Monthly Archives: April 2011

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

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

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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



Winner:  Netflix

Loser:  Apple




I’ve written about Netflix before, but it’s high time to do it again.  Today the company has posted revenue that almost doubled from a year ago.  Not only that but it continues to add subscribers at a rapid rate and now boasts a total of 23.6 million subscribers worldwide.


Netflix continues to do everything right in this wild world of new, Internet-streamed entertainment.  It made a deal for the entire “Mad Men” series and another one for “Glee”.  And it’s developing its own content just like a network by buying the rights to “House of Cards”, an original series starring Kevin Spacey.


Bottom line, what we are seeing is the continued evolution of a company that wisely knew what its brand was from the start.  So much so that it’s transition from a mail order business to a deliverer of Internet content didn’t even require a name change –if anything, it’s name suggested that the company knew its destiny from the start.

So hats off to Netflix. In a world where many media companies are struggling to make sense of the landscape, this company, which knew its marketing mission cold from the start, continues to flourish.



This week Apple faced some pretty serious questions about whether its iPhone, and other popular devices, collect and store user’s location information without their knowledge.

The Wall Street Journal has now gone on the record and said that a test it conducted shows that the iPhone does just that.  This backs up the conclusion of two researchers last week and casts a serious pall over the Apple brand.

For one, Apple’s success has been based on the best sort of marketing there is: identifying customer need and then consistently satisfying it.  One important need is the sense that each device is not only personalized but is working for the user, a customized and dynamic tool.  But the revelation that the device might be serving another agenda without the user even knowing that… well, that runs completely counter to the idea that the customer comes first. 

Not only that, but The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Iphone’s location file doesn’t stop working even after the user turns it off.  Last year, after a similar uproar, Apple claimed that the information they received from these devices was anonymous, but the problem with brands is that there is only so much good will to go around.  After a while, the customer has a right to start doubting what a company says about its products. 

For a long time, Apple has been able to roll through problems like the antenna fiasco, Steve Jobs’ email rudeness to a curious customer, et cetera.  It had built serious marketing equity into its products and was at that place coveted by celebrity and corporate brands alike: it could do no wrong. 

But, folks, that’s changed and now brand damage is accumulating.  What Apple needs to say –and more important— do is to reassure its customers that they come first. 

I’m not certain that Steve Jobs is the right guy for this.  His response to this problem is apparently to completely deny that Apple tracks its consumers.  Wow.  That doesn’t sound too smart considering that some pretty serious players are claiming that there is no doubt that Apple does.

Bottom line, there has to be complete transparency.  If people begin to think that when they are buying an Apple product, they are actually buying something that spies on them, then the response must be to immediately apologize for anything that Apple has done and then absolutely vanquish this notion through an active campaign by the company to promote its products as “spy free.”

Such an approach could actually end up being a huge benefit for Apple by putting them in the lead again on an issue that is no doubt going to become huge as more and more consumers become worried about the security of their devices.  Apple could find yet another way to differentiate itself from the competition.

If they don’t do something like this then the company might actually begin to undermine its product lines by being seen as untrustworthy and ultimately not on the consumers’ side. 

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





If you’re brand is doing something wrong, fix it and find a way to make the fix a competitive advantage.




Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: The Royal Family and the Blackberry PlayBook

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

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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

Winner:  The Royal Family

Loser:  The Blackberry PlayBook





Two hundred and thirty years after the American revolution and there is still only one royal family that really counts: the British Royal Family.

With all the hype over the upcoming wedding of the young British prince (despite polls showing that most Americans don’t care), you have to wonder how a family that should be an anachronism in the modern world has managed to keep going strong.

Jerry Seinfeld recently weighed in on the wedding declaring the royal family and the pageantry nothing but dress up. 

Seinfeld is a great comedian, but he’s wrong about the royal family.  If this was all about dress up and fantasy then they would have been finished long ago, another footnote in the dustbin of history.

Bottom line, the royal family is a brand that has withstood the test of time because of a basic integrity and identity that people can readily grasp and ultimately respect.

The recent hit movie, The King’s Speech, shows us why.  At the center is the struggle of the would-be king to conquer a severe speech impediment in order to speak to his people.

What is never questioned is why on earth would this man work so hard to fix his stammer.  After all, even back then a British monarch didn’t really have genuine power. 

Bottom line, the crown was and is all about service and duty.  That is the brand and in a world where self-dealing and “what’s in it for me” is the general rule, this brand stands out as a kind of counter-example. 

What has made the royal family such a force is its basic consistency.  Sure there have been scandals and mis-steps but what the royal family has done is stayed true to its core characteristics –like any great brand.  And like any great brand, when it has changed and adapted, it has done so carefully rather than recklessly, letting go of some of the royal conventions (i.e. not marrying commoners) but holding onto others.

The result: it’s 2011 and we’re still talking about them.  That is an achievement that is a lot more than play acting


Research In Motion has entered the crowded tablet market with The Blackberry Playbook.

Reviews haven’t been all that bad.

According to the techies, the PlayBook has some real strengths.  For example, unlike the I-Pad it can play Flash video and apparently its word processor is better.  One reviewer even called its display “bright, crisp” and “gorgeous.”

Fact is, Apple’s I-Pad will be hard to beat no matter what, but no brand ever succeeds by delivering products that don’t meet customer needs. 

What RIM has done is a classic branding mistake.  It’s seen a very lucrative but crowded market and jumped in before figuring out what it can offer that the market leader doesn’t.

Sure some of PlayBook’s features might beat the I-Pad, but there are two big problems.  There is virtually no legal content to play on the PlayBook and that means that “gorgeous” display isn’t much good right now for most users.  But, more important, PlayBook doesn’t beat I-Pad on price.

Turn the clock back twenty-five years and we had Apple getting blown out of the water by lesser technology at a much cheaper price point.  That finished Apple then because customers were willing to get less value as long as they could pay a lot less money.

RIM and other competitors need to remember this if they want to dislodge Apple or even take a moderate slice out of the big tablet pie, they will need to launch with a comparable product at much lower cost –even if it means losing money at first.

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



The biggest stumbling block for a brand is inconsistency.









Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Tiger Woods and Gannett

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

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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

Winner:  Tiger Woods    

Loser:  Gannett



Schwartzel won the Masters; but it was Tiger Woods’ strong finish that will be seen as a historic turning point.  Woods came back from a big deficit to reach the top of the leader board.  By doing so, he confirmed what I’ve been predicting: the Tiger brand is coming back.

Last summer Tiger surprised everyone by ranking as the most popular athlete in the United States.  What I wrote then looks even more true now:

Bottom line, Tiger Woods is a performance brand. It’s what he does on – not off — the golf course that matters. It’s the same for all athletic brands. If you win, you will be liked (except for those rare cases in which you win but are really, really hard to like).

Tiger might not win every tournament he is in, but in golf no one ever does –so despite what non-golfers might be saying, Tiger really is excelling on the green. The point is consistency, and dogged improvement, which he’s displaying. People who know golf know that Tiger Woods is coming back impressively and much sooner than anyone expected.

The bigger point here is that what matters as a predictor of a sport brand’s ultimate success isn’t the inevitable media uproar –it’s the ability of the performance brand to continue to win and to appeal to his customers and fans.

For Tiger Woods, this means appealing to men between the ages of 18-44 who are sports enthusiasts; enjoy golf; and are more forgiving of male indiscretions even if they’re repugnant. It is this group that is the most important to Tiger and his marketing team. And he hasn’t lost them –not by a long shot.

Many of the public relations people turn to the standard playbook when a crisis like Tiger’s erupts. They seem to think the old mea culpas to everyone must be given and that from some public relations disasters there is simply no recovery

Again, for Tiger and golf stars in general, winning means being consistent. The golf Target Market, its fans and customers, understands that inconsistency is a key factor in this arduous game and that most lose in this sport because they fail at being consistent. Golf is simply different from all other sports and this will continue to work in Tiger’s favor since his legendary consistency is definitely intact.


What we saw at the Masters was Tiger Woods displaying that consistency and the coolness and determination that has characterized his excellence as a golfer.  Commentators noted the return of the classic Tiger confidence as he strode the course.  That confidence and his incredible talent means that soon he will be back at Number 1 –and when that happens all of the rest of the pieces of his brand (the sponsorship and advertising opportunities) will fall into place as well.



When the cost-cutting geniuses decided to stop publishing Gourmet magazine a few years ago, but still “monetize” the brand, they showed that they didn’t understand how media brands fundamentally work.

Bottom line, you simply can’t get rid of the talent, material and standard of excellence that is –in fact— your brand and expect what remains to have any value.  No matter how esteemed and established the name of your product is without the material, it ends up hollowed out.

In the last five years, the Gannett workforce has been reduced from 52,000 to about 32,000.  Mandatory furloughs are common and community newsrooms –once the backbone of this media company— are shrinking.

All the employees seem to be taking the hit, but the management is still awarding itself big paydays. 

There is no question that the Gannett business model is under assault from the Internet and mobile devices.  And there’s no question that cost-cutting is necessary.

But the issue for any brand is how you cut costs –especially a media brand like Gannett’s that requires talent and the right kind of spending to produce high-value content.  In Gannett’s case, the decision by management to keep executive pay packages rich while cutting into the livelihoods of the company’s employees not only looks bad but it badly hurts brand equity.

Why?  Because a media company’s brand equity is, more than almost any other kind of business, its content-producing employees.  This is especially true in journalism where journalists are used to working overtime without compensation just to get that next scoop or talk to one more source. 

Journalists have long put up with greedy management and executives who don’t necessarily appreciate the front-line realities of journalism, but the latest Gannett move injects insecurity into that equation.  A journalist will work hard and for less for a company that is going to be sticking around, but what Gannett management is doing reeks of a company squeezing out the last of the money from something that doesn’t have much a future.

My guess is that most employees must seriously be considering how to jump ship before it goes down and the best and smartest talent will make that jump before everyone else.

Folks, that’s not something you want, especially in tough times when shared sacrifice from top to bottom of an organization and the dynamic re-invention of a brand are what’s needed to avert disaster.  If Gannett management is serious about saving this brand then it needs to let everyone know that talented, dedicated people are what make a media brand –and it needs to join in the hard times.  End of story.

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


A media brand is nothing without content that is in demand.



Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: GoDaddy and Warren Buffet

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

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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

Winner:  Go Daddy 

Loser:  Warren Buffet



GoDaddy, the Domain name company, is in public relations hot water over a video showing its flamboyant CEO hunting and shooting a rogue elephant in Africa.

Folks, as usual the PR folks are suggesting that the CEO and company must now run for cover, apologize and repent.

I have nothing against prudent brand crisis management, but in GoDaddy’s case it would be the wrong move. 

I’m not endorsing elephant killing, but the PR folks miss brand reality with their one-size fits all strategy.

After all, GoDaddy is a company that has successfully harnessed bad-taste and controversy to drive its brand.  

Not only that but its reach is broad and its Target Market is so general as to be impossible to pin down.  We’re talking about anyone and everyone who wants to register a domain, needs webhosting etcetera –for a very competitive price.  The company has grown despite all the controversy of years past and there is really no reason to think that the elephant incident will curtail its growth.

Bottom line, there are some companies, GoDaddy is definitely one, whose core business is basically immune to controversy.  If the CEO of Starbucks hunted an elephant that would be different.  Starbuck’s brand story and philosophy would be at odds with that.  But most important, its Target Market would be deeply offended and that would likely hurt sales. 

For GoDaddy, simply getting its name out there –good or bad publicity— will work.  As long as that publicity has nothing to do with the quality of their Internet services then all is well.


Warren Buffet has been a darling of the media for a long time now.  He is also a great brand who built his brand by focusing on what he does best: make money for himself and his investors.

But recently he has injected himself into the public square in ways that run counter to his long-term brand strategy.  “The Oracle of Omaha” has publicly defended the big bank bailout and then, as it turned out, profited handsomely from it by way of his Goldman Sachs options.  In other words, he put his credibility on the line to argue for the use of taxpayer funds that made him money.

Fact is, when a brand becomes so visible, its contradictions are scrutinized.  For Buffett this has meant that people have begun to question whether he has actually been more self-serving and less transparent than everyone had believed.

Now his groomed successor, David Sokol, has left because of an apparent conflict of interest… some have even called it front-running (trading stock of Lubrizol on his own account while Berkshire Hathaway was in the midst of taking it over).

Brand equity is not gained overnight.  But it can be lost that way.  In Buffett’s case, the losing of his brand equity has happened over the last year as people have come to question some of his actions.  But this case could make his brand equity plummet –especially if the S.E.C. detects wrongdoing.

The Sokol resignation could mean that Buffett doesn’t run a tight ship at Berkshire Hathaway since there should certainly have been basic ground rules on stock ownership and disclosure by its top executives. 

Or, and this would be much more damaging, the ethical standards everyone ascribes to Buffett aren’t actually practiced at his own company.  In fact, Buffett could quickly get lumped together with a list of Wall Street scoundrels and the general distrust of banks and financial companies.

My sense is that what Buffett needs to do is tackle this issue head-on and explain everything in the kind of detail that he is famous for in his annual letters.  He needs to confirm his high ethical standards and the fact that he is not just another Wall Streeter.

Then, he should take a step back from the public square.  His brand doesn’t need to be promoted…  It needs to be preserved.

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

What kind of exposure works for your brand?