While traveling to speaking engagements and client events around the country, I have grown quite accustomed to seeing Tiger Woods advertisements in airports. Without question, the most visible ad campaigns featuring the untamed-Tiger were Accenture’s—one of the world’s largest accounting firms.
Because they target business travelers, Accenture has advertisements in every major airport in America. They are E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. Moreover, Accenture had seamlessly combined and communicated a message of precision and performance. As an accounting firm, that is exactly what they wanted you to think about when you think Accenture. To catapult their target message to masses, they aligned with brand Tiger—a brand that was carefully crafted to represent not only precision and performance, but also perfection. Essentially, the accounting firm co-branded their “performance” brand with the Tiger “perfection” brand to create a message of “perfect performance.” As a branding connoisseur, I always felt it was an overwhelmingly successful campaign—at least while it lasted.
In all likelihood, advertising and endorsements will never be the same. Tiger (who recently announced that he will return to golf to play in the Masters on April 8) was the epitome of the perfect pitchman, and I do mean perfect. Every sports and PR agency wanted Tiger as a client, but there is always risk involved with any endorsement or brand association. Of all the companies touched by Tiger, Accenture invested the most and therefore exposed themselves to the greatest risk of loss. In this case, by aligning exclusively and so aggressively with Tiger, Accenture absorbed a dangerous amount of risk in allowing one person to possess a disproportionate degree of brand influence. In hindsight, it was a pretty obvious mistake; one that is causing marketing teams around the country to reevaluate how they brand moving forward. Presumably, Accenture felt much like the unsuspecting and misled investors who entrusted their financial future into the hands of Bernard Madoff. No individual should have that much power or influence over your destiny.
I was certainly not surprised that Accenture dropped Tiger. What I did not expect was the way in which they reinvented themselves with a brilliant, new and clever advertising campaign; nor did I think they would do it so quickly.
Accenture (the rebranded reincarnation of the fallen mega-accounting firm, Arthur Andersen) is no stranger to bad publicity and accusations of bad character. They have been there, done that. I think the transition to becoming what we know today as Accenture taught them the importance of timely crisis management and brand recovery.
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