“It’s the story of two brands, one corporate and one personal, under pressure and public scrutiny–and how one is surviving and winning kudos for being open, candid and smart. And one is in trouble, severe trouble, by shooting from the lip and being dumb.”
So notes Professor Bert Cunningham, one of the esteemed adjunct public relations professors at Hofstra. This past week, media coverage focused on Apple, currently the world’s most successful corporation, and how it pays–or doesn’t pay– its taxes. “The narrative went from being a tax dodger to a corporation that pays billions in taxes and is willing to pay more under a fairer system,” said Professor Cunningham. “Tim Cook is being viewed as a clear thinking, knowledgeable, cool under pressure CEO who WANTED to testify before Congress so the public and legislators would hear Apple’s side of the story.” And while Time’s Rana Foroohar believes that Apple is just one of many major corporations that “will be pressed to do their part” to pay proper taxes, for now, Tim Cook protected the Apple brand and “successfully went into the lion’s den and had them (members of Congress) eating out of his hand,” noted my colleague.
On the other side of the branding coin is Sergio Garcia, who had a recent verbal altercation with Tiger Woods at the Players Championship. He followed up by telling reporters there were no hard feelings, he’ll have Woods over for dinner, and “we’ll serve fried chicken.” This seemingly racist comment “may have damaged Garcia’s brand fatally,” according to Professor Cunningham. Adidas, Garcia’s main sponsor, is considering ending his $5 million a year contract. Despite a follow-up apology, Garcia has hurt his personal reputation badly, a reputation that was already teetering due to past insensitive remarks and a “hothead” persona.
Public people have a responsibility to their sponsors, customers, fans, and especially to themselves to handle their personal or corporate brands smartly and with care. It’ll be very interesting to watch both Cook and Garcia in the days ahead. Your thoughts?