Fall from Grace

Tiger Woods has megacorps scrambling to rethink their branding strategies.

If there’s anything we should be taking away from the Tiger Woods catastrophe, it’s that all brands are built on the shifting sands of human complexity. Woods’s spectacular fall from grace illustrates the danger of reducing an entity – be it a person or a corporation – to a symbol. A man can no more symbolize a single principle than a product can symbolize a single idea, yet consumer culture demands that we see the world in such reductive terms. And the quickest way for a company to inject its simplified message into our collective consciousness is to tie the idea of a product to the stylized image of a celebrity. Cosmetic companies want us to look at an actress and see beauty, sportswear companies want us to look at an athlete and see strength. Companies like Nike, Gatorade and Accenture wanted us to look at Tiger Woods and see perfection. And now that he’s revealed himself to be profoundly human, that branding strategy is working against them. These companies will have to scramble to disentangle their stock from his plummeting star – lest we shift our newly formed idea of the man to the products he represents.