Monthly Archives: October 2011

Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Paranormal 3 and Netflix


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Paranormal Activity 3


Loser:  Netflix



The success of the third installment in the Paranormal Activity horror-movie franchise tells us a lot about how powerful branding can be.

Remember the first movie?  That one was made for a reported $15,000 and quickly grossed more than 100 million dollars worldwide.

Now, Paranormal Activity 3 has come along and again dominated the box office.


One, unlike most studio movies that cost tens of millions of dollars to make, this movie has followed the pattern of the first two movies and been made for relative peanuts: five million dollars.

Two, unlike the mistaken strategy of taking a successful, but homespun product (Paranormal Activity 1 shot on the cheap), and then turning it into a high-production value “masterpiece” and losing the brand –the studio in this case was smart enough to keep things pretty much the same.

But the most important point is this: once you have reached your target market and delivered a product that they want, you have a brand whose characteristics you must respect.  That’s what the studio did with the 2nd movie in the series and because of that the audience knew that they could expect more of the same in the 3rd. 

Hats off to Paranormal Activity 3.


Here’s what I wrote about Netflix back in July when they alienated many customers by abruptly raising their prices.

Folks, since that time they lost hundreds of thousands of customers and received a lot of bad press.  Then they announced a split of their DVD mail service and their streaming video service into two separate companies only to reverse that decision.

The New York Times has a great description of that fiasco and an analysis of Netflix here.  I’ll quote a bit:

Reed Hastings [Netflix’s CEO] was soaking in a hot tub with a friend last month when he shared a secret: his company, Netflix, was about to announce a plan to divide its movie rental service into two — one offering streaming movies over the Internet, the other offering old-fashioned DVDs in the mail.

“That is awful,” the friend, who was also a Netflix subscriber, told him under a starry sky in the Bay Area, according to Mr. Hastings. “I don’t want to deal with two accounts.”

Mr. Hastings ignored the warning, believing that chief executives should generally discount what their friends say.

Now, the company has warned that the decline in subscribers is going to continue into next year and the stock lost 15 percent in one session.

Bottom line, Netflix needs to regroup and focus on their brand. Raising  prices might have meant accounting sense but the way they did it doesn’t make brand sense.

Worst of all for the Netflix brand is the impression that they have forgotten their customers.

Luckily for Netflix is that they have a great brand.  Abrupt price rises aside, Netflix has excellent customer service and meets the needs of its customers expertly.

What Netflix needs to do now is… nothing. 

Netflix’s problem in the last four months has been about making changes that they either didn’t need to make (breaking up the company then not breaking up the company) or didn’t need to make the way they did (raising prices without warning or explanation).

Now is the time for the company to simply keep doing what it has been doing for the past decade: building subscribers and keeping them happy as they expand Netflix brand globally.  And when they have a message or a change to make, Netflix needs to think it through and then implement it by keeping all their Target Markets on board.

If they do this, their brand will likely quickly heal the damage of the last few months, if they don’t that damage could become permanent.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  If your brand is working, don’t tinker.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of the Week: Dr. Pepper Ten and Oprah


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Dr. Pepper Ten


Loser:  Oprah



Chalk up Dr. Pepper Ten as a real marketing winner this week.


The beverage company, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, has identified its Target Market for Dr. Pepper Ten and is doing everything to let them know this product is for them. 

The Target Market?  Men only.

There’s been a predictable outcry because of the perceived bias against women.

But bottom line, in everything from the packaging (gunmetal grey and silver bullets) to its ad campaign, Dr. Pepper Ten is both creating alot of free publicity by being controversial while cementing its brand.

Here’s a sample of the targeted advertising.  In this spot a man is trying to pour Dr Pepper Ten while riding an ATV:

“Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie
and this is our soda.  You can keep the romantic comedies and
lady drinks. We’re good.”

Dr. Pepper Ten is also smart because it’s addressing a real need in a still lucrative market.  The soft drink industry is worth $74 billion per year, but sales have been declining.  Health consciousness is part of the reason.  Diet soda options are growing, but the problem is that taste is a issue for many consumers. 

Dr. Pepper Ten got its name because it has ten calories some of which come from two grams of sugar –this addition of sugar to the diet drink supposedly addresses some of the taste issues while also overcoming some of the perception obstacles that diet sodas still have in men’s minds.

Dr. Pepper Ten’s pointedly macho image is going to be advertised directly to its Target Market with spots during college football games on ESPN.  And the Facebook page for the product offer applications that actually can exclude women.

This goes back to a favorite concept of mine: targeted relations.  What Dr. Pepper Ten is doing might be called marketing/advertising, but since it is obvious that this approach was destined to generate controvery and hence free publicity, we’re actually also in public relations’ territory –and that’s the point.  Dr. Pepper Ten will benefit from the furor over excluding women and further underscore their “street cred” with their Target Market, men.

Fact is, for Dr. Pepper Ten successful public relations as defined by appealing to the widest possible audience would translate to failed targeted relations and hence undermine the product’s marketing.  Luckily, they’ve turned their back on public relations.

This is a lot like Ben & Jerry’s controversial flavor of a few weeks back: Schweddy Balls.  Sure, it might have upset some in the general public, but the Target Market got the joke and not only that they probably drew closer to Ben & Jerry’s because others in the general public didn’t get the joke.

Hats off to Dr. Pepper Ten and the courage to really target your market.


I have long been an admirer of the Oprah brand.

Few have had the extraordinary staying power and potent brand management that Oprah has.  The empire she has built is truly incredible.

That’s why I’m a little sad, folks, to say that Oprah is our loser of the week.

Here’s why:

Her network is struggling.  OWN (“The Oprah Winfrey Network”) is simply not finding its audience.

To some extent, I think the issue is a variation on the People Buy Brands Not Companies idea. 

Oprah built the kind of loyalty she has personally, by being there for her fans day after day by way of her show.  The show reached fans both through its mass media transmission but also in many respects by Oprah cultivating  brand loyalty by individual connections made with thousands upon thousands of fans.

In other words, Oprah herself is the brand and OWN is
a company.  Sure it has the Oprah Winfrey stamp but it isn’t Oprah

But there’s another problem.  Even fans can get enough Oprah.  So the
issue isn’t as simple as populating every minute with Oprah.

Truth be told there might not be a solution to the OWN problem.  Some critics have complained that the programming is too soft, too kind, not hard edged enough.

Given the latest move, the arrival of Rosie O’Donnell, Oprah might have listened to these critics.

But, wow, this is another mistake.  The Rosie O’Donnell who Oprah once said was her only real competition for Queen of Daytime doesn’t really exist anymore.

Fact is, while Rosie’s appearance on OWN spiked the ratings momentarily, this is not likely going to be an effect that will last.

After all, Rosie is no Oprah.  She’s got a history that includes having alienated audiences in ways that probably mean many people will never accept her brand again in the way they once did.

Even if they did, the challenge is still filling the airwaves with content that will get people watching.  It’s an achievement to get people to watch you for one hour a day; it’s probably an impossibility to get them to watch you 24/7 –but that’s the business OWN is in.

Still, if anyone can pull it off, Oprah can –maybe with a mixture of more Oprah on the set and the kind of programming that complements her brand…Stay tuned.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  Always ask: what does your Target Market need?








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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Steve Jobs


Loser:  The Banks



This past week we lost a great man, Steve Jobs.

The response I have gotten from my post about him on Fox has been overwhelming and has made me think that more must still be said about just how this man became so beloved and so valuable to our world.

Folks, I thought that I was going to have to tackle this through a lengthy post, but then in the course of a little research I came across this article in The New York Times. 

It’s by Steve Lohr and entitled “The Power of Taking the Big Chance.”  Wow!  It’s terrific because it so precisely defines the strengths of Jobs and one of those strengths was the fact that he was a marketer for the ages.

This was a man who was clearly always thinking about the consumer experience.  For Jobs, the product was something that was always communicating with the consumer and every element of that product constituted a word, a sentence, a phrase in that ongoing conversation –and he worked incredibly hard to make sure that conversation was the right conversation.

Here’s an example from Lohr’s article and, frankly, it is probably one of the best illustrations of what I mean when I always speak about how marketing is meeting the needs of your customer:


Six weeks before the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Mr. Jobs ordered a crucial design change. Until then, the planning for supplies, manufacturing and engineering had been based on the assumption that the smartphone’s face would be plastic, recalls Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive who led iPod and iPhone development from 2001 to 2009. Plastic is less fragile than glass, and easier to make.

But the plastic touch screen had a drawback. It was prone to developing scratches. Those scratches, Mr. Jobs insisted, would irritate users and be seen as a design flaw. “All the logical facts told us to go with plastic, and Steve’s instinct went the other way,” Mr. Fadell says. “It was Steve’s call — his gut.”

The glass choice was a challenge that seemed “nearly impossible” at the time, he says — a last-minute scramble to get supplies of specialized glass and tweak the design of the phone’s casing to reduce the chances the glass would crack when an iPhone was dropped. But with extra investment and a frenetic work regimen, the switch proved doable, despite the tight deadline.

The episode, Mr. Fadell says, points to a principle he took away from his years working with Mr. Jobs. “You do not cut corners and you make sure the customer gets an experience that is an absolute delight,” observes Mr. Fadell, who heads a Silicon Valley start-up company whose product has not yet been disclosed and will not compete with Apple.

What more do you need to say?  Apply this kind of thinking to your own business and good things will surely happen –but the challenge is finding the discipline, courage and energy to follow this truth through. 

Keep Mr. Jobs in mind and away you go!


More than three years ago now I wrote about how the big banks needed to once again return to their roots with their consumers.  They needed to get boring.  They needed to be seen by the American consumer to be prudent with money and committed to genuinely helping their small- to mid-sized customers.

This was before the crisis in the fall of 2008 and the consequences of the GFC, but it was obvious then as it is obvious now that the big banks had forgotten who they are and how their brands should be perceived in society.  Banks –flying in the stratosphere on high-octane derivative fuel and proprietary trading— had forgotten that there is an unspoken, social contract with the American

Fact is, a bank occupies a pretty special position in society –who else has access to the cheapest Federal money around?  I don’t, you don’t… but they do. 

But, folks, to those who much has been given, much is expected.  In exchange for these advantages, banks are meant to support our economy by playing the instrumental role in supporting all layers of society with

I don’t care if their business models have changed and they don’t need to care about the little guy…  Why?  Because in this country, the little guy ultimately does hold the purse strings.

At the time, I wrote that the big banks could only continue to disregard main street for so long…  Well, it’s been a few years and despite some grumbles, the bank brands have seemed to skate by any unified resentment… 

But that’s now changed with the Wall Street protests.  As ragged and disorganized as the protesters ideology might be, there does seem to be one common note: people are sick and tired of the arrogance of the big banks.  There is even a specific protest calling for the transfer of funds from the banks to credit unions which are seen as more people- and economy-friendly.

From a branding perspective this might be a watershed moment for the banks. 

My sense is that the bank that successfully manages to harness the protest energy of mainstreet –not just this Wall Street protest but the frustration of small- to mid-sized business leaders across our country, and folks I know a lot of them are in the same boat— will be the brand winner. 

What will it take?  Well, taking some risk, first, and that means lending again to those who can build our economy not just profit from shuffling cash around the global markets.

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



TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  Without taking risk and investing yourself, there can be no great brand.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Andy Rooney and HP (the Outside CEO Superstar)


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Andy Rooney


Loser:  HP (and the cult of the outside CEO Superstar)



This Sunday, Andy Rooney finally signed off, leaving CBS’s 60 Minutes after 33 years.

To endure in the ultra-competitive marketplace that is television is a genuine achievement, but to endure as Andy Rooney did from his intrepid World War II reportage through his career as a writer at the very beginning of television and into his ground-breaking news specials on civil rights… Well, that’s simply legendary and it is time to step back and honor a truly great brand.

Rooney would probably dislike the term brand when applied to him –in fact, he would probably devote one of his curmudgeonly 60 Minutes tele-essays just to demolish it… but try as he might, the term would still apply.

You see, this man, who was born in 1919, was, almost from the very beginning of his career, a distinct and consistent brand –hard-hitting reporter, brave, funny, curmudgeonly (as far as a 20-something can be), a talented scribe and recognizable. 

Whether it was climbing aboard a B-17 to report the Americans first daylight bombing raid over Germany or covering the liberation of Paris and later the concentration camps, Rooney was always himself and it was that same brand who would later be arrested during a civil rights protest in 1940s –years before Rosa Park’s famous arrest.

But, folks, it is endurance as the crankiest man on television that is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the man. 

After all, when he first started to deliver what he likes to refer to as his “essays” on 60 Minutes, he was just a fifty-nine year old veteran reporter filling in –but the segments instantly became popular and he stayed. 

His last “essay” was his 1,097th.

This is the point: We, the audience, might think complacently that Rooney was just an old TV fixture who nobody could get rid of and that’s why he stayed around so long… well, that’s plain wrong.

Fact is, he brought in the ratings.  You don’t get through such a long career being cranky and outspoken and not generate an outsized share of controversy –and Rooney sure did. 

He was labeled a racist (despite that civil rights arrest long before the birth of most of his accusers and despite those special reports he did for CBS in the sixties and seventies).  And he got in trouble for perceived anti-gay remarks 1990 (for which he later expressed remorse).

In fact, Rooney was suspended for those remarks, but the original suspension of three months was quickly cut back to one month when 60 Minutes’ ratings dropped by a full 20 percent in Rooney’s absence. 

So he stuck around because he was never just an old cantankerous fixture on the TV scene, he was a constant contributor and adder of value –he brought those ratings in even as the media landscape grew ever more competitive.

One last critical part of his brand: Rooney didn’t see himself first and foremost as a TV guy, he saw himself as a writer.  And it was as a writer for Arthur Godfrey and Garry Moore’s variety shows that he also built his skills and showed his talent. 

And a writer he is.  His writing has won him three Emmy awards and three Writers Guild awards.  He has also written a regular column for Tribune Media Services for years and several books.

In fact, that might be the real secret. 

Rooney always knew what he was and what people wanted –they wanted him behind that walnut desk (which he built himself by the way) delivering the words he had written, not someone else’s words like so many on TV, but his words.

So, hats off to Mr. Rooney… But don’t ask for his autograph –he’ll tell you to buzz off.


I might have been a little premature in praising HP a few weeks ago when they decided to kill their tablet.

Yes, decisive action is critical when communicating your brand in the marketplace, but as it turns out HP’s decision might actually have reflected internal chaos more than good brand stewardship. 

Apparently, many resellers, those critical partners in the consumer goods supply chain, were taken by surprise and the company had to scramble to mend bridges.

And now the HP board has booted Leo Apotheker, its European superstar CEO, and appointed Meg Whitman, its American superstar CEO, to the role.

It’s no wonder that HP’s board has been labeled the worst corporate board in history.  They hired Apotheker without first having him meet the full board and with the knowledge that his experience with consumer electronics was almost zero.

Now it’s Meg Whitman’s turn.  Remember, Whitman was Ebay’s CEO and after that spent $100 million running for senator in California in a race that Jerry Brown eventually won.

Bottom line, will this dynamic woman be able to rescue the company?

I’m not so sure.

Fact is, there are plenty of examples of outsiders rescuing great companies.  Lou Gerstner did it with IBM; Iacocca with Chrysler.  But those men were the exception in their day, today the superstar CEO is the rule.

HP has had six CEOs since 1999.  HP has simply not been looking inside its own ranks for a new leader.

But this is true around the world.  According to The Economist, in the 1970s outsiders filled 15% of CEO vacancies.  By the 2000s, that number had more than doubled.

Folks, there’s nothing wrong with finding the best CEO talent.  As The Economist also points out Jack Welch, a GE outsider, boosted that companies market cap by 4,500%. 

But there’s also nothing wrong with cultivating and promoting the best within the organization –especially if that organization has increasingly struggled to find its way as a brand. 

We know what some of the HP brands are, but what is the HP brand itself?

Well, it’s old Silicon Valley, delivering corporate and consumer tech solutions and services.  It is an innovator, but not a flashy one.  It is a survivor and a thriver.

But here’s the problem, with each outsider superstar CEO, HP seems to stray farther and farther from these roots.

Gerstner was a tech outsider when he got to IBM, but that IBM really needed a culture shakeup and an outsider to revitalize its brand.

But HP might have had too many outsiders and, again, The Economist makes a great observation: the latest research shows that “the more dazzling the outside recruit, the worse he performs in his new role.”

Wow!  This is something HP and other similarly situated companies really need to think about.  Certainly after a string of outsiders, it probably makes a lot of sense to recruit from the inside and put someone in charge who knows the HP culture and can rebuild the brand from the inside.

It’s time that HP remembered what it’s brand was but it might just take an insider to help this happen.

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



TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  Without brand consistency there can be no brand longevity.