Pundits and news media are debating whether Toyota or Tiger Woods will bounce back more quickly from their respective scandals.
But it’s wrong to think a celebrity brand returns to where it was before the stuff hit the fan. There’s no repairing a brand image that has been demolished by bad behavior. There’s only repositioning a brand to succeed in spite of it.
Toyota and Tiger will never be the personas they were before. That’s not to say they won’t again dominate their markets. They might. But they’ll do so on different terms, from a new starting line. Consumers and the institutions that influence them will align their affinity in context to what went down and how it impacted them. They may feel totally jaded or think the whole thing is overblown. But they’ll definitely consider it.
The 24-7 news cycle and the Internet’s indefinite shelf life means that scandal will be part of the Toyota and Tiger consciousness for a very long time. Even if there were no more nasty headlines to come – don’t bet on it -- it could be a generation before the smoke clears.
For high-profile brands embroiled in controversies of their own making, it’s an important distinction: Even the best-spun apologies and damage control aren’t the end of the matter. They’re the beginning.
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