The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

March 4, 2010

Why I Will Buy a Toyota and Cheer for Tiger Woods

Filed under: Customer Experience,General,Human Behavior — Jeff @ 8:16 pm

Several years ago I was discussing the GM brand with a great and talented colleague out of the public advocacy space. He said something absolutely fascinating to me which I have never forgotten, “How long does it take to ruin a great brand? Not long if you try hard enough.” Now, I don’t know if he created this wisdom himself or was passing it on to me, but it stuck.

Fast forward to today and it is so true for Toyota and Tiger Woods. In a matter of months, they have destroyed much of the pristine, almost untouchable quality that was their brand. But this article in the NY Times got my Irish up. Why?

Bring out Your Dead

I'm not dead yet!

Well, it reminded me of that scene from the Holy Grail, you know the one, a guy is pushing a cart with corpses down the street screaming “Bring out your dead!” Then a guy comes out with an old man across his shoulders and flops him on the cart. The old man begins to babble, but no one is listening to him “I’m not dead yet, I feel happy!”.  Is the Tiger brand beyond repair or have we called it too early?

Tiger Woods – the Man and the Empire

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he screwed up big time and is paying for it big time. But at the same time I recall the words of my colleague, maybe there is an opposite rule that could apply – How long does it take to repair a great brand? Not long if you try hard enough. So here’s a different perspective.

If he is sincere (and he seems to be) about flying straight and doing the right thing, then the sporting world will welcome him back with open arms, as will sponsors. He is just too good at what he does. His brand will certainly evolve, but he will be fine as will his empire. As for his personal life… none of my business.

Toyota for Life

If any other CEO had come out and said he was sorry and that his auto company would bear full responsibility I would not believe him.  For me, I think there will be no better time to buy a Toyota in fact. Toyota is still a quality brand and it is showing in their service during this recall, including at home pickups and all sorts of extra measures. Yes, they screwed up, but what large company hasn’t? The difference between a company like Toyota screwing up and a company like GM screwing up is that you can be sure Toyota will fix itself. GM… not so sure, but we will get a chance to see that in action as they begin a recall of their own and point the finger at everyone else.

So How Does a Great Brand Bounce Back?

Maybe it starts with accepting responsibility as both Tiger Woods and Akio Toyoda have done. A good start to be sure. The next step everyone will be watching for is that commitment to making sure it doesn’t happen again. In both cases, I believe they can do it and people forget and move on anyway after all the huckle buckle dies down.

Until that time, I’ll cheer for Tiger in every tournament and look forward to getting my FJCruiser in the summer.

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