Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Apple and Chick-fil-A


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Apple


Loser:  Chick-fil-A



Folks, Apple is our winner this week.  With sales of the iPhone 5 going through the roof and talk of a company market value that may soon reach one trillion dollars how could it be any other way.

After all, this is a brand that has triumphed.

But, I've got to tell you, Apple is a provisional winner.


Because just like they say it takes a while to slow a big ship down when you turn off the engines, I'm wondering if we just might be seeing evidence of brand decline with Apple.

First, Guy Kawasaki, Apple's long-time champion criticized the company's "arrogance" in deciding to require an entirely new cable instead of one that everyone already has.  And what's more, Kawasaki admitted to having used an android phone for over a year now.  When advocates and taste makers like Kawasaki defect, a brand had better take notice.

Second, Apple CEO Tim Cook's photos sure reminded me of Steve Jobs.  It was actually a little eerie, as if Cook was working hard to channel his predecessor.

Something similar happened back in the sixties when Walt Disney died.  A pall came over that company.  People asked what would Walt do?  The company drifted. There was the instinct to imitate but ultimately Walt, like Jobs, couldn't be imitated and a new course needed to be charted.

And that's where I think Apple is right now.  It has the critical mass to be a continued force in the marketplace, but will it do all the right things needed to remain a dominant brand?  Stay tuned.


Chick-fil-A, the now controversial restaurant chain, has made the mistake of being unclear in the communication of its brand.

Several press releases and then calls for clarification from its CEO have only made its position less clear.  Here is coverage from The Washington Post.

And here is the bottom line: it looks like Chick-fil-A will have to make a big decision, but hasn't yet.  This is the decision that most regional, highly-targeted brands need to make as they expand nationally and internationally: they must choose to become more generic and basically apolitical.

What I think we're seeing here is that the company caught in the cross currents, tempted by the prospects of bigger, more lucrative, markets and bothered by what being in those markets means for the roots of the brand.

So what should the Chick-fil-A folks do.  They should take a page from the Dunkin Donuts guy: It's Time To Make The Donuts.  Focus on the chicken and keep focusing on the chicken and let everyone know that's what you're doing.

It doesn't mean abandoning your company values, but it does mean remembering that you are a chicken restaurant first, not a kind of family values factory. 

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Always remember what is at the core of your brand.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Jolly Green Giant and New York City


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Jolly Green Giant


Loser:  New York City



Folks, he made his first appearance back in 1928 and now he's back!

I'm speaking, of course, about General Mills' iconic Jolly Green Giant.

Here is the take from AdAge:

The Giant, who debuted in 1928, will return to take a prominent role in a TV ad for the first time in some eight years via a campaign that marks the beginning of a revival for the big fella. In recent years, the giant had been relegated to low-profile appearances, appearing only as a shadow in some spots. Stuck in a standing position for decades, he will transition from a protector of the land to a kid-friendly "wingman" for parents to help make healthy eating fun, said Yumi Clevenger-Lee, marketing manager for the Giant brand. On Facebook and at an augmented-reality event in New York City in October, he will ask kids to take "One Giant Pledge" to eat one more vegetable a day. "We're bringing the jolly back to the Green Giant and helping him get his mojo back," she said.

They are also talking about bringing back the Cheerios kid. 

Is this just about nostalgia?  Absolutely not.  This is about long-established, hard-won brand equity.  The Jolly Green Giant was and still is an excellent representative for General Mills because he instantly expresses the values of the brand: health, accessibility, friendliness. 

This is about getting kids to eat their vegetables --and especially these days, we need all the help we can get. The value of a brand in this case is that the brand is a powerful bridge, connecting kids with the things that they should be eating.  Is one brand's mascot alone going to change woeful eating habits?  No.  But the power of the brand might just be part of the solution.

Ho, ho, ho, green giant!


Last year, Travel & Leisure magazine named New York the rudest city in America.

Now they've named it the dirtiest.

Overall, I guess, New York can take it.  After all, it has always been the American city with the edge.

But in recent years it has gotten a lot cleaner so you've got to hope that this isn't a sign that the trend is reversing.

Bottom line, New York has got to take this seriously.  Like any market data/feedback, it needs to be weighed and, if necessary, acted upon.  Things like the MTAs decision to remove trash cans from subway stations have to be looked it working?

So let's make NY a provisional loser -- here's hoping we don't go back to the much less tidy past.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: A brand symbol can endure for decades if it truly expresses the values of the brand.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Neil Armstrong and Lance Armstrong


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Neil Armstrong


Loser:  Lance Armstrong



Folks, this is the tale of two Armstrongs.

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said: never judge a man until after he was dead.  His point was obvious, but it is easily overlooked in this age of celebrity. 

Bottom line, you don't really get the full picture of a person until all the facts are in.  It is easy to be dazzled or misled, but Aurelius was saying you really need to wait awhile to get a sense of someone's character.

As everyone knows now, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died last week.

His is a brand that has withstood Aurelius' test of character.  Some called him unnecessarily reclusive at times, but he had to navigate the incredible demands of the kind of celebrity that arguably no one has ever had to navigate before --and he did it by somehow deflecting attention from himself and onto the team that enabled him to get there...  Even though at many critical moments in the mission itself (including a last-minute landing change with only 17 seconds of fuel left), it was his cool-headedness and decision-making that saved the day.

Ultimately, what we are left with when we think of Neil Armstrong is a true American hero who never let us down.  May he rest in peace.


With one Armstrong's example fresh in mind, it is genuinely sad to move to another.

I'm talking about Lance whose decision last week to stop fighting doping charges means that he will probably be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Fact is, no matter what the sponsors and fans who are not abandoning him say now, Lance has just cast a permanent cloud over his brand.

Sure, he's done a tremendous amount in the fight against cancer, but so much of what makes athletes heroes is that their superior performance doesn't come with question marks -- he inspired people because he became the best cyclist after his battle with cancer.  He inspired us because he never gave up.

One of the curious things now is why the big sponsors and fans haven't immediately abandoned him.  That probably has a lot to do with the reputation of the brand behind the doping charges -- The United States Anti-Doping Agency-- which has had some brand reputation issues itself and Armstrong's personal charisma.

This NY Times article about Lance is worth reading

But the point is this: no matter what people are saying right now, Armstrong has given up the fight he said he would never give up.  That kind of brand contradiction matters: you simply can't be a champion and give up.  End of story.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: For brands to be successful they must be consistent.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: NBC Olympics Coverage and Fareed Zakaria


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: NBC Olympics Coverage


Loser:  Fareed Zakaria



Folks, there might have been some complaining along the way, but when it was all said in done, I believe NBC pulled off its Olympics coverage.

This having just been the London Olympics, it's right to let a British paper tell NBC's triumphant story (courtesy

NBC's TV coverage of the London Olympics was the most-watched television event in US history, attracting 219.4m viewers, the network has said.

Despite complaints during the Games of delays in broadcasting popular events until primetime hours, problems with online streaming and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremony, NBC said that more people watched the 2012 Olympics on television than the 215m who tuned in for the Beijing Games in 2008.

NBC said it also smashed online records, recording nearly 2bn page views and 159m video streams of its Olympics coverage.

NBC, a unit of cable operator Comcast Corp, paid $1.18bn for US broadcast rights to the London Olympics, and executives said earlier this month they expected to break even because of the strong TV ratings.

The network, which showed a record 5,535 hours of sports and ceremonies across multiple broadcast and cable networks and online, said its primetime TV coverage averaged 31.1m viewers over the 17 nights of the Games.

That's right.  Despite all the carping --and clearly it wasn't everyone-- NBC did a fantastic job --and it's a good thing they followed their own strategy, rather than trying to correct mid course because of complaints. 


If someone puts themselves forward as a truth teller and then is seen to steal from someone else, the brand is ruined...  It simply cannot survive the conflict.

That is what I believe has just happened to Fareed Zakaria, the CNN and Time commentator, Harvard PhD, sought-after speaker and trustee of Yale University.  Zakaria has been accused of plagiarism and suspended from his media work.

My sense is that this is the end of the road for Zakaria's brand as a commentator and journalist.  How can it be anything else?  A few commentators, like David Frum, are defending him, but old-style journalists aren't having a bit of it.  Here's a great piece from the Baltimore Sun.

Most of the time crisis management can help pull a brand out, but I just don't see this working for Zakaria.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: If you believe your brand strategy will work, stick to it, give it a chance despite the naysayers.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Michael Phelps and WikiLeaks


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Michael Phelps


Loser:  WikiLeaks



Folks, Michael Phelps.  What other two words mean "brand winner"?

Phelps has just done what no one else has and no one else will for a long time: he has won 19 Olympic medals.

Despite the over-zealous copyright and trademark spirit of these Olympics, Michael Phelps stands out as a reminder of what it means to be a winning brand.

He has overcome so many challenges in his time, but the slow start at these Olympics might have been one of the bigger ones.  After all, a lesser athlete might have been derailed by not doing well to start.  But instead Phelps rallied and won.

Phelps might win more medals still, but already he's reminded us that great brands never give up, never surrender.


One of the worst things a brand can do is take action that contradicts its core principle whatever that principle is. 

WikiLeaks has just done this and my guess is it could spell the death of this new brand.

First, what is this core principle?  Let's say it's to traffic in the truth no matter how problematic that might be for other people.  You might agree or disagree about whether they've really done this, but this is basically what they are considered to be doing.

So how did they violate this principle?  They circulated a hoax opinion editorial purportedly written by a former New York Times editor.

Wow!  Not too bright.  If you traffic in the truth, you can't suddenly start trafficking in falsehood.  It's as simple as that.and this kind of brand disconnection might just be enough to rip the already troubled WikiLeaks apart.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Identify your brand's core principle and stick to it.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: New York Knicks and Olympic Branding


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: NY Knicks


Loser:  Olympic Branding



Folks, sometimes not winning something is the best medicine for a brand.

My sense is that the NY Knicks might end up being very happy that they didn't end up keeping Linsanity in New York.

Bottom line, for all of the attention paid to Lin and all the talk that New York lost out here, I'm not convinced.  After all, despite Lin's amazing run on the court, even before his knee issue he seemed to fizzle a bit and with any sports brand performance is key --without the performance, the brand will fade.

All the best to Lin who seems like a terrific guy, but I wouldn't be surprised if the NY Knick's brand prospers without him. 


When does protecting your brand go too far?

The London Olympics approach is a great example.  The Olympics is a great brand, but my sense is that the current approach risks turning the Olympics into something quite negative.

A big part of the value of the Olympics brand comes from the open and time-honored spirit of the games -- but what is happening London in terms of commercializing this brand could seriously hurt its long-term value and it ought to be stopped.

The following story from The National Post tells it best:

LONDON — As almost everyone in the world must know by now, there may not be enough guards to provide security for the 2012 London Olympics because of a planning and hiring fiasco.

Alas, there are no such concerns about the number of enforcement officers and lawyers charged with checking for violations of the Games’ oppressive brand protection regulations.

The Orwellian-sounding Olympic Deliverance Committee has 280 Olympic brand enforcers authorized by the government fanning across Britain this week to ensure nobody uses the five hallowed rings for any purpose unless they have paid a fortune to Olympic organizers to do so.

The London Organizing Committee (LOCOG) has a second team of zealots doing similar work on behalf of the rich and powerful.

Among the offences these sleuths are ferreting out under the Olympic Games Act (2006) are putting two of the words “games” “2012” “Twenty Twelve,” “gold,” “bronze” or “medal” in the same sentence.

Offenders could be on the hook for fines of more than $30,000.

Heck, there is even said to be a legal ban on spectators uploading personal photos of the London Games onto social networking sites such as Facebook.

Imagine the outcry in Canada if the NHL tried such heavy-handed tactics to prevent a bar or individual from celebrating the Stanley Cup in words or with a photo.

Predictably, the British media, which has never seen an underdog it didn’t love, has been in high dudgeon over what it regards as a matter of free speech. The roundup by the authorities has so far implicated an 81-year-old grandmother of six from Norfolk who made a tiny sweater with the Olympics rings for a child’s doll that her knitting circle intended to sell through a church charity for $1.63.

Joy Tomkins was ordered to withdraw the offending doll from sale to avoid possible legal action.

Also at risk of being put in the docket is a south London cafe, which had the temerity to hang five bagels in its window. Community wardens ordered the offending bagels to be removed or legal action would follow.

The parents of the Duchess of Cambridge — Kate Middleton, whose partner, Prince William, may one day rule Britannia — may have run afoul of the law, too. The Middletons’ potential offence was advertising trinkets such as mugs for sale on their catering website using the words “2012” and “Games.” The London Organizing Committee has launched an investigation.

Lord Coe, who as plain Seb Coe was once a world-class middle-distance runner, might be described as “the lord of the rings.”

Coe, who oversees the London Games, got into the churlish Olympic spirit last week by declaring on BBC Radio 4 that if any spectator so much as dared wear a T-shirt with the word Pepsi emblazoned on it the offender would be banished from the venue so as to not hurt the feelings of Coca-Cola, which has paid an undisclosed but sky-high sum to be the Olympics’ official unhealthy drink. Here's the link to the rest of that story.

Wow.  What can I say? No brand should be held so tightly that it can't grow and be embraced freely, especially if it is a brand that is perceived, like the Olympics, to be the property of all of us.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Sometimes to protect a brand too fiercely can damage it.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Excedrin and Ralph Lauren


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Excedrin


Loser:  Ralph Lauren



There is nothing like a distribution problem to tell us a lot about brand equity.

Now I’m not speaking about imagined brand equity, the kind of thing that social media enthusiasts measure by "likes".  I’m speaking about dollars and cents brand equity.

Bottom line, when the going gets tough and your product or service is scarce, how much are people willing to pay for it.

The answer for Excedrin is: a lot.

Apparently this past Friday a package of Excedrin Extra Strength 50 two-tablet packs went for almost $150 dollars on Amazon while the same-size pack of Excedrin Migraine was fetching almost $250.

The reason for these prices is from the shortage that resulted after the maker, Novartis, pulled the medication from the shelves at the beginning of the year because it stopped manufacture.

However, this fierce sign of brand equity should serve Excedrin well.  Novartis says it’s working hard to get manufacturing going again and return these much-loved products to the shelves.

It is a great example of how the first rule of branding is satisfying a need.  You see, most of Excedrin’s customers are migraine sufferers who swear by these particular formulations.  They say that nothing else works for them to combat the sudden, debilitating onsets of their migraines.

Brand value doesn’t get clearer than this.


Folks, what can I say about Ralph Lauren's big mis-step?

Brands must be consistent.  In this case, Ralph Lauren wasn't just being Ralph Lauren, it was the U.S. Team's Olympic uniform brand.

The outrage at the revelation that those uniforms were being manufactured in China is understandable. 

Fact is, the U.S. uniform brand simply needs to be 100% U.S. --especially in this time of outsourcing and lost jobs.  End of story.

Lauren has backed away from the mistake by stating that the next batch of uniforms (for the Winter Olympics) will be made in the USA, but I believe some serious brand damage has been done. 

This isn't a typical brand crisis that can be addressed by sound brand management, this is a fundamental error that goes straight to the core of the brand. 

This decision as to where the uniforms were made is simply too big.  Manufacturing abroad is the kind of thing that should have been rejected out of hand or never even raised as a possibility. The fact that it wasn't says too much about this brand to ignore.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Crisis can teach us about brand equity.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Katy Perry and High Speed Rail


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Katy Perry


Loser:  California's High Speed Rail



Our winner is no other than Katy Perry.  In many respects, she is the American Dream come true, a talented person who worked hard to get where she is.

But, most of all, this week's winner boils down to one critical thing: Perry is committed her fans.  Her new documentary movie "Part of Me" drives this point home.  Perry delivers what her fans want and she never forgets this.

Any brand can learn a lot from this (it's worth learning more about her here).


Folks, California is pursuing a high speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  This is terrible marketing because it fails on the first count: what need is this satisfying. Sure, it could cut a 5-hour road trip down to 2, but given both cities are so spread out, is this advantage really going to trump air travel or car?  Probably not.

A little while back I wrote a piece on President Obama's high speed rail fascination.  I think it is even more applicable now:

This week, President Obama proposed an ambitious “high-speed” rail system for our country. 

From a marketing perspective, this is nothing but “the train to nowhere” and earns our President’s administration Loser of the Week.

I would have expected better from one of the best poli-marketers of our age —the man, who, after all, reached new heights of pull-marketing strategy during his campaign. 

Who was calling for this “high-speed” rail? The voters who put him in the White House? 

I don’t think so. 

No, this idea seems to be the kind of thing minted by some ideological think bubble where no idea is too green and no cost too high when it comes to visions of slick inter-city Euro-style rail service destroying our nation’s love affair with personal independence and the car.

My main problem here is that this isn’t real marketing: it’s classic build-it-and-they-will-come thinking.  

Why address a twenty-first century problem with a nineteenth-century, high-overhead, big-infrastructure technology like railroad? Why not spend the same money on a telecommuting initiative. That would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if that’s what the Administration is really after?

Not only that, there is real doubt about whether it is even possible to build this system and even what exactly it is President Obama is proposing to build. Even The Oregonian, which endorses high-speed rail, doubts that this plan will fly, because what it is calling high-speed rail wouldn’t even qualify as such in other countries.

Thus another sin against real marketing: window-dressing your brand as something it is not. Window dressing almost always comes back to bite you, because your Target Market is not going to be in the dark forever. 

When Obama´s “high-speed” train is creeping past Baltimore because the federal plan didn’t have enough money or vision, voters will know they got stuck with a lemon and will blame the President. 

Apparently, the President’s plan is to bring our rail service up to the level that Asia and Europe upgraded out of years ago. Yes, nothing spells progress like going backward. (And don’t forget: the European model of high-speed rail works in large part because the distances between major cities are so much smaller than in our vast country.)

Moreover, the “high-speed” rail plan could do damage to President Obama’s brand because of the appearance of micro-managing. I’ve written about that danger here, but something about this plan makes me think that the President is about to put on a hard hat and play contractor on-site —threatening to take the “Yes, We Can” of the campaign to absurd Bob-the-Builder heights.

And one more strike against the poli-marketer: Chicago will apparently be the Midwestern hub for the rail plan. This may make a lot of sense, but I can’t help but think this could come back to haunt the President, especially when bidding and big contracts start making news back on his home turf.

But ultimately, I have to return to the idea that there is simply no need for this kind of rail service in the United States. Our first railroads were revolutionary and set loose a torrent of economic activity that propelled the United States to first-world status. 

But these new railroads? 

With Detroit struggling, is it really wise to bankroll a competing mode of transportation? Ditto, the airlines? 

Of course not. 

Eisenhower’s great National Highway Program was government investment that identified and unleashed the nation’s need to have high-quality vehicular commercial and personal transport from coast to coast. It created opportunities for commerce. 

What will this new rail program do for the development of the next generation alternatively-powered cars and trucks? Disincentivize would be the word.

Whether or not the “high-speed” rail system ever actually gets off the ground, the message being transmitted by the Obama brand on this one is clear… and contradictory: We are pushing big government programs that don’t necessarily have any real connection to how things work in this country and that work against other things (like rescuing Detroit) that we are doing with huge government initiatives.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: The first rule of branding is to deliver what is needed, not just what you think is needed.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Tom Cruise and GlaxoSmithKline


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: Tom Cruise


Loser:  GlaxoSmithKline



Folks, it is sad to see any marriage break up.  Especially when kids are involved.

So in no way do I want to make light of what is happening between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

That said I believe Tom Cruise will emerge an even stronger brand from this latest visit to divorce court and the gossip pages.


Because Tom Cruise has always thrived on adversity and this particular adversity couldn’t have come at a better time for his career.  After all, he is arguably entering a very uncertain period of his life and would be undergoing a major transition whether or not he was getting a divorce. 

Fact is, Tom Cruise is getting old. 

Unlike actors such as George Clooney or a classic like Cary Grant, Tom Cruise still banks on his boyish persona to charm them at the box office – in some ways in our minds he’s never really grown up.  He’s our Peter Pan, despite some bold acting choices and the diverse roles. 

Some portion of his every role in the last ten years, whether it was Vanilla Sky or Mission Impossible 4, still benefits from a good dose of Top Gun.  Sure he’s played against type in comic roles like Tropic Thunder, but for the most part when Cruise is physically recognizable, it’s Cruise, still the young man, we are accustomed to.

But Tom Cruise turned fifty on Tuesday.  Risky Business is a long, long time ago.  At some point, he will have to make that transition that he has long avoided: he will have to become middle-aged.

The sympathy he is likely to get from this latest chapter in his life might just be what gets him there.  By all accounts, Holmes was the driver of this decision and Cruise was taken completely by surprise.  He will need time to heal, but my guess is that the public will see and accept a new side to this man who is known for always being in control.

Cruise is someone who never stands still.  Some celebrity brands only have one trick up their sleeve; others (Madonna) can re-invent themselves until the cows come home.  Cruise is one of the latter.  He managed to keep driving ahead long after many critics said his career was in the decline.  And I wouldn’t bet against him now.


GlaxoSmithKline has just become a textbook example of what marketing isn't.

I think the 3 billion dollar fine and the misdemeanor criminal charges really cement the lesson. 

According to the Justice Department, Glaxo pushed anti-depressant Paxil to those under 18 even though it wasn't approved for that age group and Wellbutrin for weightloss when it wasn't approved for that use. 

Not only that, GSK did extreme things to promote its drugs like sending out misleading medical journal articles and giving doctors spa treatments and meals that were basically kickbacks.

Wow.  How could Glaxo, a multi-national with an established corporate ethos and sophisticated legal and marketing strategy, do something like this on such a scale?

The facts aren't out yet, but my guess is that sales hijacked marketing in this case.  If a sales person is given a free reign, he or she will often do what it takes to close the sale -- sales, in the absence of a comprehensive brand strategy and the right controls, can easily go off the rails.

The charges show that things were out of balance at Glaxo beyond sales (underpaid Medicaid and didn't supply safety information on its drug Avandia). 

Bottom line, problems on this scale don't happen in a vacuum and they aren't fixed in a vacuum. 

For Glaxo to get back on track, it needs to address this problem on all levels.  Andrew Witty, the company's CEO, has said the charges belong to "a different era for the company."  That statement is a start but for Glaxo to find its way, the company will need to clean house and make sure that this era is genuinely behind this brand.

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: There are no short cuts to creating true brand equity.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Lebron James and Microsoft Surface


Brand Winner...

And Loser...


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner: LeBron James


Loser:  Microsoft Surface Tablet



Folks, LeBron James has had a rough time of it as a brand -- arguably he has made it difficult for himself at times (i.e., how he handled his Cleveland departure) but in some ways he hasn't been given the space to be forgiven from some of his earlier indiscretions.

But the rules of the performance brand have kicked in now with the Heat's victory and this means that James has just carved out some very positive "breathing room" for his brand to be rejuvenated. 

ESPN has done a great piece on James:

style="font-size: 18px;">In other words, watch this space: the James brand is about to experience a rebirth.


Apple can be counted on to surprise, inspire and delight; Microsoft can be counted on to trip over its own feet when it comes to marketing.

And they’ve done it again with Surface.

What was Microsoft thinking? I’m not sure they were.

The name Surface is bland and forgettable. It’s unlikely to drive brisk Apple-like lines around the block. 

Will people really say “I love my Surface.” 

Moreover, they are actually using the name from an earlier launch of a different Microsoft product. That’s right. They didn’t brainstorm a fresh name for a fresh product, they went back to a product release from 2007 aimed at a corporate market and tried to make it fit a consumer market.

That product was also a touch-screen device. The difference was it was the size of a coffee table (see for yourself) not a feather-light marvel of engineering.

Nothing says we’re out of creative solutions than this kind of lazy repurposing of old thinking. But this brings us to the real problem of the name. From almost all the technical reviews so far, Surface is actually really good and might even transform the tablet market. 

In other words, Microsoft isn’t out of creative solutions, but it has failed to express this fact.

Getting a product’s name right is critical. Samsung’s Galaxy range of tablets both inspires and informs. Put the name together with Samsung’s great advertising and a potential buyer instantly understands that there is a “galaxy” of possibility in the device Samsung is offering. 

You have to wonder how a company like Microsoft with so many resources including a CEO who was a top marketer himself could make this kind of mistake. But it’s been done before by big companies that should have known better. Hydrox comes to mind, a great cookie – the original “Oreo” in fact— whose name sounded like a detergent. 

Fact is, Microsoft has always been clunky when it comes to reaching consumers and in this case there might be another focus for the company that caused it to overlook the importance of the naming process. The most likely reason Surface exists is because Microsoft, a software manufacturer, thinks it is high time that hardware manufacturers start making tablets that runs Microsoft software, so things like Office have a chance. It just might have wanted to give the market a nudge. 

Microsoft beat Apple long ago by picking the PC as the platform that would rule the world. Maybe Microsoft is doing the same thing with the tablet.

And, who knows, with Microsoft’s great distribution, even Surface might catch on with consumers despite the name. Still, they ought to have tried harder to get the name right. 

And remember, it's always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY'S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: A brand's name matters -- get it right!