Monthly Archives: November 2011

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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Tiger Woods


Loser:  Hyundai



Folks, there’s nothing more satisfying than being reminded of marketing’s power as a predictive tool.


Tiger Woods is our winner this week.  And his “winning” is more confirmation of a trend we have watched and been able to predict from his very dark days in 2008.


The New York Times tells the story here.


Here’s the scoop in a nutshell:  Tiger’s back on the playing front and his sponsorship power is growing in lockstep.

Rolex is the latest high profile sponsor to get back on the Tiger wagon and, of course, some of his long-term sponsors, like Nike, wisely never left.


Bottom line, when things were looking bleak for Tiger, the marketing lens told us a different story.  Since Tiger, like all athletes, is a performance brand, the marketing lens showed that if he continued to perform well as a golfer, he would remain strong as a brand.  The reason for this is that while the general public might be forever switched off to Tiger, the general public was never his Target Market.  Golf fans were.  Secondly, many of these fans looked on the scandal differently and were more apt to give him a pass –as long as he continued to perform.


Well, for a while he struggled on the golf course, but even then there were signs that Woods was rebuilding, now this trend seems to be clear.


I wrote what’s below in April, but I’ll repost because I think it fleshes out this idea pretty well:


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.

And now, he’s getting the sponsors and was a key factor in the Americans winning the Australian Open.  Yep, Tiger’s back.



Folks, the Superbowl approaches.  Yes, the Superbowl.  Advertisements are being shot.  Ad dollars are preparing to be wasted.

All of us love the ads, but do they work, are they a wise ad buy for the companies that participate, is there a better way to promote a product or service?

Almost certainly!

Here’s a link to my position and the few times when Superbowl advertisers come close to winning.

The key problems with Superbowl advertising is this: 1) it disregards the law of frequency (i.e., that you need to get your message in front of the consumer multiple times for recognition to happen) and 2) it usually forgets about the Target Market since (the audience for the Superbowl is so huge and diverse that you’re basically getting everybody).

But there is only one thing that makes a Superbowl advertisement even less worthwhile: the corporate feel good spot.

In the corporate feel good spot, the company has decided to do a commercial that makes everyone at the company feel good and forgets completely about any benefits for the company’s customers.

Unfortunately, that is what Hyundai looks to be doing this year.  The fast-growing car company has decided to go the feel-good route and shoot a 60-second spot with hundreds of employees on film.  Here’s the story.

We’ll see what they do.  Maybe if the emphasis is on how the employees support great cars all is not lost, but, frankly, people buy brands, not companies and there are many better ways of spending several million dollars.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – The test of great marketing is not that it feels good.








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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Katie Couric


Loser:  Facebook



Not too long ago I argued that Katie would never be the next Oprah and that she should stick to morning chat and steer clear of both afternoons and any serious news duties.  Here’s that post.

I still stand by many of my points in that piece, but, folks, here’s the thing with personality brands: the “person” in the personality makes all the difference.

In an effort to re-introduce Katie Couric to the audience and generate buzz, ABC is basically conducting a traditional sampling approach.  We’re seeing Katie pop up on different shows, doing different segments –the intent is to remind the viewers how good she is.

And, wow, is she good!  That’s my point and why she’s our winner of the week. 

There was something that made her such a valuable TV personality and professional and that something is still there in spades.

The network will definitely have to help build an audience, but let me revise my earlier opinion: Couric will never be Oprah, she will always be Couric, but Couric is back and she’s about to prove it.


Folks, with the company’s IPO rumored to happen next year, but it’s “stock” falling on private markets, Facebook is our loser of the week –but not because of fickle market estimates  and speculation, but because of a single profound marketing miscalculation.

And, folks, you’ve heard it hear first: forget the 1 billion users, forget the traffic, unless Facebook changes course we may very well be witnessing the beginning of the end for this social media company.


We’ve explored it here, not too long ago, but now we are beginning to see the effects.  The effects of what?  The effects of a company being driven by an internal vision, in this case Zuckerberg’s Law, instead of what its customers/users want.

Zuckerberg’s Law is essentially an informal but pretty rigid idea that total personal transparency is the way of the future and that the more sharing of tastes, habits, beliefs and behavior the better.

Of course, this conveniently fits the company’s rich data-mining revenue generating model, but, put that aside, and the real problem is that this philosophy, implemented the way Facebook now has dope it, especially through its Timeline feature, which curates the lives of its users, probably does not align with the tastes, desires or interests of its users.

Let me give you an example.  Someone I know second-hand, a journalist, was shocked last week when the web-reading behavior of another journalist, and Facebook friend, started popping up for him to see.  The journalist was shocked because a) he had not requested or sought in any way to see this information and b) the journalist doing the web-reading had not intentionally shared his behavior, it had all happened automatically.  The point was that the “sharing” journalist was a pretty conservative fellow looking at some pretty racy material –he could have been doing this for work, of course— and this was going out to everyone he knew.

That’s the anecdote.  Now for the technical appraisal from leading consumer computing site CNet.

Reporter, Molly Wood, has followed Facebook closely and believes that the company and its Open Graph plan (which is essentially about making Zuckerberg’s Law a reality) is consciously determined to “quantify everything you do on Facebook.” 

But Molly’s real gripe –and it’s on the money— is that automatic sharing, privacy issues aside, actually hurts social networking.  Her story is here, by the way, but it’s worth re-posting some of her thoughts:

Sharing is the key to social networking. It’s the underlying religion that makes the whole thing work. “Viral” is the magic that every marketing exec is trying to replicate, and Facebook is seriously messing with that formula. Plus, it’s killing the possibility of viral hits by generating such an overwhelming flood of mundane shares.

Let’s say all of us jump on the Open Graph bandwagon and allow app after app to passively post our every Web move. We’ll simply have opened the door to a horde of zombie posts that will overwhelm our interest and deaden us to the possibility of organic discovery.

Sharing and recommendation shouldn’t be passive. It should be conscious, thoughtful, and amusing–we are tickled by a story, picture, or video and we choose to share it, and if a startling number of Internet users also find that thing amusing, we, together, consciously create a tidal wave of meme that elevates that piece of media to viral status. We choose these gems from the noise. Open Graph will fill our feeds with noise, burying the gems.

The point is that Facebook has made a very serious decision with consequences that are just too difficult for them to predict.

What we do know from almost two hundred years of marketing and about social media in particular is this: when you ignore your customer, you lose.  It happened to MySpace and it could happen again.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – Even if you think you have the most brilliant plan in the world –especially if you think this— take a serious step back and think through just how it will affect your customers and potential customers.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: GM and (Re)Brand USA


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  GM


Loser:  (Re)Brand USA



Folks, General Motors is our winner this week.  The company has continued to be a winner ever since the spring of 2008 and the Federal bailout –despite all predictions to the contrary.

I don’t want to blow my own horn here and frankly I can’t because my correct call on GM all the way back to that point has been based on one simple and universal rule: people buy brands not companies.

Investors buy companies, but people are in a relationship with brands and General Motors is a brand company.  You are a Chevy buyer, a Cadillac buyer, etc.

The $7.1 billion dollars that GM has posted in profit so far this year is the direct result of the company’s focus on its brands.  That’s right, $7.1 billion dollars.  End of story.

We’re talking about a company that prior to 2008 had lost $82 billion and the global sales lead –well, it’s also wrested that lead back from Toyota.

Here’s a earlier take on GM.  I think in light of this past week’s news, it is definitely still worth a read.


When you’ve got one of the most recognizable flags in the world with bright, definitive colors and a deep, resonant history, it’s hard to understand why you’d want to create a generic-looking logo populated by dark and light blue dots.

But that’s exactly what the Corporation for Travel Promotion’s rebrand of the United States of America as Brand USA has done.

This really is crazy –another astounding example of: if it ain’t broke let’s do something to break it.

Sometimes no action is better than the wrong action and, boy, do I wish that these folks hadn’t taken any action at all.  One of their slogans “Discover the United States of Awesome” doesn’t really do it for me.

Brand USA is said to be the first “coordinated global marketing effort dedicated to welcoming international travelers to the United States.”  The CEO of the effort, Jim Evans, says that it is necessary because the U.S. “lost its way” over the past decade

Apparently, there’s been a drop in the number of U.S. bound tourists.  According to Evans, 78 million people haven’t visited the U.S. in the last ten years who were originally predicted to.

Also, the rebranding group’s research has shown that many tourists think of the U.S. negatively, labeling inhabitants as “brash and arrogant.”  Megan Kent, global business director at JWT, the international advertising agency, is excited about the chance to “launch a country.”

Hold on a sec!  That’s exactly the problem.  The U.S. shouldn’t be launched, relaunched or, for that matter, rebranded.  Why?  Because it can’t be.

What you can do is to underscore what’s great about the U.S. and what you hear back from potential tourists. . . things that the branding group is discovering, like our reputation for pop culture and the diversity of our geography. 

By all means stress these positives and –another smart initiative by the branding group— try to make tourists’ logistical experience as easy as possible (one idea is to make a “trusted traveler” line to help tourists move through immigration faster).

But the bottom line is this, you shouldn’t spend good money on a bad idea.  Red, white and blue are the colors.  They’re established.  Just like America is established.  Some of the travel trends are no doubt economic and the result of globalisation which has made non-USA destinations more accessible and attractive.  

There’s nothing wrong with a coordinated tourism campaign –the US hasn’t had one. Not only that, but the average overseas visitor spends $4000 on goods and services each trip –so it’s worth promoting this for the sake of American jobs. 

But my sense is that rather than spend the estimated $200 million a year that this new initiative plans to spend on blue pixels and social media ambassadors give 100 good old American dollars to every single international traveller stepping off that plane. 

Believe me, word of mouth will do the rest.   

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – Brands must be supported by consistent action over the long-term.








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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  J&J


Loser:  Fracking



Sometimes you can do everything right and still become the target of bad press.

This is basically what has happened to Johnson & Johnson in the last few weeks regarding its legendary baby shampoo.

Folks, the media loves nothing less than finding that particular story which is counter-intuitive.  You know the story: vitamins are bad for you, seatbelts hazardous for your health, etc.

That’s why when a health advocacy group decided to focus their attention on the fact that J&J’s famous baby shampoo contained small traces of Quaternium-15, a formaldehyde releaser, it became a big news story.

Fact is, these formaldehyde releasers are in almost every cosmetic product out there and have been for decades.  There are also no regulations against their use even though some of them might be carcinogenic in certain quantities.

Bottom line, J&J faced a problem.  On the one hand, the objective truth is that their baby shampoo and their manufacturing techniques are probably as baby safe as you are going to get.  After all, formaldehyde isn’t only present in so many cosmetics, it is even found in the air we breath.

On the other hand, unfortunately, the message of the health advocates is a very simple one: formaldehyde has no place in baby products.  That message resonates and it immediately challenges (on the surface at least) the image of J&J’s shampoo as a baby safe product.  

J&J’s message in defense of its practices is complex, too complex for the marketplace.  For better or for worse, in consumer branding you only have a limited space to get your message across and the more contradictory information –and, folks, isn’t that what scientific analysis is often about? — the worse for the brand message.

So even if J&J had right on its side, which I think they probably did, the company realized that the best thing to do was simply accede to health advocates’ demands and announce that they would be eliminating the ingredient.

Done.  End of story because without the ingredient the story goes away.  The kind of prolonged debate that could have damaged the brand is short-circuited.

Still, you have to wonder how good it is for long-term brand health, especially in pharmaceuticals and health-care products, when the authority, in this case J&J, with the data on their side has to give in just because the risks are too great if they don’t.


Folks, fracking, the process of releasing natural gas trapped in coal, hasn’t been in the news much except for the occasional shrill news story about water tables supposedly being poisoned or the process causing earthquakes.

Here’s the issue and why fracking is the loser.

According to Daniel Yergin, the well-regarded expert on all things energy history, fracking is the energy game changer that we’ve all been waiting for in the United States and the world.

In the last ten years, the proportion of natural gas supply in the United States produced by the process has risen from 1% to 30%. 

David Brooks at The New York Times says that fracking is near miraculous since the economics of fracking will lower electricity prices dramatically and supply enough energy for 100 years.

Brooks’ point in his column was this: in any other time, Americans and the world in general would be singing the praises of fracking.  Headlines would be written proclaiming the new energy era. Almost everyone would be united in supporting the new technology.

That, of course, isn’t happening and that’s why fracking is the brand loser this week.

A little like the J&J story above, the science of fracking and its benefits are fighting against a tide of negative public opinion.

Basically, the extreme environmentalists have really taken the wind out fracking’s sails.

What’s unfortunate is that fracking should have an exciting, hopeful and environmentally-positive brand image.

So what has to happen?

Well, fracking probably has a long road ahead of it, but the companies behind it need to begin to actively get their message to the reasonable middle ground  who know that the cost (minimum environmental impact) and benefits (lower electricity costs and American energy independence) are genuinely exciting and ought to be celebrated.

Again, this is branding that will take time, but as the fracking industry gets up to speed and people start seeing the advantages, the messages should speak for themselves.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – Brands must be supported by consistent action over the long-term.








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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  JetBlue


Loser:  Jon Corzine



JetBlue might not seem like an obvious choice for a winner.

After all, aren’t these the folks who left a planefull of passengers stranded for seven hours on the tarmac in Hartford, including several people with medical conditions?

But in branding, it can be how you respond after things go wrong that matter and JetBlue responded well.

More than any other airline, JetBlue’s challenge when it comes to the effect of tarmac strandings is bigger than anyone else out there. 

Why?  Because it was an infamous JetBlue stranding several years ago that led to the Passenger Bill of Rights under which the incident in Hartford could cost the airline up to $27,500 per passenger.

Bottom line, other airlines might have stranding issues from time to time, but when it happens to JetBlue there’s immediate news, because of the history there.

But again, it’s how you respond to a crisis that matters –especially one that you really didn’t cause.

JetBlue was operating in a snowstorm and while there are different reports about what the pilot did or didn’t say, the fact is that most people are reasonable enough to accept that a service operating under difficult and unforeseen conditions (a freak snowstorm in October) might face big problems that will impact on their convenience.

In fact, with air travel as difficult and annoying as it often is today, the bar to making customers happy is certainly not nearly as high as it once was.

For Jet Blue this means that they immediately had to do four things after this stranding: apologize, take responsibility, promise to do better and offer a concrete path to doing better.

They did this by having Rob Maruster, their COO, deliver a video and written message on their website.  I’ll quote part of it here since it is a good example of how to respond.  After explaining what led to the tarmac delay and emphasizing that safety was never compromised, he says:

But let’s face it – at JetBlue you count on us for a lot more, and we promise a lot more, and we know we let some of you down over the course of this weekend and for that we are truly sorry. Going forward we plan to fully participate with the Department of Transportation in cooperating with their investigation into the events over the weekend and we’re also going to conduct an internal evaluation so that we can learn from this event – because at the end of the day you deserve better and we expect better from our crewmembers and our operation. We can only earn your loyalty and trust one flight at a time and we ask you to give us a second chance. Thank you.

When you take the “we’ll do better and this is how” message and then combine it with some of the good things the Jet Blue pilot was recorded as saying that night (e.g., We just need a tug and a tow bar. If you just give me a welding shop, I’d be happy to weld one myself.), you walk away with a picture of an airline that actually means what it says.

The proof is in the followup.  Not taking the promised-action or another similar incident could do real brand damage, but as of today Jet Blue has taken the right step on the road to recovery.


Jon Corzine is our loser this week.

MF Global, the company Corzine joined after leaving the governorship of New Jersey, has gone bankrupt and the culprit looks to be very bad judgment on Corzine’s part.

Tim Worstall at Forbes Magazine describes what happened this way:

If you’d like the story in a nutshell, here it is. MF Global was a broker. They took orders from their customers, did the fiddly bits to actually make the trades happen and then took a small fee on every trade to pay themselves. Their customers also had to put up collateral (ie, park some cash with the company) to cover the risks of those customer’s trades.

MF Global made money on their fees and the interest on the money they were sitting on. As we know, interest rates have been very low for several years now. So, to boost the company profits John Corzine decided that instead of just being a broker, doing the technical stuff for other people, they should become a trader. Taking their own positions, placing their own money on bets in the markets and making profits, not taking fees.

So off they went to do this and the deals they did, the positions they took, went wrong, lost all the firm’s money and so they went bankrupt.

The brand problem lies in Mr. Corzine, a former trader and leading figure at Goldman Sachs.  Many former partners at Goldman Sachs get into trouble when they go out on their own.  It’s as if the brand discipline at Goldman doesn’t translate when they leave –probably because brands are complex things with histories and rules all their own.  Corzine was a great part of the Goldman brand but when he left, he didn’t bring the brand with him.

But he did bring the reputation of the Goldman brand with him and that’s part of the problem here.  According to reports, people lined up to give money for what was a high-risk trading strategy because Corzine was, in part, a Goldman man.

“Those people walked around with halos around them. Myths have been created on Wall Street. Nowhere is the myth bigger than at Goldman,” said

William Cohan, the author of a book on Goldman Sachs.

The problem with Corzine and MF Global was a clear clash of brands.  Corzine seemed to want to make MF Global into something it was not and he wanted to do this quickly by making outsized bets, heavily leveraged, that could have reaped huge paydays… if only they had been right.

One of the reasons that Corzine was probably so successful at Goldman was the firm could keep his risky trading behaviors under control, harnessing them to make profits but not letting them bring the whole house tumbling down.  But at MF Global, Corzine was bigger than the company, and in the end it looks like that brought down two brands.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – When your brand faces a crisis with customers remember: apologize and promise to make things right.