Monthly Archives: March 2012

Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Tommy Hilfiger and Belvedere Vodka


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Tommy Hilfiger


Loser:  Belvedere Vodka



The winner this week is a simple testament to the power that is unleashed when two great brands come together.

I’m talking about Tommy Hilfiger’s role on American Idol.

Talk about a great way for a brand that has terrific visibility but is struggling ratings-wise (American Idol)  to harness another great brand that can use some access to a new demographic.

For Hilfiger, even if Idol continues to struggle despite him, it doesn’t matter.  His brand has been re-enforced by being seen as coming to the rescue and offering the best image consulting in the biz to a mass audience.  He gets exposure while also re-enforcing brand equity.

Remember this comes after the negative coverage he received by ABC News regarding factory conditions.  That story could have snow-balled out of control if Hilfiger hadn’t immediately enacted a clear and decisive response that acknowledged and addressed the issue –again, excellent brandsmanship.

Well done!


What can I or anyone else say about Belvedere Vodka?

The company has created a firestorm by making an offensive ad that manages to link the darkest side of alcohol and human behavior while simultaneously making fun of a horrible crime.

If anything has shown how devastating guerrilla marketing can be, it’s this Belvedere debacle which saw the vodka company offer an ad that looked like it was depicting a rape and turning it into a joke. 

There’s a reason viral marketing is called viral — after all, virus in the original Latin means poison.  Yes, viral marketing can spread fast, but it spreads fast because it is potent and possibly poisonous.

All publicity is not good publicity and while the company name has been heard by more people than ever before, Belvedere Vodka, a supposedly premium vodka, has demoted its brand from the top shelf to the bottom.

It’s hard to see what the company can do now other than slowly rebuild itsimage without triggering this episode every time.  The company has responded quickly with the CEO making a statement, but, fact is, every time Belvedere is mentioned from here on in, this episode will almost certainly be remembered.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYGuerrilla marketing can spell disaster marketing if you’re not careful.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Tide and AT&T


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Tide


Loser:  AT&T



When people consistently steal your branded product because it is exceptionally easy to sell on the black market, you know you have brand equity that counts.

Folks, I’m talking about Procter & Gamble’s legendary laundry detergent Tide and the supposed nationwide crime wave of Tide stealing.

There’s question now of just how widespread this crime wave is, but there isn’t a question that even if this were proven to be an urban myth, the myth tells us about just how established Tide is and reminds us about P&G’s legendary marketing ability.

Even in tough times, the company is careful to protect brand equity and that really pays.  An FBI agent commenting on the Tide crime wave story said that the reason why Tide gets stolen is because its brand value makes it sought after currency on the street.

In fact, some of the fact-checking on the Tide story after it went viral last week revealed an even more interesting fact.  Tide stealing has been going on for an awfully long time.

As CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said, “Theft of Tide is not a new issue in the retail industry.


Folks, Shakespeare was right about lawyers.  Some lawsuits are worth fighting but not many. 

Especially if you care about your brand but one of your customers is angry enough to take you to court.

Unfortunately, AT&T not only didn’t do enough to make Mr. Matt Spaccerelli happy with his service, they rubbed his nose in his unhappiness by refusing to pay the very modest sum the judge decided upon when Spaccerelli won the case against them.

Wow!  Talk about poor brand management (the company reversed itself at the end of the week but in my opinion the damage is already done).

This wasn’t a case of a company defending itself against an unfair judgement. Spaccerelli wasn’t taking them to the cleaners, he only wanted his money back and court costs. 

But by dragging its feet instead of settling –or, let’s face it, just being reasonable and letting Spaccerelli out of his contract in the first place which was all he wanted– AT&T ended up drawing a lot of unwanted attention to their data “throttling” procedures.  These procedures apparently mean that even though you might have an unlimited plan, it’s not really unlimited because it can be reduced if AT&T chooses to.

There’s nothing more to say.  This is just brand management at its worst.  End of story.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYBrands should never pick fights with their customers!








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Coke/Pepsi and Tebow


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Coke and Pepsi


Loser:  Tim Tebow



Coke and Pepsi have done it again.

I’m talking about how the soda makers responded to what could have been a brand damaging debacle with confidence, speed and clarity.

Here’s what happened (because the soda makers did such a good job with their response you might not have even heard of this one):

Basically, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group, found low levels of a potential carcinogen, a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, in some samples of both Coke and Pepsi.  The chemical was apparently a result of the caramel coloring manufacturing process.

The Center petitioned the FDA to ban the use of the caramel.

Even though the FDA itself announced that a consumer would have to drink hundreds if not thousands of cans of soda every day to even cause concern, Coke and Pepsi acted.

They announced that they would change the process by which the caramel color was manufactured.  End of story.

Why does this make them the winner?

Because they didn’t dawdle, they didn’t get defensive, they were able to weigh the pros and cons and clearly –and I believe correctly– recognized that not to take action against the perception of a carcinogen in their sodas would end up hurting their brands.

Brands need to act with this kind of decisiveness and great brands –brands that endure the test of time– usually do act this way.


This week’s loser is a victim of the inflexible, unyielding and powerful rule of sports branding: performance.

Yes, folks, I’m speaking about Tim Tebow and how it looks like even the possibility that Denver might win Peyton Manning has the town ready to bid last season’s celebrity QB goodbye.

Here’s how one Denver sports columnist, Brad Schmid, put it: “Tim Tebow led the Broncos to their first division title and first
playoff win in more than five years. Yet I am as ready as anyone else to
throw Tebow overboard for the first free-agent Hall Of Fame quarterback
who happens to saunter into town.”

He’s not alone.  A majority of Denverites (Denvernians?) seem ready to grab Manning at the expense of Tebow.

What explains this?  It’s that inflexible rule of sports branding, namely if you perform your brand gets stronger.  Sure, there are other factors that can make you stand out and generate affection and there are many great performers who fail in the personality department, but the bottom line is usually performance.

That’s why Tiger Woods has maintained his brand status despite all predictions to the contrary.  Here’s a longer take on the Tiger Woods situation with another link to a analysis of how performance brands work.

Fact is, Tebow won, but he never triumphed.  Yes, he brought Denver to its first playoff win in five years, but the Super Bowl eluded his grasp.  He performed marvelously, but the perception is that he faltered and that’s what matters here.  He’s not a proven performance brand.  Until he is Peyton Manning will win every time no matter how colorful Tebow is.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYGreat brands act  decisively.








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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Rush Limbaugh


Loser:  GM (The Volt)



Rush Limbaugh the man who rarely, if ever, apologizes has actually done so –and the speed of this apology puts him in the winner column.

Fact is, the bread and butter of his kind of talk radio is controversy and hurling abuse is part of the brand.

But in the face of an advertiser revolt and the reality that he had gone too far even for his audience, Limbaugh has moved quickly and publicly to deal with the crisis he created.

You know you’ve gone off track when your most devoted sponsors reject you.

Sleep Train, who has been with him for 25 years, pulled its support.  It’s not just about the money –though that’s obviously a big part–  it’s about what the decision says about your brand. 

Sleep Train and others could obviously put up with a controversial Limbaugh in the past, but going after Fluke was different.  It was meanspirited and even, arguably, not conservative (where were family values in the suggestion that people pay to watch sex?).

So while Limbaugh has taken some important action, he probably needs to do more.  The next step might be bringing Fluke onto his show and apologizing to her on air, if she is open to it.

In that way, he can make amends and do even more to address the damage he has done.

The danger with veteran media personality brands like Limbaugh is that complacency can creep in, meaning that what should never be said, is said, whether because it’s been a bad day or things simply have gotten out of control in front of the mic. 

Again, the apology is a good start but it needs to be fortified by a little soul and brand searching.


Build it and they will come can be a recipe for disaster.  Fortunately for GM it is a recipe they have not followed in recent years, except for… The Volt.

Last year, GM predicted sales of 10,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012.  Guess what?  Only 7,671 Volts sold in 2011 and so far this year only 1,626.

Now the company is idling the Volt production line.  Good reaction, but where was the marketing common sense in all of this from the start? 

After all, anyone should have been able to tell GM that at $33,500, the Volt’s price point was simply not going to prove attractive to most Americans.

But what about the savings at the pump?  Fuggedaboutit.  With increased fuel efficiency and much lower price tags, many cars still retain the advantage in consumers’ eyes.

Bottom line, you simply can’t create demand and GM should know better. 

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYYou simply can’t create demand.