John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Apple Again (Slate) and The Administration & Terrorism

Brand Winner…

   And Loser

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week:   

Winner: Apple Again (Slate)

Loser: The Administration and Terrorism

Folks, without further ado.

The Winner

Apple seems to be at it again. The buzz is another product is on the way: Slate.

What does it do? No one seems to know yet, so why make Apple a winner?

For the sake of reminding us how great companies always put products or services first (i.e., they focus on what they do rather than who they are). 

Apple has not become the tech behemoth it is because Apple promoted a company image first. Its company culture has always promoted an atmosphere where the focus is on creating products that people want; the consistent superiority of its products has in turn supported the company’s reputation for creating these superior products, generating its powerful company image. Now, when Apple announces that a new product is on its way, people rightfully expect that something big is coming. Think Kellogg’s and breakfast cereal. Kellogg’s is a company that makes great individual cereals, and this reinforces the company’s reputation for doing so —but if Kellogg’s started rolling out awful cereals, Kellogg’s, the company, would go downhill fast.

Not all of Apple’s products have triumphed (i.e., The Newton), but Apple is in the business of innovation and serving its customers in innovative ways. When you’re on the cutting edge, occasional failure is to be expected. What’s important is that you swiftly recognize failure and go back to the drawing board, while keeping your customers’ needs first.

This is what Apple always does, and it’s this track record that makes the next imminent product launch (said to be coming at the end of January) so exciting.

Google, on the other hand, is set to make its first major foray into telecommunications products this week with its phone. I’m not a techie, but already my sense is that the emphasis is on company over product. If it is, good things will not follow. Stay tuned.

The Loser

The loser this week is the Obama Administration and its ongoing approach to terrorism.

The very thing that helped President Obama win the election —his rejection of the rhetoric surrounding the War on Terror— is now a major brand liability.


Because we are clearly at war. Failing to admit what is obvious to everyone not only hinders the fight against a real threat to America’s safety but also torpedoes the administration’s credibility.

Think about it: A brand’s credibility is everything, and a substantial part of almost any brand’s credibility is its ability to see and react appropriately to reality. This is true whether you’re a soda, an aspirin, a potato chip or a national security agency. 

Take the Tylenol poisoning in the eighties. What did this reveal? It revealed that people expect safety in the product they consume. The maker of Tylenol recognized this bottom-line need and also recognized that customers’ faith had been shaken (by reality), and it stepped up to offer revolutionary safety measures. By seeing and responding to reality, they not only kept their old customers, they won over new ones.

The Obama administration must state the reality of the current national security situation in unambiguous terms —terms that the people will accept. This is the first step. The next step will be to reinforce the words with action that shows they do grasp the reality. They need to make airport securities genuinely effective (this might mean “profiling”), and they need to shut the revolving door on terrorism.

If the administration doesn’t take these steps, our national security will be better recognized as national insecurity, and it will be the Obama administration’s brand that gets the ultimate blame.

And, remember, business and politics is always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


Be proud of your company, but put your products first.


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