If you’ve read this blog enough, you know that I’m a big believer in branding – yes, even for the smallest of businesses. The best brands are rooted in “realness” and following through on your company promises. This is a must when building trust, which in-turn, will bring customer loyalty. BUT what happens when something destroys that trust in one stupid (and I mean STUPID) move?
This is exactly what happened with Ryan Lockte at the Summer Olympics last week.
“But Josh, this isn’t the same thing – Ryan Lockte isn’t a business.” Make no mistake about it, it’s the EXACT same thing. Ryan Lockte makes a lot of money working for Ryan Lockte Inc. And this “company” is in the middle of something that can only be described as a PR agent’s worst nightmare.
Let’s focus on how this incident affected Ryan’s brand and what you can learn as you build your own company brand.
A week and a half ago, Ryan claimed he and 3 other teammates were robbed at gunpoint by people dressed like police. Later it was discovered the swimmers were not robbed, but had a confrontation with a security guard due to vandalism they committed while in a gas station. Later Ryan admitted the story was “over-exaggerated” (which is a nice way of saying “a complete and utter lie”).
Up until this point, Ryan’s brand was centered around his athletic prowess. After all, he is a 12 time Olympic medalist. Think of him as a poor-man’s Michael Phelps. If Michael Phelps was Coca-Cola, Ryan was that weird store brand of soda that sits next to Coke on the shelf – the one that people only buy because it’s cheaper than Coke.
Even with this being true, Ryan was still able to rake in a ton of cash in sponsorships (the Holy Grail for Olympic athletes), but after these shenanigans – they began to drop him. As of press time, 4 to be exact.
So what are some Lochte Lessons you can apply to your company’s brand?
· If you screw up – own it immediately and completely. This is something Ryan has yet to do. He’s still using the phrase “over-exaggerated.” Let’s chip in and buy Ryan a dictionary, because I don’t think he’s using that phrase right.
· Right the wrong. It’s not enough to say you were wrong, you need to try and make it right. Ryan still has yet to offer anything worth value to the people of Rio - only a half-hearted apology. One of his sponsors (Speedo) did the right thing and quickly offered $50,000 to a local charity.
· People will discover your lie. In a world where everything is video taped and dissected on social media, it’s always safe to assume the truth will surface.