Toyota and Tiger Woods have a lot in common these days. Both brands are embroiled in major reputation crises and both continue to get bombarded with new issues on an almost daily basis.
The Associated Press reported this week that Toyota shareholders are headed to court to sue the carmaker for deliberately misleading investors and the public, while other reports surfaced that Toyota's floor mat problems date back to 2003.
Woods' paramours continue to feed the media raunchy texts allegedly crafted by the golfing great. Perhaps the most poignant similarity these brands share is that they are both prime examples of how any brand and its reputation can be seriously damaged
It was not so long ago that Toyota claimed the spot as the world's top-ranked automaker, considered an historic accomplishment for a non-American manufacturer. It achieved that status by making affordable cars renowned for their reliability.
Cars suffer malfunctions. It happens to the best of them. In Toyota's case, the public would likely factor in the company's glowing reputation had the company's executives not been so clandestine.
Woods' assault on every major golf record, combined with a meticulously controlled, squeaky-clean image, made him the darling of everyone from corporate sponsors to mothers who could point to him and say, “That's a role model for my child.”
As for Woods, he captured one of his major problems perfectly in his now-famous February 19 mea culpa.
“I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply,” he said that day. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.”
Entitled? There's a dangerous word that every crisis counselor must immediately vanquish from a client's vocabulary. It's not easy to establish a reputation as the standard-bearer in any given field, but it's even harder to maintain that reputation – and it requires continual effort.
Toyota and Woods seem to have lost sight of that and now both will learn the hardest lesson of all: If it appears that you are resting on your reputational laurels, regaining trust is the hardest task of all.