Not to take it too lightly or too seriously, but the Ryan Lochte incident in Rio is interesting to me because it’s a war of two, highly different brands.

On one hand, you have Lochte, an Olympic swimming champion most known for partying with Prince Harry in Las Vegas and general knucklehead behavior.

Lochte

The brand of frat behavior.

On the other, you have Rio, known for its spectacular sights on the beach and street crime in the streets.

When Lochte claimed he was mugged, there were two reactions, both coming from a different brand perspective. With Lochte, knowing his general doofiness, there was some initial suspicion that maybe he’s not telling the whole truth or incapable of lying. As Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated tweeted at the time, “It’s Lochte. We’re amazed he can dress himself. Everything else is gravy.”

The other reaction was an outrage from Brazilians; angry that frat boy behavior – demolishing parts of a gas station bathroom instead of being mugged – would besmirch the efforts of Brazil to make the Summer Olympics a safe place.

Both reactions were born from emotion.

What the Lochte and Rio brands mean.

Emotion is where brand lives. Companies often believe that rational arguments are the way to steal market share, but they are only supporting points for the emotional reason for choice. We don’t like to think that we choose based on emotion, but we do. We just don’t always realize it. It takes hard brand work to dig deep enough to find those emotional triggers that make brands preferred.

Think of it this way. The rational approach to the Ryan Lochte incident was to say, “He was mugged.” Then when new information came out, “Video shows he didn’t. He lied. End of story.”

Instead, emotions are swirling. Some may forgive Lochte because we know, as Bedard said, he can barely dress himself and he apologized (sorta). Others are angry that a lie hid a sinking suspicion that Lochte thought his tale would be believed because of the City of God brand of Rio.

Either way – and you can believe both – the reactions prove that emotion always wins the day.

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