Image is everything-Yes!

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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In the previous article titled, “Image is everything—Or is it?” we outlined the passion behind advertisers to rope in celebrities to promote their products and how it can backfire when the celebrity falters in the “character” department. What was once an asset became a liability.

We highlighted the case of Tiger Woods who was such a big sensation in view of his achieving great heights in golf. There were also other star athletes in baseball, tennis, football, and other sports who were also used in promoting products. Some of them used performance-enhancing drugs (steroids), while others used addictive recreational drugs (crystal methamphetamine). When confronted with laboratory tests they vehemently denied such usage. Only years later they come forward and admit to such usage. When illegal drugs are used it is usually a criminal act and the individuals concerned have to deal with the law while the public should not have any involvement. However, when the athletes are involved in promoting consumer products or services it becomes a moral issue both for the public and the businesses which use the athletes to promote their products or services.

So, for the question, “Is image everything?” the answer is definitely in the positive.  For a celebrity athlete it is a Damocles’ Sword hanging over their heads. So long as they are on an upright path they are fine as is their client. The moment they slip then it is disaster for them as well as their clients. A tainted image calls for a quick change of strategy. That is what Accenture (the global consulting giant) did soon after Tiger Woods’ predicaments were revealed. Not only they ditched Tiger Woods from their promotional posters but started a new image which will sustain itself. We were wondering why business cannot use ordinary people in their ads. Accenture actually took that route one step further---this time they are choosing animals. They will save some money in such a deal because they don’t have to pay the animals.

Accenture   Accenture

                “Before”                                                               “After”

Before Tiger Woods’ marital infidelity problems came to the fore, they pictured him on the golf course under various crisis situations (such as the ball in the water, behind the rocks, or in the sand trap) and posed “It is what you do next that counts”. Now they are embarked on a new set of ads which feature elephants, frogs, fish, and chameleon. The new campaign is once again presenting an image which proclaims, “High Performance, Delivered” to represent the company’s expertise in helping businesses.

In the ad featuring the elephant, the slogan is “Who says you can’t be big and nimble?” Here the elephant is balancing precariously on a surfboard to indicate deft handling of any situation that calls for precise strategy and action. Another ad shows a frog leaping over three others, with the tagline, “Play quantum leapfrog” the typical business lingo to gain advantage over the competition. The chameleon ad will likewise stress the ability, at the sight of danger, to overcome trouble and survive as well as prosper. Once again Accenture is after a new image since image has taken a stronghold in advertising. Once Tiger Woods’ image turned negative, the company felt, the messages with Woods’ picture were losing their punch and the target audience got distracted. The need for a quick change of image points out the perils in aligning oneself so closely with one individual.  A different direction was certainly warranted once they encountered a “fallen athlete” situation.

Accenture, being a global company, needs to find images that resonate across different cultures. The animals and their nimble characteristics are known all over the world. Certainly, the elephant is not going to slip (at least in their ads) nor the frog will fail to leap. So they can be sure that the animal images they have chosen will stay positive and serve them well in conveying their messages.

Yes, image is everything!

Sethuraman Subramanian