me.  Sure he’s a “celebrity”, which would make you think he’d have the right plan kick into place, partly because he has the resources, and partly because he’d need to…for him, for his family, for his upcoming tournament, for his sponsors – it’s not just about him. 

He missed the basics of crisis communications from the very beginning.  First, he remained silent for so long, and then when he finally did issue a statement on his website, he was very vague with what he is saying.   Then, despite his apology and taking accountability for the accident, it was pretty “vanilla” – not to mention late – and not at all transparent given the shroud of secrecy.   I also didn’t think the “dig” at the end was very appropriate either, especially for someone of his supposed character.  Tiger Woods is now just leaving it to others to speculate, and that they are – especially in today’s world of social media where silence can kill (or have someone else create your story and message for you, meaning you lose control). 

Woods is a celebrity, which unfortunately means he has even less “privacy”, especially in today’s world of social media. Maybe he should have thought about that a bit before he got into his car at 2:35am and drove off in a manner capable of having him take out a fire hydrant, hit a neighbour’s tree and knock him unconscious.  If anyone else had done this it wouldn’t have made the news, but it was Tiger, and it did make the news.  His image is somewhat tarnished in my mind because of how he’s handled the situation.  It gives the impression that something is being hidden, which unfortunately as a celebrity, is hard to do, and often frowned-upon.  I’m waiting to see how this week unfolds and how he handles himself with his upcoming tournament…whether he plays, whether he still holds the press conference – oh and what he says (and refuses to say) at the press conference, if it takes place.  I think he can make up lost ground here, if he takes control and takes the opportunity (or makes it into an opportunity).  Time will tell I guess. 

So, do I think he got it wrong when it came to handling his crisis?  Yes.  Do I think his image will be hurt by this?  Yes, but to what degree is uncertain as it’s too early to tell.  Will he lose sponsors?  That’s the big question.  He is so big and so powerful that they may allow him a “gimme” this time around.  But, I think they will want answers and assurances that this is a blip (and not the beginning of a John Daley story).   

I do think this will become a classic case study of how not to handle a crisis!  Too bad it’s Tiger Woods setting the example!  So what do you think?