Tiger Woods is a brand and his brand is in trouble. For all those who say he’s finished, for all the companies now withdrawing their sponsorships, for all that the media seem so gleeful about his fall, we predict that this unfortunate drama is just a blip on the screen of his long public life.
Though he has engaged in embarrassing activities that hurt his family and fans — all of them real people — the Tiger brand is far more powerful than Tiger the man. Brands aren’t built overnight and they are rarely destroyed overnight either.
The value of a brand is that it stands for something people understand and value. When people love a brand they tend to be loyal to it and that loyalty creates a certain willingness to overlook facts that fly in the face of the perception one has about the brand.
Tiger’s brand has made mistakes, reflected both in disloyal acts to his family and in how the brand responded publicly to the scandal. Mistakes aside, the people who love and value what the Tiger brand stands for are far more likely to forgive, and maybe even forget, his bad behavior IF he sincerely asks them to forgive him, and then returns to what made his brand great in the first place: the athletic super power that people love to watch and aspire to be.
The Tiger Woods drama should be a reminder to all non-profits to invest heavily in creating a brand that has value to its public. Why? Because a strong brand builds loyalty among donors, volunteers and other supporters. This loyalty will matter when the inevitable drama — major or minor — befalls your brand.
Say your receptionist calls in sick and the temp is rude to a major donor who calls. That donor is more likely to forgive this transgression if she already feels a loyalty to your mission and your organization. What if the media features your organization in a story about non-profit bureaucracy and financial inefficiency? Your donors and volunteers are less likely to believe what they read or hear if it doesn’t match what they already feel about the integrity of your work.
So think deeply about your brand and what it means to those who care about your mission. Make it stand for something simple, authentic and valuable that resonates strongly with those most in a position to ensure the success of your organization. You’ll need that brand in times of trouble and the investment you made in ensuring a strong brand will pay off in loyalty. Like Tiger’s fans, your supporters will stay with you if you really mean something to them.
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.
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