John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of the week: Barack Obama and WikiLeaks

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Brand Winner… And Loser…

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: 


Winner:  Barack Obama

Loser:  WikiLeaks                              




Brand Obama has come back from the mid-term elections fighting. 


His announcement of a pay freeze on government workers, his decision to send an aircraft carrier into the Yellow Sea to confront the North Koreans and, yes, even some of the WikiLeaks revelations that show that some of his behind the scenes diplomacy was tougher and a lot less naïve than many thought have served to bolster his beleaguered brand.


Has our incredibly disappearing president made a comeback?  


No, Obama is not out of the woods yet.  And he might never be.  But in terms of taking the first steps, he’s definitely doing it and this could be a Bill Clinton moment.


The pay freeze is a major brand statement.  Why?  It shows that he can be tough on issues that count to his opposition even against the instincts of his political base.  After all, this pay freeze was basically John Boehner’s idea a few weeks ago.


The move sends a message to the Republicans that will be hard for them to counter.  John Boehner wisely supported the president’s announcement but there’s a built-in limit to how far the Republican opposition can go along with the White House –especially since the GOP brand is still seen as the party of “no” to Obama’s big government image. 


The announcement also shows that Obama can play hardball.  Christmas is coming so the toughness is even more underscored.  It also made him sound a little chastened (a little, not a lot, he’s still got some room to grow in the humility department).  Still, he actually said he had learned a lesson from the latest election.  His actions to freeze spending, praise small business and argue for the value of future American economic dominance in the world re-enforced this.


He also handled the fat lip from basketball pretty well –the fact that it didn’t spiral into a Jimmy Carter killer rabbit moment should tell Republicans something (this presidential brand isn’t at the terminal Carter point of weakness yet).  By the way, my opinion is that our president should probably stay off the basketball court (but if he doesn’t and he gets visibly injured again, he better pull a Ronald Reagan and stay away from the cameras).


Bottom line, we might be seeing the start of a turnaround here in Brand Obama.  Stay tuned.




WikiLeaks is our loser for the week and let’s be honest so are some of its journalistic allies in big media like The New York Times.


Previous leaks might have been justified, but dumping tens of thousands of diplomatic cables on the world just because you can isn’t journalism, it’s vandalism.


WikiLeaks has had many enthusiastic supporters –especially among the left-leaning intellectual global “elite”— but my guess is that the organization might have gone too far this time.


Fact is, there’s a reason why diplomacy and governments don’t make everything public.  It’s the same reason that ordinary human beings don’t…  A lot of the things we need to say to one another are simply not intended for a general audience.


The revelations of these cables are entertaining.  They might even be valuable.  But most adults will recognize what WikiLeaks recklessly and immaturely has not: there’s a good reason that some things need to be kept secret. 


In not recognizing what is obvious to adults, WikiLeaks has revealed both malice and naiveté that many in its Target Market (i.e., people who will actually plunk down donation dollars to support the operation) will find unappealing.  In the end, WikiLeaks might have been best dismissed by Hillary Clinton who said there was nothing “laudable” in the leak and reported that a diplomatic counterpart joked: “Well, don’t worry about it.  You should see what we say about you.”


My guess is that the WikiLeaks brand has just sprung a leak that it will find impossible to plug.


And, remember, things are always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.



Brands must strive to make clear and definite impressions.

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