Yesterday, former GOP front-runner Herman Cain announced he was dropping out of the 2012 race for President. When interviewed by Reuters, several of his followers told us what most of us already know: it wasn't the affairs that bothered them, it was the denials: the covering up.
Yes, in trying to be the "perfect brand", Cain found out the hard way that people prefer their candidates/brands to be... well, a little more human perhaps. And honest with the customer.
Nobody has learned that lesson better than another Atlanta-based brand - Coca-Cola. At the same moment Cain was announcing his retirement from the race, Coca-Cola distributors were busy apologizing to retailers and consumers and re-stocking shelves with Coke's traditional red-colored cans, after a disastrous campaign involving a white-colored can.
The decorative can - the centerpiece of a campaign that was designed to ring in the Holidays, confused a lot of folks and annoyed Diet Coke buyers as they grabbed a can that looked like Diet Coke and instead gave themselves the sugar rush/calories they'd been trying to avod.
Coke's solution to the problem? Admit the error. Wind back the campaign - totally. As Coca-Cola learned way back during the "new Coke" campaign, you can actually earn a decent amount of fresh new brand equity from admitting your imperfections (and your love and respect of the customer and his views.) Whereas not admitting you're at fault - and especially not getting to the heart fo thigns - can detract from your brand equity significantly.
Full marks to Coca-Cola this week. Herman, next time you run, maybe you should drive across town first and sit down and take counsel from the masters of building brand equity on the back of imperfect ideas (there's a reason why Warren Buffett has always loved these guys.)
Anyway, back to the national stage. Do you think Herman Cain could have stayed in the race by admitting his "imperfections"? could he have weathered the storm? Of course, we'll never know - and only Herman Cain knows for sure how much of the noise translates into past reality. But one thing is sure - to a man/woman, Cain's followers are saying loud and clear that they wish he'd just "come clean with the dirty" - so they could then make a call as to which alleged womanizer they want as President, rather than attempt to appear "perfect."
Of course a brand needs to provide as great a customer experience as possible. But absolute perfection, as it turns out, may not be an absolute positive when it comes to brand-building.
Note: We removed Herman Cain from our list of canidates at our SocialStrawPoll.com site this morning. Which is fine, because it's been looking like Newt vs. Mitt vs. Paul for about two months now, according to the major social networks.