Image is everything, or is it? Perceptions are formed based on what we do and how we do it. Understanding how we are perceived especially at a time when we have seen the proliferation of social media, and not obsessing over it, helps us recognize how this affects our careers and even our capabilities at work. It feels great to be known for one’s expertise and achievements.
It happened in the late 1980s, when Andre Agassi said “Image is everything” in a TV commercial.
Andre Agassi is one of the greats of the game of tennis. He was known not just for being a great player, but also for his good looks and charm. Andre Agassi wore bright colors, had long flowing hair that stood out with an assortment of headbands and had a particular way he took off his shirts. He presented a particular image that prompted the Canon commercial.
Canon launched a marketing campaign titled ‘image is everything’ featuring the young, rebellious, outspoken-racket smasher Andre Agassi. While this did not come unexpected, professional tennis players are part of advertisements. What was not foreseen however, was that the player would become synonymous with the quote in the ad. The phrase was adopted by fans and audiences and became integrated like a culture.
Some three years before the Canon commercial was launched, Agassi’s tennis career had begun to take peak as he turned pro and was considered to be the next big thing in tennis sports. It was only a matter of time before he was the world’s best when he won major grand slams. Unfortunately, Agassi never won his first grand slam up until 1992. The Canon tagline ‘image is everything’ at the time began to associate more with Agassi than it did with Canon. Perceptions formed were that Agassi believed more in the three words ‘image is everything’ while he lacked substance and material underneath to win a major grand slam. Both his fans and the media screamed “Come on Andre, image is everything” which Andre said hurt him a lot.
In his book, Agassi wrote “Overnight, the slogan becomes synonymous with me. Sportswriters liken this slogan to my inner nature, my essential being. They say it’s my philosophy, my religion, and they predict it’s going to be my epitaph.” As fans kept yelling these words back at him, Andre Agassi fell into depression to the point he considered quitting tennis. He felt the pressure of losing the crown jewel of his image. He however managed to overcome his depression to emerge a mentally stronger and better player winning up to eight grand slams. In 1995, Andre Agassi set out to change his own image and break free from the ‘image is everything’ attitude. He achieved this by ‘shaving’ his head which was simply removing a wig he always had on as part of his image. His long flowing hair was part of his image as a rebel. Agassi went on to be crowned one of the greatest tennis players in history from being a long-haired rebel.