While other media and marketing types have long since weighed in on golfer Tiger Wood’s sudden and spectacular shank as a spouse and brand spokes-icon, Touch Point City has stood quietly at the back of the gallery, gazing through one of those cardboard periscope thingies, trying to decide what we think and feel about it all.
As an avid golfer and golf fan, I concede his greatness at the sport. Yet I was never among those who relished sycophantic coverage of Tiger’s exploits by TV broadcasters. On the contrary. Their seemingly obsessive need to make Woods a main story line of virtually every tournament — regardless of his standing on the leader board, and sometimes regardless of his presence at the event — to me made men’s pro golf less compelling, not more.
As a spouse and father, I mostly feel sorry for Woods’ kids. Now they stand an even greater chance of having to spend their lives always on the periphery, or smack in the middle, of that omnipresent, peering, not always flattering viewfinder that fuels our “have you seen the latest celebrity car crash” pop culture.
Finally, as a marketer, I’m starting to think Tiger’s infidelity — to his wife, his family, even his own brand image — might be a defining event that wakes up the marketing profession to what has long been a shallow, tenuous, even risky approach to brand building.
For too long, some corporate marketers and their agencies have chosen to duck behind the premise that spending big money trying to graft a brand onto a celebrity’s image, talents and achievements is somehow not only “creative,” but legitimate branding strategy.
To gauge the flimsiness of that approach, look no further than this week’s announcement that Accenture has hastily replaced ads featuring iconic Tiger photos with a campaign showcasing real animals: A chameleon. A frog. Some fish. And, of course, everyone’s favorite visual metaphor for astute business analysis and problem solving — an elephant riding a surfboard.
Whether you’re showing Tiger or a tiger as the main, attention-grabbing element of your advertising, the underlying issue remains: What’s behind the visual?
If it’s not something relevant, something valuable, what have you really accomplished? You might have created a positive brand association, but even that can turn negative overnight. Then you’re in the news for all the wrong reasons, including whether you were fair and wise, or simply two-faced, in hastily dumping the spokes-representative who just yesterday you were embracing as emblematic of all that’s good about your brand.
So here’s the question for corporate marketers: If you’ve got millions of dollars to devote to a Super Bowl ad, or a long-term branding campaign, is the foundation for your message going to be a Tiger, or your own ability to demonstrate thought leadership and add value. A surfing pachyderm or, say, a value-adding e-book, Webinar series or online community?
In other words, as you seek to position your brand, have you taken the time and effort to create something compelling and relevant that invites true, win-win engagement from your customers and potential customers?
Or, are you just going to take a big, roundhouse swing, using the shiniest new driver you could buy from the celebrity spokesperson store?