Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week
Winner: Amy Winehouse
Loser: Arnold Schwarzenegger
First, I have to clarify my take on this week’s winner Amy Winehouse.
There is no question that on a personal level, for her family and her friends, Ms. Winehouse’s death is utter tragedy. To see someone so young die is terrible under any circumstances, but to see someone so young and so talented destroy themselves like this… well, there’s nothing else to say. A truly great loss.
But just as all of us exist on a personal level, we exist on a brand level too. We are brands that are perceived a certain way by others. Ms. Winehouse was an entertainment/artistic brand.
And, folks, it is for this reason that her tragic story of self-destruction at a young age makes her a brand winner.
Simply put, Ms. Winehouse’s brand is that of a soulful, troubled outsider of profound musical talent. She is a music brand in the mold of Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Greatly talented, sensitive artists in the romantic tradition –all of whom, like Ms. Winehouse, died at 27. In music history this phenomenon is known as the “27 Club.”
The Winehouse brand of artist goes way, way back at least to the romantic poets. Keats and Shelley died young. Sylvia Plath, the young, gifted suicide, is another example. Bottom line, there’s a long tradition of people connecting a certain type of artistic genius to short, tragic lives as if their short, tragic lives were proof of their genius.
Amy Winehouse will be no exception. Already companies like Microsoft have gotten in social media hotwater over supposedly trying to take commercial advantage of this tragedy by seeming to promote Winehouse’s music in the wake of her death (I haven’t seen any complaints yet after Apple prominently featured Ms. Winehouse in its ITunes store).
But whatever criticism vendors might get, fact is Amy Winehouse will sell more music because of her early death and her personal brand will become more entrenched in people’s minds as occupying a special place among musical artists.
And in terms of selling music… Isn’t that what Winehouse and other artists do in order to get their art to their fans? What is wrong with selling? If anything good is to come out of this tragedy it will be that her work will achieve a larger audience and her art will continue to live precisely because it sells.
And folks, one final disclaimer, I’m saying all above about Winehouse and her brand’s future, but to be frank, I’m not a fan of her music. Of course, that doesn’t matter because I’m not her Target Market.
In the past, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s consistent and dynamic development of his personal brand has earned a lot of praise, including from me.
But recently his formerly strong brand has been badly shaken and not just by the affair he had many years ago.
Bottom line, a personal brand isn’t only judged by the mistakes its makes. People can forgive mistakes, even big ones. What they won’t forgive is a personal brand, especially an entertainer like Schwarzenegger, who seems to be arrogantly or callously ducking his responsibilities or taking the low-road.
This is what happened on Friday when it seemed that Schwarzenegger had asked the court for some pretty low-road terms in his divorce filing from his wife Maria Shriver. The terms included things like having Shriver pay her own court costs and not giving her any child support.
Fuggedaboutit…talk about a very poor brand move! Trying to get as much as you can or playing hardball might make sense from a legal strategy perspective, but it is a decided failure for brand management.
Fortunately, it looks like Schwarzenegger has already backed away from these demands, claiming that he had been distracted by his son’s surfing accident and not looked the papers over carefully enough before signing them.
There’s no question that a brand as strong as Schwarzenegger’s can make a comeback, but to do so he must consistently take the high road from here and that means paying attention to details especially where his wife and family are concerned.
Why does this really matter? Especially if all he’s going to do is go back to the silverscreen? It matters because he usually plays heroes and not one of those characters would behave like this –and that kind of brand dissonance can be fatal.
Can you imagine the Kindergarten Cop skimping on his kids after skinflinting his wife?
And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – Every detail matters in brand management.