Putting aside the questions of whether Tiger Woods needed to or should have made a public apology, the timing of it, and even the content of it, now that Brand Tiger made the decision to do so and did so last Friday, I’m interested more with how Tiger conveyed it and the likely impact it will have on his personal brand going forward.

What struck me most about Tiger’s 14 minute public apology (actually Tiger worked in more than an apology during this time) was the fact that he read it, word for word, rather stiffly, from a prepared script, and from behind a podium. Doing so begged for me the question of who wrote it, in the same way we might ask who a famous politician’s speech writer is. Reading from a script or teleprompter behind the security of a podium works well for politicians, I’m not sure it is the best way to convey a heart-felt apology, ok, I am sure, it’s not.

After seeing the entire 14 minutes, I had to check with the U.S. Trademark Office to determine whether Brand Tiger had any registered protection for trademarks in Int’l Class 35 for the "production of public service announcements." But, I couldn’t find any . . . .

So, why the script, why the podium, why the presidential-blue backdrop? No doubt, this was a carefully controlled message with nothing left to chance, and no chance for surprise. So, that probably answers that. However, it seems to me the tightly controlled format squandered an opportunity to create a more meaningful connection, or perhaps reconnection, with Brand Tiger.

This morning I saw an interview on ESPN with one of the golfers on tour who thought it would have gone better if Tiger had not read a script, but instead spoken from the heart, perhaps guided by a few bullet points in some notes. I tend to agree and believe doing so would have conveyed far more emotion, truth, and authenticity. So, who recommended or chose this format for Brand Tiger?

I’m thinking it was a left brainer, not a right brainer, because striving for a more natural, emotional, and authentic expression from Tiger seems like a no-brainer to me, at least, if the goal is to resurrect, or at least begin the resurrection of Brand Tiger. Or, perhaps a right brain advisor recognized that the target audience for Brand Tiger’s apology skewed toward left brainers who would feel themselves more comfortable with this controlled format too? By the way, if you’re not sure which of your hemispheres is dominant, here is an interesting and brief online 18 question test.

Left brain dominant Accenture was the only sponsor mentioned by name, do you suppose they had any say in the chosen format?

For further guidance on my hemispheric brain hypothesis, I consulted Al & Laura Ries‘ most recent and highly acclaimed book War in the Boardroom, which explains the conflict and divide between management and marketing types by their respective emphasis on left and right brain thinking:

If you’re the CEO of a major corporation, chances are good you are a left brainer. Before you make a decision, you want to be supported by facts, figures, market data, consumer research. It couldn’t be otherwise in a world where the ultimate measurement is the bottom line and the stock price.

If you have a job in marketing, chances are good you are a right brainer. You often make decisions by "gut instinct" with little or no supporting evidence. It couldn’t be otherwise in a creative discipline like marketing.

Another striking difference: left brainers have a strong preference for verbal thinking, while right brainers favor visual thinking.

When a management type makes a speech, he or she usually stands behind a podium and reads a script or the words on a teleprompter.

When a marketing type makes a speech, he or she usually stands in front of a screen using dozens of visuals.

Again, all signs seem to point to the left side of the brain on the format. Now, I’m not suggesting that Brand Tiger would have benefited from a Ross Perot style speech complete with charts and graphs, but I do think that Tiger would have chipped his personal brand out of the rough far more effectively without a podium, without reading a speech, and he wouldn’t have needed 14 minutes to do it. No doubt, this was only the first public step toward resurrection of Brand Tiger.

As Laura Ries blogged last December on Ries’ Pieces, and as I suspect will always be the case, It’s What Tiger Does Next That Counts . . . .

  • I think Tiger was hurt by reading off of a script. I agree with the assertions of that fellow golfer that you mentioned in the article. A few guided bullet points with generally impromptu speech would have been more convincing.
    I re-watched Kobe Bryant’s press conference from July 2003, soon after sexual assault charges were filed. He seemed more genuine, more contrite. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSamEqtPVao
    Regardless of the format, he said the worst thing possible for his brand. He said that he is unsure of when he will return to golf. The timetable doesn’t appear imminent from his words. If you take these words at face value, that is the worst thing that he can do. He needs to remind the public that he is an amazing golfer. The stories about him need to be about his performances on the golf course, not his personal life. This won’t occur if he’s not playing golf.
    Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis are examples of athletes that were tarnished by scandal. Both Bryant and Lewis had far worse scandals than Woods. Bryant and Lewis were facing the ire of the criminal justice system. And neither one of them took a sabbatical from their sports. Continuing to perform at a high level in their respective sports took the focus away from off the field events. They were able to rehab their images and get endorsements from brands again.

  • Good points, Steve. Probably the only way Tiger could have gotten around reading from a prepared statement would have been to be interviewed, or at least be in some semblance of a conversation with, another person. Otherwise, standing or sitting there alone, confronting the camera head on, it’s hard not to revert to a prepared script to some degree.
    Ironically, rather than be so controlled in his approach, Tiger almost certainly would have been better off opening himself up to a member of the media for an interview. Omnipresent sports guy Jim Gray? Mike Turico? Bryant Gumbel? Oprah? Rachel Maddow? Barbara Walters?
    That way Tiger could have killed several birds with one stone:
    * He would have answered tough questions from a recognized journalist, which might have made it easier to say “I’ve already been over that” and “Let’s move on” when he faces questions from reporters in the future.
    * He would have been in a more natural setting and almost certainly would have come off less stiff and more human.
    * He could have departed from the Q&A at any point, looked in the camera, and stated directly what was on his mind or in his heart.
    Maybe we should offer to barter: A few hours of lessons with Hank Haney for a few hours of PR/brand consult for Mr. Woods? ;)
    FYI, my take in a recent post on the Tiger situation was not so much about Tiger himself, but about just how thin a “strategy” it can be to hitch your corporate brand to a celeb. http://wp.me/prZbT-eQ