Monthly Archives: June 2012

Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Lebron James and Microsoft Surface


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: LeBron James


Loser:  Microsoft Surface Tablet



Folks, LeBron James has had a rough time of it as a brand — arguably he has made it difficult for himself at times (i.e., how he handled his Cleveland departure) but in some ways he hasn’t been given the space to be forgiven from some of his earlier indiscretions.

But the rules of the performance brand have kicked in now with the Heat’s victory and this means that James has just carved out some very positive “breathing room” for his brand to be rejuvenated. 

ESPN has done a great piece on James:

style=”font-size: 18px;”>In other words, watch this space: the James brand is about to experience a rebirth.


Apple can be counted on to surprise, inspire and delight; Microsoft
can be counted on to trip over its own feet when it comes to marketing.

And they’ve done it again with Surface.

What was Microsoft thinking? I’m not sure they were.

The name Surface is bland and forgettable. It’s unlikely to drive brisk Apple-like lines around the block. 

Will people really say “I love my Surface.” 

Moreover, they are actually using the name from an earlier launch of a
different Microsoft product. That’s right. They didn’t brainstorm a
fresh name for a fresh product, they went back to a product release from
2007 aimed at a corporate market and tried to make it fit a consumer

That product was also a touch-screen device. The difference was it was the size of a coffee table (see for yourself) not a feather-light marvel of engineering.

Nothing says we’re out of creative solutions than this kind of lazy
repurposing of old thinking. But this brings us to the real problem of
the name. From almost all the technical reviews so far, Surface is
actually really good and might even transform the tablet market. 

In other words, Microsoft isn’t out of creative solutions, but it has failed to express this fact.

Getting a product’s name right is critical. Samsung’s Galaxy range of
tablets both inspires and informs. Put the name together with Samsung’s
great advertising and a potential buyer instantly understands that
there is a “galaxy” of possibility in the device Samsung is offering. 

You have to wonder how a company like Microsoft with so many
resources including a CEO who was a top marketer himself could make this
kind of mistake. But it’s been done before by big companies that should
have known better. Hydrox comes to mind, a great cookie – the original
“Oreo” in fact— whose name sounded like a detergent. 

Fact is, Microsoft has always been clunky when it comes to reaching
consumers and in this case there might be another focus for the company
that caused it to overlook the importance of the naming process. The
most likely reason Surface exists is because Microsoft, a software
manufacturer, thinks it is high time that hardware manufacturers start
making tablets that runs Microsoft software, so things like Office have a
chance. It just might have wanted to give the market a nudge. 

Microsoft beat Apple long ago by picking the PC as the platform that
would rule the world. Maybe Microsoft is doing the same thing with the

And, who knows, with Microsoft’s great distribution, even Surface
might catch on with consumers despite the name. Still, they ought to
have tried harder to get the name right. 

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: A brand’s name matters — get it right!








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Nik Wallenda and Lance Armstrong


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Nik Wallenda


Loser:  Lance Armstrong



Folks, the usual geniuses are proclaiming Nik Wallenda’s terrific feat over Niagara Falls to be just another publicity stunt.

They couldn’t be more wrong.  This “stunt” (and what’s wrong with a stunt by the way?) is the product of a great brand and a terrific childhood dream.

That Wallenda was smart about the way he built up excitement around his feat is a testament to just how solid a brand he is (and the famous Wallendas are).  A marketer could learn alot from Mr. Wallenda.

Bottom line, though, the real feat was how the Wallenda brand has grown through triumph and tragedy for decades (legend has it that the family has been performing since the seventeenth century).

I can’t do this brand or this achievement more justice than Nik’s own Wikipedia entry: 

Read it and my guess is you’ll be surprised at how much you learn about branding.


Sometimes even a seasoned marketer has to mourn. 

Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace has been a long time in coming, but arguably it will do far more damage than any similar fall in sports history.  Forget Tiger Woods –this one is really going to be big. 

Lance is the Shoeless Joe Jackson of our age times a hundred. 
His field of dreams has been shattered for everyone. What’s genuinely sad here –and I’m assuming the worst will be proved about his steroid use— is that he built a virtual empire around philanthropy and hope in the face of one of our greatest foes: cancer. 

This empire of hope started with his tremendous string of five victories in the Tour de France after his cancer battle.  His breakout book It’s Not About The Bike  became an inspirational beacon for those living with cancer and their loved ones – many cancer patients have kept this book close.

Not only was the book inspirational, but it was practical – Lance really did deliver genuinely valuable content about cancer treatment, strategies for tackling the disease and embracing the life that followed.

 Then there was Livestrong, his charity that raised millions for research and united so many people behind this charismatic figure.

Perhaps we should have all acknowledged the writing on the wall.  Maybe we should have tempered our hope. 

After all, rumors swirled around Armstrong’s alleged steroid use.  But each time his forceful rejection of such claims seemed to be proof enough –who could imagine that someone like Lance would have kept denying the truth and let the lie get bigger and bigger when so many people depended on him?

Fact is, the stakes really are profound.  And, no, I’m not talking about one Texan who happened to ride a bike very well.   

I’m talking about the figurehead, the inspirational brand, Lance Armstrong, that was built up over years and carried so many people along with him on that ride.

Some people might say don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  In other words, all the good done by Armstrong has to be seen as separate from the bad. 

But, folks, how can we really do that? 

There wouldn’t have been a brand at all if it wasn’t for steroids.

Tiger Woods made huge mistakes and he clearly had a major character flaw – but Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world.   That’s the starting point.

Tiger’s reputation was built on real performance and his charitable acts weren’t completely undermined by his bad behavior. 

But the Lance Armstrong story is sad because all of the philanthropy was driven by a story that looks like it really isn’t true and by a man who probably wouldn’t have been on top except for the drugs –at least, we’ll never know whether he would have been or not.

So what happens now?  Maybe we’ll be wiser and less likely to believe in things that look too good to be true.

But let’s not stop looking for that athlete or public figure who really has built a foundation worth believing in — hey, maybe we need look no further than the Wallendas.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Brands are built on truth.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Donald Trump and Coca Cola


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Donald Trump


Loser:  Coca Cola



Folks, while there
is no question that Donald Trump is one of the best self-publicizers
around (nothing wrong with that!), this past week underscores that there
is some real substance behind this brand.

He’s our winner because he took a stand against charges that his Miss USA contest is fraudulent.

only did he let the world know that he was furious with the charges, he
took immediate action against them.

I’ve selected Trump
because to make a point.  Not every action that support a brand
needs to be “positive”.  Rejecting a brand image forcefully can do
wonders to fortify a brand. 

Trump’s actions fit
with his outspoken history.  They work with his distinct brand and they
re-enforce that he might be showy, but he is more than just the hair
–there’s something serious there that he’s willing to fight for. 


Donald Trump took the right kind of negative action to re-enforce his
brand in the face of a challenge; Coco Cola –usually a master of brand
navigation– took the wrong kind.

In the face of the legislation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg banning super-size sodas in New York, Coca Cola is fighting back.

I’m just not sure that they need to or that if they do, they are doing it the right way.

The city’s position is that sugary beverages are the main driver of an
“obesity crisis” that is killing more than 5800 city dwellers each
year.  For my part, I think this crisis is serious and have even asked Santa to consider trimming down for the sake of the kids.

But my guess is that pushing this soda ban might go a bit too far toward
nanny statism and Coca Cola might not have had to push back –they
could have let the public and others push back for them.

Instead, they’ve engaged in the kind of battle that not only makes them
fall off the high road, they’ve gotten tangled into the nitty gritty of
numbers and statistics, arguing, for example, that even though obesity
rates are rising, the amount of sugar in sodas has been falling.

What Coke ought to do is stress the other part of their message: that
they’re committed to working together to fighting obesity and their
money is where their mouth is (20 new low calorie and no calorie
beverages on the way and over 1/3 of US beverage sales from light

The point is that Coke has every right to stand up for itself, but in
this case, emphasizing the positive, rather than attacking the Mayor’s
numbers and approach would probably have been the best route.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Brands need to be very careful about the battles they pick.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Queen Elizabeth and Brad Pitt


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Queen Elizabeth 


Loser:  Brad Pitt



this one is easy.  Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee has confirmed just what an extraordinary personality brand we have in the British monarch.

This woman has endured and remained consistent for decades under the kind of scrutiny that no one on the planet can really imagine.

Last year, on the occasion of the royal wedding, I wrote about the royal brand.  The analysis still fits, since the Queen is really the cornerstone, so here are those thoughts:

Two hundred and thirty years after the
American revolution and there is still only one royal family that really
counts: the British Royal Family.

With all the hype over the upcoming
wedding of the young British prince (despite polls showing that most
Americans don’t care), you have to wonder how a family that should be an
anachronism in the modern world has managed to keep going strong.

Jerry Seinfeld recently weighed in on the wedding declaring the royal family and the pageantry nothing but dress up. 

Seinfeld is a great comedian, but he’s
wrong about the royal family.  If this was all about dress up and
fantasy then they would have been finished long ago, another footnote in
the dustbin of history.

Bottom line, the royal family is a
brand that has withstood the test of time because of a basic integrity
and identity that people can readily grasp and ultimately respect.

The recent hit movie, The King’s Speech, shows
us why.  At the center is the struggle of the would-be king to conquer a
severe speech impediment in order to speak to his people.

What is never questioned is why on earth
would this man work so hard to fix his stammer.  After all, even back
then a British monarch didn’t really have genuine power. 

Bottom line, the crown was and is all
about service and duty.  That is the brand and in a world where
self-dealing and “what’s in it for me” is the general rule, this brand
stands out as a kind of counter-example. 

What has made the royal family such a
force is its basic consistency.  Sure there have been scandals and
mis-steps but what the royal family has done is stayed true to its core
characteristics –like any great brand.  And like any great brand, when
it has changed and adapted, it has done so carefully rather than
recklessly, letting go of some of the royal conventions (i.e. not
marrying commoners) but holding onto others.

The result: it’s 2011 and we’re still talking about them.  That is an achievement that is a lot more than play acting


Just as the Queen and the royal family reminds us of why brands endure because of their consistency, Brad Pitt is reminding us of why brands occasionally, and sometimes permanently, fail.

Brad Pitt is the new cover “girl” for Chanel No. 5

Sometimes it is good to play against type, but, wow, not like this!

Sure, there’s the shock value, but is that going to get this already highly visible and well-loved perfume more notice or do anything for Pitt’s career?

Here’s an article about the move here.

Fact is, I think it was one of those ideas that seemed good because it was way out there — and it probably should have stayed there.

Brad Pitt has played many different roles, but cover girl just doesn’t fit.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Consistency is a core requirement for successful brands.