Monthly Archives: July 2012

Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: New York Knicks and Olympic Branding


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: NY Knicks


Loser:  Olympic Branding



Folks, sometimes not winning something is the best medicine for a brand.

My sense is that the NY Knicks might end up being very happy that they didn’t end up keeping Linsanity in New York.

Bottom line, for all of the attention paid to Lin and all the talk that New York lost out here, I’m not convinced.  After all, despite Lin’s amazing run on the court, even before his knee issue he seemed to fizzle a bit and with any sports brand performance is key –without the performance, the brand will fade.

All the best to Lin who seems like a terrific guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the NY Knick’s brand prospers without him. 


When does protecting your brand go too far?

The London Olympics approach is a great example.  The Olympics is a great brand, but my sense is that the current approach risks turning the Olympics into something quite negative.

A big part of the value of the Olympics brand comes from the open and time-honored spirit of the games — but what is happening London in terms of commercializing this brand could seriously hurt its long-term value and it ought to be stopped.

The following story from The National Post tells it best:

LONDON — As almost everyone in the world must know by now, there may
not be enough guards to provide security for the 2012 London Olympics
because of a planning and hiring fiasco.

Alas, there are no such concerns about the number of enforcement
officers and lawyers charged with checking for violations of the Games’
oppressive brand protection regulations.

The Orwellian-sounding Olympic Deliverance Committee has 280 Olympic
brand enforcers authorized by the government fanning across Britain this
week to ensure nobody uses the five hallowed rings for any purpose
unless they have paid a fortune to Olympic organizers to do so.

The London Organizing Committee (LOCOG) has a second team of zealots doing similar work on behalf of the rich and powerful.

Among the offences these sleuths are ferreting out under the Olympic
Games Act (2006) are putting two of the words “games” “2012” “Twenty
Twelve,” “gold,” “bronze” or “medal” in the same sentence.

Offenders could be on the hook for fines of more than $30,000.

Heck, there is even said to be a legal ban on spectators uploading
personal photos of the London Games onto social networking sites such as

Imagine the outcry in Canada if the NHL tried such heavy-handed
tactics to prevent a bar or individual from celebrating the Stanley Cup
in words or with a photo.

Predictably, the British media, which has never seen an underdog it
didn’t love, has been in high dudgeon over what it regards as a matter
of free speech. The roundup by the authorities has so far implicated an
81-year-old grandmother of six from Norfolk who made a tiny sweater with
the Olympics rings for a child’s doll that her knitting circle intended
to sell through a church charity for $1.63.

Joy Tomkins was ordered to withdraw the offending doll from sale to avoid possible legal action.

Also at risk of being put in the docket is a south London cafe, which
had the temerity to hang five bagels in its window. Community wardens
ordered the offending bagels to be removed or legal action would follow.

The parents of the Duchess of Cambridge — Kate Middleton, whose
partner, Prince William, may one day rule Britannia — may have run afoul
of the law, too. The Middletons’ potential offence was advertising
trinkets such as mugs for sale on their catering website using the words
“2012” and “Games.” The London Organizing Committee has launched an

Lord Coe, who as plain Seb Coe was once a world-class middle-distance runner, might be described as “the lord of the rings.”

Coe, who oversees the London Games, got into the churlish Olympic spirit
last week by declaring on BBC Radio 4 that if any spectator so much as
dared wear a T-shirt with the word Pepsi emblazoned on it the offender
would be banished from the venue so as to not hurt the feelings of
Coca-Cola, which has paid an undisclosed but sky-high sum to be the
Olympics’ official unhealthy drink. Here’s the link to the rest of that story.

Wow.  What can I say? No brand should be held so tightly that it can’t grow and be embraced freely, especially if it is a brand that is perceived, like the Olympics, to be the property of all of us.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Sometimes to protect a brand too fiercely can damage it.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Excedrin and Ralph Lauren


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Excedrin


Loser:  Ralph Lauren



There is nothing like a distribution problem to tell us a lot about brand equity.

Now I’m not speaking about imagined brand equity, the kind of thing that social media enthusiasts measure by “likes”.  I’m speaking about dollars and cents brand equity.

Bottom line, when the going gets tough and your product or service is scarce, how much are people willing to pay for it.

The answer for Excedrin is: a lot.

Apparently this past Friday a package of Excedrin Extra Strength 50 two-tablet packs went for almost $150 dollars on Amazon while the same-size pack of Excedrin Migraine was fetching almost $250.

The reason for these prices is from the shortage that resulted after the maker, Novartis, pulled the medication from the shelves at the beginning of the year because it stopped manufacture.

However, this fierce sign of brand equity should serve Excedrin well.  Novartis says it’s working hard to get manufacturing going again and return these much-loved products to the shelves.

It is a great example of how the first rule of branding is satisfying a need.  You see, most of Excedrin’s customers are migraine sufferers who swear by these particular formulations.  They say that nothing else works for them to combat the sudden, debilitating onsets of their migraines.

Brand value doesn’t get clearer than this.


Folks, what can I say about Ralph Lauren’s big mis-step?

Brands must be consistent.  In this case, Ralph Lauren wasn’t just being Ralph Lauren, it was the U.S. Team’s Olympic uniform brand.

The outrage at the revelation that those uniforms were being manufactured in China is understandable. 

Fact is, the U.S. uniform brand simply needs to be 100% U.S. –especially in this time of outsourcing and lost jobs.  End of story.

Lauren has backed away from the mistake by stating that the next batch of uniforms (for the Winter Olympics) will be made in the USA, but I believe some serious brand damage has been done. 

This isn’t a typical brand crisis that can be addressed by sound brand management, this is a fundamental error that goes straight to the core of the brand. 

This decision as to where the uniforms were made is simply too big.  Manufacturing abroad is the kind of thing that should have been rejected out of hand or never even raised as a possibility. The fact that it wasn’t says too much about this brand to ignore.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: Crisis can teach us about brand equity.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Katy Perry and High Speed Rail


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Katy Perry


Loser:  California’s High Speed Rail



Our winner is no other than Katy Perry.  In many respects, she is the American Dream come true, a talented person who worked hard to get where she is.

But, most of all, this
week’s winner boils down to one critical thing: Perry is committed her
fans.  Her new documentary movie “Part of Me” drives this point home. 
Perry delivers what her fans want and she never forgets this.

Any brand can learn a lot from this (it’s worth learning more about her here).


Folks, California is pursuing a high speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  This is terrible marketing because it fails on the first count: what need is this satisfying. Sure, it could cut a 5-hour road trip down to 2, but given both cities are so spread out, is this advantage really going to trump air travel or car?  Probably not.

A little while back I wrote a piece on President Obama’s high speed rail fascination.  I think it is even more applicable now:

This week, President Obama proposed an ambitious “high-speed” rail system for our country. 

From a marketing perspective, this is nothing but “the train to nowhere” and earns our President’s administration Loser of the Week.

I would have expected better from one of the best poli-marketers of our age —the man, who, after all, reached new heights of pull-marketing strategy during his campaign. 

Who was calling for this “high-speed” rail? The voters who put him in the White House? 

I don’t think so. 

No, this idea seems to be the kind of thing minted by some ideological think bubble where no idea is too green and no cost too high when it comes to visions of slick inter-city Euro-style rail service destroying our nation’s love affair with personal independence and the car.

My main problem here is that this isn’t real marketing: it’s classic build-it-and-they-will-come thinking.  

Why address a twenty-first century problem with a nineteenth-century, high-overhead, big-infrastructure technology like railroad? Why not spend the same money on a telecommuting initiative. That would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if that’s what the Administration is really after?

Not only that, there is real doubt about whether it is even possible to build this system and even what exactly it is President Obama is proposing to build. Even The Oregonian, which endorses high-speed rail, doubts that this plan will fly, because what it is calling high-speed rail wouldn’t even qualify as such in other countries.

Thus another sin against real marketing: window-dressing your brand as something it is not. Window dressing almost always comes back to bite you, because your Target Market is not going to be in the dark forever. 

When Obama´s “high-speed” train is creeping past Baltimore because the federal plan didn’t have enough money or vision, voters will know they got stuck with a lemon and will blame the President. 

Apparently, the President’s plan is to bring our rail service up to the level that Asia and Europe upgraded out of years ago. Yes, nothing spells progress like going backward. (And don’t forget: the European model of high-speed rail works in large part because the distances between major cities are so much smaller than in our vast country.)

Moreover, the “high-speed” rail plan could do damage to President Obama’s brand because of the appearance of micro-managing. I’ve written about that danger here, but something about this plan makes me think that the President is about to put on a hard hat and play contractor on-site —threatening to take the “Yes, We Can” of the campaign to absurd Bob-the-Builder heights.

And one more strike against the poli-marketer: Chicago will apparently be the Midwestern hub for the rail plan. This may make a lot of sense, but I can’t help but think this could come back to haunt the President, especially when bidding and big contracts start making news back on his home turf.

But ultimately, I have to return to the idea that there is simply no need for this kind of rail service in the United States. Our first railroads were revolutionary and set loose a torrent of economic activity that propelled the United States to first-world status. 

But these new railroads? 

With Detroit struggling, is it really wise to bankroll a competing mode of transportation? Ditto, the airlines? 

Of course not. 

Eisenhower’s great National Highway Program was government investment that identified and unleashed the nation’s need to have high-quality vehicular commercial and personal transport from coast to coast. It created opportunities for commerce. 

What will this new rail program do for the development of the next generation alternatively-powered cars and trucks? Disincentivize would be the word.

Whether or not the “high-speed” rail system ever actually gets off the ground, the message being transmitted by the Obama brand on this one is clear… and contradictory: We are pushing big government programs that don’t necessarily have any real connection to how things work in this country and that work against other things (like rescuing Detroit) that we are doing with huge government initiatives.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: The first rule of branding is to deliver what is needed, not just what you think is needed.








Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Tom Cruise and GlaxoSmithKline


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Tom Cruise


Loser:  GlaxoSmithKline



Folks, it is sad to see any marriage break up.  Especially when kids are involved.

So in no way do I want to make light of what is happening between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

That said I believe Tom Cruise will emerge an even stronger brand from this latest visit to divorce court and the gossip pages.


Because Tom Cruise has always thrived on adversity and this particular adversity couldn’t have come at a better time for his career.  After all, he is arguably entering a very uncertain period of his life and would be undergoing a major transition whether or not he was getting a divorce. 

Fact is, Tom Cruise is getting old. 

Unlike actors such as George Clooney or a classic like Cary Grant, Tom Cruise still banks on his boyish persona to charm them at the box office – in some ways in our minds he’s never really grown up.  He’s our Peter Pan, despite some bold acting choices and the diverse roles. 

Some portion of his every role in the last ten years, whether it was Vanilla Sky or Mission Impossible 4, still benefits from a good dose of Top Gun.  Sure he’s played against type in comic roles like Tropic Thunder, but for the most part when Cruise is physically recognizable, it’s Cruise, still the young man, we are accustomed to.

But Tom Cruise turned fifty on Tuesday.  Risky Business is a long, long time ago.  At some point, he will have to make that transition that he has long avoided: he will have to become middle-aged.

The sympathy he is likely to get from this latest chapter in his life might just be what gets him there.  By all accounts, Holmes was the driver of this decision and Cruise was taken completely by surprise.  He will need time to heal, but my guess is that the public will see and accept a new side to this man who is known for always being in control.

Cruise is someone who never stands still.  Some celebrity brands only have one trick up their sleeve; others (Madonna) can re-invent themselves until the cows come home.  Cruise is one of the latter.  He managed to keep driving ahead long after many critics said his career was in the decline.  And I wouldn’t bet against him now.


GlaxoSmithKline has just become a textbook example of what marketing isn’t.

I think the 3 billion dollar fine and the misdemeanor criminal charges really cement the lesson. 

According to the Justice Department, Glaxo pushed anti-depressant Paxil to those under 18 even though it wasn’t approved for that age group and Wellbutrin for weightloss when it wasn’t approved for that use. 

Not only that, GSK did extreme things to promote its drugs like sending out misleading medical journal articles and giving doctors spa treatments and meals that were basically kickbacks.

Wow.  How could Glaxo, a multi-national with an established corporate ethos and sophisticated legal and marketing strategy, do something like this on such a scale?

The facts aren’t out yet, but my guess is that sales hijacked marketing in this case.  If a sales person is given a free reign, he or she will often do what it takes to close the sale — sales, in the absence of a comprehensive brand strategy and the right controls, can easily go off the rails.

The charges show that things were out of balance at Glaxo beyond sales (underpaid Medicaid and didn’t supply safety information on its drug Avandia). 

Bottom line, problems on this scale don’t happen in a vacuum and they aren’t fixed in a vacuum. 

For Glaxo to get back on track, it needs to address this problem on all levels.  Andrew Witty, the company’s CEO, has said the charges belong to “a different era for the company.”  That statement is a start but for Glaxo to find its way, the company will need to clean house and make sure that this era is genuinely behind this brand.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: There are no short cuts to creating true brand equity.