Tiger Woods and the “you might remember” factor

A view of Tiger Woods as he walks off the 8th ...
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It started with a tree-meets-Cadillac mishap and then descended into a media orgy of news: There was speculation about Tiger Woods’ condition; his mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital; there might be some marital “transgressions”, advertisers are rethinking Tiger-related marketing, and today he won a court case prohibiting the publication of any nude or sexually suggestive pictures of him (not that anyone is admitting that they exist).

Until two weeks ago, Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the history of golf. From now on, even if he destroys previous golfing records and regains his advertising magnetism, every article or news story about him will now contain the “you might remember” factor in which the media will report “you might remember that in 2009, Woods smashed into a tree and shortly after admitted to marital infidelity.”

There’s very little he can do about it; all of the news stories will add that “you might remember” point. However, Woods isn’t alone.

  • Tom Cruise has the “you might remember” factor now thanks to a couch-jumping incident on Oprah.
  • Michael Richards — Seinfeld‘s Kramer — now has a “you might remember” mark, as well, thanks to some racial slurs during a cringe-worthy improvisational comedy.
  • Until his untimely death, Michael Jackson’s “you might remember” factor were the sexual abuse allegations.
  • O.J. Simpson. Well, do I even need to say what his “you might remember” spectacle was? In fact, his Bronco-chase and court case (and then his later court case) were such profound debacles that his “you might remember” factor was his career!
  • Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton. Respectively: Total meltdown, total meltdown, and a (ahem) homemade “film”.

There are a select few celebrities that have transcended this “you might remember” factor.

  • Sean Penn, who formerly had a “you might remember” occasion when he assaulted a reporter, has since eclipsed that aggression with a series of remarkably good movies and has generally stayed out of the spotlight.
  • Angelina Jolie kissed her brother at an awards show and that appeared for a while as her “you might remember” factor until her humanitarian work with Brad Pitt.
  • Bill Clinton has eclipsed his “you might remember” Lewinsky-fiasco by successfully combining his “boys will be boys” attitude and an active political and humanitarian effort.

These celebrities are brands and when the brand is tarnished, the “you might remember” factor appears in news stories. Company brands aren’t much different.

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