On Tiger Woods, Rebuilding Trust, and Customer Engagement

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Yesterday I posted a critical piece on the way Toyota is handling their customers trust building efforts. Toyota Experience-open letter to Toyota’s president Today, the highly anticipated Tiger Woods press conference took place and there are lessons to be learned from his approach to rebuilding his brand and trust with his fans.

Below are three quotes I selected from his statement.

“I want to say to each of you, simply, and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.
I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children.”

“I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down, personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.”
“But, still, I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.”
Tiger Woods did what Toyota refused to do. He admitted his mistakes. He admitted that he was wrong. He admitted that he hurt people. And he was sincere about the way he approached the whole process. His statements, although i am sure fully consulted with PR experts, speak directly to every person. He is reaching the hearts and building emotional engagement through sympathy. These are all the things that Toyota did not do in its ad campaign.
After hearing his words, every listener will conclude “mistakes happen. He is human. It can happen to me and therefore I am ready to forgive.”
One more time, the case of the two brands, Toyota and Tiger Woods remind us that there is no better way to connect with customers than as human beings. The one who took the court approach is due for a long journey of trust building. The one who took the human approach might be forgiven much faster. After all we all make mistakes. It is how we come out of them that makes all the difference. Often a brand is tested when something goes wrong not when everything is rosy. It is a litmus test for the relationships between the brand and its customers. In my book Tiger Woods started with a much stronger shot of recovery than Toyota.

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