02/01/2013 10:47 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2013

What Marketers Can Learn From Lance Armstrong

The on-going saga involving Lance Armstrong and his use of performance enhancing drugs has been present in cycling since the turn of the century. In recent weeks it has turned into mainstream news across the globe. Like many macro-level events there is a lot businesses can learn from it. So much so, the Armstrong Affair has quintessentially been an educational master class for marketers:

Lance's Lesson #1: The Player Can Be Bigger than the Team

Armstrong's Actions: Despite being the founder and face of the Livestrong Foundation, Armstrong was asked to leave his organization in fear of the negative effect his association would have.

Marketer Learnings: An individual brand you market may have a halo effect over your entire range. As such, these 'power brands' need to be carefully managed in order to avoid them having negative effects over your entire house of brands.

Lesson in Action: Coca-Cola launched their bottled water brand, Dasani, in the UK in 2004. However, consumers discovered it was essentially tap water. This led to the brand being removed from the market and drew headlines such as 'the real sting' and was attached to the entire Coca-Cola corporate identity -- not just the brand in question.

Lance's Lesson #2: Never Forget 'The Law of Candor'

Armstrong's Actions: By taking so long to admit to doping, Armstrong greatly worsened the NET effect of the scandal to himself.

Marketer Learnings: Al Ries' classic 'Law of Candor' dictates that confessing to a negative in the first instance may result into a longer term positive.

Lesson in Action: Mouthwash brand Listerine admitted their product tasted awful to generate the strap-line "I hate it but love it." Following this campaign they overtook Scope as the existing market leader.

Lance's Lesson #3: Choose Your Channel Carefully

Armstrong's Actions: Armstrong chose to confess his sins via Oprah Winfrey -- not judge and jury. This invoked outrage that he merely sought to dramatize his confessions as oppose to answering to the authorities.

Marketer Learnings: With all the communications portals available to marketers in the modern era, it is vital to select the right one for the right message. It is also worth remembering that different consumers favor different channels -- so your message may need to span over numerous mediums.

Lesson in Action: Following the poorly received maps on their iOS 6 application, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter on Apple's website apologizing for the frustration the maps had caused and offered alternative solutions. In the process Cook showed not only did Apple listen to customers, but that he was an impassioned CEO who was capable of admitting mistakes.

Lance's Lesson #4: Reputation is Like a House of Cards

Armstrong's Actions: Since 1997 Armstrong built up his reputation as the super athlete who beat cancer to win the Tour de France seven times. This was destroyed within 60 seconds of his 'Oprah interview.'

Marketer Learnings: Just because your brand has equity which has been built up over a long period of time, this does not mean its reputation is safe. Reputation can be tarnished in the blink of an eye, often to the point of no return.

Lesson in Action: Picture-sharing outlet Instagram -- which in social media terms is middle-aged -- had built up a following of 16 million over two years. However, upon changing its T&C's to state that it could upload consumers' images for advertising purposes, this figure fell by over 50 percent -- to seven million.

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