Monthly Archives: February 2012

Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Ben & Jerry’s and Levi’s


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Ben & Jerry’s


Loser:  Levi’s



First there was Schweddy Balls.

Now there’s Lin-sanity.

Each flavor designed to maximize buzz and controversy and continue to raise and re-enforce the Ben & Jerry’s brand!

The latest flavor with Lichee nuts and fortune cookies was adpublitizing at its finest.  Ben & Jerry’s has apologized for the so-called racist ingredients and apparently removed the fortune cookies –though I’m not sure what’s racist about honoring someone and their heritage (I thought the U.S. was founded on the principle out of many one!).

In any event, in the current climate, only someone completely ignorant would have thought that such a flavor with these ingredients wouldn’t have predictably become a lightning rod for outrage –and all the free publicity that comes with it.

The company backpedaled, showed they were “sensitive” but the benefit was already there’s (who can really think for a minute that the Lin-sanity flavor is going to hurt not help Ben & Jerry’s sales?).

Hats off to the Vermont ice cream maker who has once again pushed the limits while staying well within the mandate of its brand!


Levi’s might have been trying to pull off some adpublitizing like Ben & Jerry’s, but where the ice cream maker wisely knew they weren’t going to be crossing their target market, the jean’s maker did not.

I’m speaking about the venerable jean company’s “curve” campaign.

The company had a good idea in trying to specifically launch jeans for all body types, but the images used in their advertising were limited to three skinny women with only slight differences.

Let’s say for a second that this was adpublitizing and the company thought they’d be stirring controversy…  Here’s the problem, folks: their target market would naturally get offended and not be in on the joke.  After all, the images and the words of the campaign conspire to exclude, not include, the very people that Levi’s is trying to market to.  As some of the controversy reports: not one of the models pictured in the ad campaign is even close to a size 14 which is the average for American women.

Still, the jeans are apparently selling well because the core concept that Levi’s has used which analyzes women’s bodies to determine the best fit is one that people like.  But you’ve got to wonder how much better things would have gone if they had kept their target market in mind.  One odd detail is this: apparently the ads in question come from 2010.  If this is true, it shows that the shelf life of a bad brand decision is quite long in the Internet age.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYAdpublitizing works –but only if you keep your brand and your target market in mind.  Your target market must always come along for the ride and get the joke.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Jeremy Lin and Mitt Romney’s Elephant


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Jeremy Lin


Loser:  Mitt Romney’s Elephant



Success is where opportunity meets preparedness –and there’s always got to be a little bit of luck too.

In Jeremy Lin’s case, all of that is there, but what matters most is that there are solid sports branding reasons behind him.  As a result, we are probably witnessing the birth of one of the greatest sports brands of all time.

First you have the “Call-u” effect.  C for connectivity.  A for attractiveness.  L for longevity.  L for likeability.  U for uniqueness.  This is a quick assessment tool to get a rough idea of the potential value of a personality brand.

Lin has each of these five features in abundance.

Next, you have add the fact that Lin is an athlete and hence a performance brand (i.e., the fundamental support for his brand is his continued achievement on the court).  Given that Lin seems to have arrived as a player and should maintain his dominance, then the “Call-u” factors should all support and add value to his brand.

For example, you can have a great performance brand –take Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez— but without the connectivity and likeability components, you simply can’t achieve stratospheric brand value. 

But Lin has more than either “Call-u” or performance, he has an inspirational story that has already made history.  On top of that, he has the massive potential of combining an adoring Chinese audience globally with a huge and adoring non-Chinese audience. 

Sometimes a difference in degree is a difference in kind and the size of Lin’s possible following could re-define what it means to be an international brand.

The bottom line is this: not only are we witnessing the birth of one of the greatest sport brands of all time in terms of total value, but we are also witnessing a brand that will raise the profile of other brands like Harvard, his alma mater, and should we even go a bit farther afield brand-wise?  Why not?  Lin’s heritage is Taiwanese.  Will he use his personal brand and basketball to bridge the gulf between the mainland and the island of his heritage?

Stay tuned.  Here’s what I said about Jeremy on Fox.


Folks, Mitt Romney has an elephant in the room that is threatening his campaign.  This particular elephant follows him onto the campaign bus, is at every event, stands behind him at each podium –in short, this elephant will never go away and can never be ignored no matter how much Mitt Romney may try to wish for it.

Many candidates for high office in our great land are familiar with Romney’s kind of elephant.  For the most part they, too, try to ignore it and for the most part this is successful because their elephants are fed on professional salaries and speaker fees.

Not so for Romney.  I’m speaking about his huge personal wealth and the fact that if he hopes to win the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency, it is high time for him to not only acknowledge this elephant, but praise it.

That’s right, Mitt Romney needs to be honest and admit that he’s rich –no, he needs to trumpet this fact (please excuse the pun).

You see, Romney is a likeable man but because he’s not being upfront about this one issue, he has erected a wall between himself and the American people. 

Since when has being rich been a crime in America?  Romney must deliver the speech.  Not about religion and not about a grand vision for America.

Mitt Romney must endorse himself, all that he is, by saying something like this: I’m rich and I’m proud of it.  I’m not proud of it for selfish reasons, but for what it says about this country and opportunity.  I’m rich because I was given a chance to work hard and get rewarded for that work.

From there Romney needs to underscore that wealth in America must not become fodder for class warfare and that income mobility has and will be one of the defining qualities of our nation.

The Romney campaign has to ask itself why it is that Michael Bloomberg’s vast wealth, many multiples ahead of relatively poor Mitt, was a virtue for the New York mayor.

The answer is pretty straightforward.  Bloomberg was smart enough never to make it an issue by never, ever, denying the obvious.  Moreover, he harnessed his curriculum vitae to drive the perception that he was a great manager and a superb businessman who could breath fresh life into city government.

Bloomberg didn’t even curtail his Bermuda getaways.  Why should he –he essentially argued– this is America and there is no law against using the fruits of one’s labor however one chooses?  After all, we celebrate the monetary success of those in other areas like sports and entertainment — most people would never think of going after Oprah for her wealth or Tom Cruise for his.

If Romney has religious scruples around this question (such as appearing to lack humility), he can use them for the broader message that his personal wealth is ultimately not about him.  Romney can tie his wealth to the immigrant story and the goal of economic freedom and freedom from too much government regulation and interference.

In marketing, the core features of a product can never be denied. 

Romney is a rich man.  That is a core feature.  And for Romney being rich is a virtue not a vice –but only if he embraces it.

It’s time that the elephant gets out of the living room and begins pulling this campaign.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYIf you have feature that is central to your brand, you can never ignore it or act as if it doesn’t exist.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: J.C. Penney and Cruising


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: J.C. Penney


Loser:  Cruise Industry



Folks, the branding gods giveth and they taketh away and sometimes they giveth back again.


That’s what happened this week with J.C. Penney.


Last week the department store chain was our loser for their “screamingly” awful commercials, but this week, they’re our winner for sticking with their spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres despite a firestorm of controversy.


I’ve talked about the difference between public relations and what I call targeted relations a lot.  Basically, I believe that often companies get it wrong when they buy into public relations industry thinking that says the entire public is somehow in play for each and every company.

That’s simply not true.  Most of the time, a company has a targeted public and thus should only concern itself with targeted relations.


That’s why not every firestorm or controversy actually matters and why not responding and not reacting can be the right way to go.


That was true of the Tiger Woods debacle where I argued targeted relations was critical and public relations could largely be forgotten –the sector of the public he alienated by his behavior was never really his target market to begin with.


It is certainly true of J.C. Penney and the Million Mom’s debacle. 

Ellen DeGeneres is pretty much universally loved and, even if she weren’t, she’s certainly loved by her target audience which closely aligns to the core target consumer for J.C. Penney.


By calling for J.C. Penney to drop her as a spokesperson because she is a lesbian, the Million Moms might have been appealing to their own core constituency and like-minded folks, but they weren’t appealing to the majority of J.C. Penney shoppers.


J.C. Penney wisely and rightly ignored the call –wisely because its unlikely that a boycott will have teeth and rightly because to do otherwise would be to throw someone under the bus to appeal to a minority belief while offending many others in the process.


There’s another winner here and that’s Bill O’Reilly.  By supporting DeGeneres and J.C. Penney, he actually strengthens his own “fair and balanced” street cred and might even gain viewers who might have simply put him in the knee-jerk conservative, Million Mom’s camp.


Folks, the cruise ship industry has taken a real blow from the tragic Costa Concordia sinking.

Apparently, cruise ship companies will begin requiring lifeboat drills before leaving port for all passengers.

Usually, I would applaud the quick response of a stricken business to a crisis like this, but, frankly, there are some industries where ensuring safety should be taken for granted: airlines are one; cruising is another.

Fact is, there hasn’t been a mea culpa from the big companies, like Carnival that owns the company behind Costa Concordia.  I understand that there are legal issues, but Carnival is the leading cruising company and its behemoths are cruising all over the world.  One used to assumed they were safe and have all the right procedures in place – but not anymore.

That’s the problem here.  The industry first has to admit that there was a problem.  Having passengers embark and disembark without getting safety instruction just isn’t good, but that is what was happening.  Another problem is more of a long-standing one and that involves the life boat array itself.  The whole world saw that because the way the ship was listing, many of the lifeboats couldn’t be used.

If the weather had been bad and the ship had been far from shore, it isn’t clear at all that many more people wouldn’t have died.

Many ships are literally in the same boat. 

Basically, the industry needs to run a campaign –probably driven by Carnival— to address these issues to underscore that safety is paramount for cruising.  A big study and an active initiative to develop a comprehensive safety response is needed – and it needs to be done now.

Until this happens, news that bits and pieces of safety improvements will probably only draw attention to the deficiencies until giving potential cruisers the assurance that the industry is really on top of the situation.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYNot every response to a crisis is good especially if the response isn’t part of a comprehensive strategy.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Romney and J.C. Penney


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Mitt Romney


Loser:  J.C. Penney



With his decisive win in Nevada, Mitt Romney continues to confirm his strength as the most viable candidate to challenge President Obama this fall, even Santorum’s surge doesn’t really change that. 

But “most viable” doesn’t mean a clear winner.  The latest polls show Obama with a strong lead over Romney.  That gap won’t change until Romney underscores that his differences matter to the electorate.

He must confirm his brand and not deviate.

What is that brand?  It is that of the Chief Executive Officer who is ready to lead a country precisely because he could lead a company, a man who could lead fifty states because he led a single state.

He needs to embrace rather than confuse his image in the electorate’s mind.  Mitt Romney is not an electrifying orator.  He is not the most dynamic or charismatic figure on the American political landscape.  And that’s fine.

Romney is the businessman who can make the business of America business again.  He needs to say this in no uncertain terms, tackling head on the idea that he must be exciting and refuting that being exciting is important.  It’s not –at least not for Mitt Romney.  He’s not a partisan really either and he needs to say this too.

He might even have to deliver a “negative” speech –a speech that defines what he is, by saying what he is not.  Something like:

If you want a real CEO not a Chief Entertainment officer, I am your man.  If you want an entertainer, debater or ideologue then , I am not your guy.  I am a business professional who is proud to be successful. I’m not divisive.   I love my family, love what I do and would love to have the opportunity to put into place what I have learned  in order to get businesses moving in this country.

Many are looking for the next Ronald Reagan, but it’s likely they are looking for the wrong traits.  They remember the inspiration and the charisma, but forget that Reagan was first and foremost the quintessential CEO.  Like a true CEO he knew how to manage, delegate, hold the line to get what he wanted, but also compromise when he needed to.  He got America back to work not only by motivating people but by appointing someone, Paul Volcker, who killed inflation despite how politically delicate this was.

In this sense, Mitt Romney is the true heir of Ronald Reagan.  Reagan had ideals, but he wasn’t an ideologue and he had an accommodating personality even when he disagreed with people.  Romney has this capacity as well.  Neither Gingrich nor Santorum do.

Gingrich doesn’t have the personality to win the majority of people over.  Santorum might have the personality, but is hobbled by the issues.  Both are essentially mavericks and neither has the managerial chops that Romney does.

Similarly, Reagan was genuinely wholesome but many couldn’t accept it as real, preferring to imagine that it was some Hollywood affectation.  Romney has the same disadvantage.  He is almost too clean cut.

But both men also share something that supported their bids for office: political executive experience. Reagan in California; Romney in Massachusetts.  As governors, both did what was necessary to accomplish specific goals even if it seemed to cut against their political grain.  In California, Reagan, an advocate of limited government, supported infrastructure projects that benefited the economy.  Romney has shied away from his health care role in Massachusetts, but should embrace this history instead.

Most important, both men knew how to cross party lines to get things done.  Romney managed to get the state legislature to cut spending by $1.6 billion dollars.  In his last two fiscal years as governor, Massachusetts ran surpluses of $600 to $700 million.  Reagan worked with Tip O’Neill and Capitol Hill Democrats.

Bottom line, Mitt Romney needs to lay claim to what he is: a corporate chieftain with executive political experience who knows about fixing broken balance sheets and making creaking companies and states hum again even if he puts an audience to sleep doing it.



Folks, this week I have Nick, an aspiring brand development professional, to thank for convincing me that J.C. Penney ought to be our loser of the week.


The retailer has been running ads that turn people off –bottom line, they’re unlikeable ads that rub people the wrong way.  Yes, I’m speaking about the screaming women ad.

Some of the ad geniuses are claiming that the fact that many people are upset about these ads, they have “cut through the clutter” and are successfully seizing consumer attention in a crowded landscape.

Maybe, but it’s cutting through the clutter in the wrong way and you need to consider the source of the compliments: ad men.

The consumer affairs website suggests otherwise.  It has received dozens of complaints from viewers pleading that these ads stop.

The real question is how could a major corporation that is in the business of trying to appeal to consumers find a way to alienate and annoy its customers?

My guess is that in this case, the creatives took over –consumed with their idea and unwilling to see how it might fit into J.C. Penney’s objectives.  They valued concept and impact over customers –did they even bother to test these ads on the kind of people who shop at J.C. Penney’s?  

I really doubt it.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYBe creative, but trust your customers and let them shape how you reach them.