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Several years ago, at the same time Tiger Woods was enveloped in his personal and professional crisis, I was facilitating a webinar on How to Build a Strong Personal Brand. One of the participants asked a relevant question: could a brand that had been severely damaged ever be redeemed. I responded that it was possible, but once the court of public opinion has passed judgment, redemption is difficult.

That was certainly the case for Tiger Woods. For many people, Tiger’s reputation had been “dinged” beyond repair, as evidenced by the media pundits who were quick to declare it was over for the world’s number one golfer and highest paid athlete. Tiger’s behavior had offended the sensibilities of millions of fans who felt he had let them down. But this was not about golf, it was about values. The future looked bleak.

As we now approach the end of 2018, it is fascinating to observe how the Tiger brand has steadily and surely rebounded with remarkable strength. This comeback culminated recently in an achievement that no-one would have bet a dollar on just two years ago. He lifted the Tour Championship trophy, one of the most highly prized in the golf world, to signify the winning of his first tournament in five years.

For our purposes, it was the millions of people that were rooting for him that is most relevant. How did this happen? I am certainly not the person to describe how he got his game back, but I do have some thoughts on how he won the fans back. Strong brands, both personal and corporate, share three common characteristics. Let’s use them for insights into how Tiger redeemed his brand.

Distinctive: Strong brands have high standards and clear values. Few would question the high standards that can be attributed to Tiger’s approach to golf--his commitment and discipline is unparalleled. But it was his perceived personal values where his brand took the hit. No matter the why behind his behavior, the reality was that he had deeply offended those who admired him. To win them back he would have to demonstrate on many levels that his values aligned with their values. In the eyes of many, he had a lot to prove.

Relevant: Strong brands connect to what others deem important. We celebrate excellence whether it be in our athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers, or any other form of human endeavor. We are aware of the incredible commitment that has been made to soar to such heights. To watch Tiger at his peak was to observe the very best weave magic with a small ball and long stick. But, as his life unraveled, huge doubts were voiced about both his reputation and his game. Would Tiger ever be as relevant again?

Consistent: Strong brands deliver distinctive and relevant experiences consistently. Consistency is the hallmark of all strong brands. This dedication to consistency, however, is driven from within--the essence of the brand. It emanates from a sense of purpose, a vision for one’s life or business, and being clear about what your brand stands for. I am not privy to any more information about Tiger Woods than the average fan, but from my work with thousands of leaders in developing their personal brands, I believe it was the journey of essence over these past years that has led Tiger Woods to where he is today.

As we cannot see inside of others, however, our perceptions are shaped by their behavior. To observe Tiger Woods since his fall from grace is to witness someone who appears transformed. Through the overcoming of tremendous physical, mental and emotional challenges, a more approachable and congenial human being has emerged. The arrogant, disconnected persona of old has been replaced by very noticeable and consistent appreciation for fellow competitors and fans.

We are a forgiving bunch, but not naïve. Phonies are easy to spot. Strong brands are authentic-what they say they are and how they show up in the world are the same. It appears to many that the new Tiger Woods is the real deal. He is an athlete who we can once again admire not only for his enormous talent, but also as a human being we can respect.

"The way to make a distinctive, enduring positive impression on someone else is to ensure that who you are, what you say you are, and what that person experiences from you are the same time and time again."

from BE YOUR OWN BRAND by David McNally and Karl Speak

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