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September02

Will the Jacob Zuma (JZ) and Tiger Woods brands survive the onslaught?

To answer this question, one must first look at the essence of these two brands and what really distinguishes each of them from other people brands, enabling them to draw admiring crowds.

The JZ Brand

Jacob Zuma thrives on being perceived by his followers and admirers as a caring and empathetic leader who has time to listen to others, irrespective of their social standing. The legally troubled waters that he had to swim through after being recalled from his previous position as South Africa’s Deputy President also enabled his supporters to regard him as the innocent under dog – correctly or not – who needed their support. Both friends and political enemies agree on one thing: his charm defeats even the most determined of adversaries! He listens to and seems to respect every point of view; he knows how to put people at ease around him; and he is a consummate negotiator and peace maker. His role in bringing political peace to the troubled South African province of KwaZulu-Natal in the early 1990s and the subsequent mediator role that he played in Burundi are always cited as bearing his indelible signature.

Key JZ Brand Challenges

JZ’s ongoing struggle to marry his cultural and traditional world outlook with the ever changing, modernizing, South African value systems – highly influenced by Western values – too often puts him on the back foot. The people who are paid to advise him need to have more influence on how he behaves, reminding him that the world has and continues to change. He also governs over a very culturally heterogeneous society that does not share his cultural beliefs. They have to acknowledge that as President, JZ needs to appeal to people beyond his “narrow” cultural reference points. Something has to give and a middle ground found. Many people already love him – or would love to – but they also want him to be a bit more “presidential” in the way he carries himself. The JZ Brand still has lots of potential to grow and to be positively sustained in order to positively lead Brand South Africa.

The Tiger Woods Brand and its challenges

It must be said from the outset that it was a big mistake for Tiger Woods to disappear for all those many weeks, only to reappear reading a highly scripted apology that failed to go to the heart of the matter! Tiger Woods, like JZ, operates in an ever changing world where it is no longer “cool” to be known as someone who can bed as many girls as possible. Now that many of his horses have already bolted from the stable, Brand Tiger Woods needs to get off the back foot and focus on rebuilding itself. It must not be shy to acknowledge its mistakes when confronted by media (for this will still happen) but this must not be the focus of its activity. Tiger Woods must go out more often – sometimes with his wife and kids – and be seen to be living and loving life again. The support of his wife and focus on positive engagements, including golf, will gradually rebuild the attraction of his brands and, in the end, sponsors will have no choice but to come back knocking at his door in large numbers. Despite the events of the last couple of months, Tiger Woods is still an attractive person; charming, good looking, generally calm and assuring demeanor; and self-confident. He must use these qualities to rebuild his brand! Go Tiger!

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