From Tiger to Elephants, Lizards And Frogs

Has your image taken a hit? Take a cue from Accenture's new re-branding strategy

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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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  • I think Accenture’s choice was the right one given the business arena they operate in. Personally, I would like to see Tiger regain some endorsements. I believe this is the perfect opportunity for someone to prove that resiliency is important! Tiger can be the “American Dream 2.0”. The American Dream 1.0 was all about meager beginnings, a strong finish and the story in between. Version 2.0 will be about buoyancy; bouncing back when circumstance pushes you down. That is a story that America needs…ask our unemployed and our fledgling economy. Tiger bounce back man! America needs to see that story…

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      I think Accenture is making the sensible move for now, making the best of a bad situation. But in the long run, animals (or animated images) do not stand up against a truly effective live spokesperson, which is why companies return to using the latter despite the potential for scandal and embarrassing personal foibles. Tiger Woods is not the first “perfect” spokesperson to be revealed as human, and he won’t be the last. Animals are definitely safer, but there’s no way that Madison avenue will pass on athletes and other celebrities with national if not global appeal.

    • As usual, your advice is sound and delivered concisely, but with enough detail and humor to make it useful and interesting.

      Thanks, ME!

  • JP

    I agree. Accenture did what makes good business sense for the time being. But what about thinking out of the box as you mention. Adopting a longer term approach for its investments. Let’s just take Accenture, Nike, and the PGA (a quasi-sponsor). Instead of dumping Tiger, what if these sponsors took the stance that we have invested millions of dollars and in order to avoid losing that investment combine forces in the effort to rehabilitate the image of the human spokesman. In my opinion, dropping a spokesman for what amounts to a non-legal matter is tantamount to executives that are brought in to cut cost and their strategy is to layoff workers to meet goals. Any company can cut their losses when a humans reveals their flaws and it becomes a publicity nightmare. What I would look for from a business leader like Accenture and the like are ideas that are on the cutting edge and new strategies that are yet to be attempted. Some can say the move for Accenture was good business sense, but I expected more. After all, I am sure the clients that they advise would also. Thanks for this article..

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