John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Harry Potter and the TSA

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Brand Winner… And Loser…

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: 


Winner:  Harry Potter

Loser:  TSA                                                                           




With $330 million in global ticket sales for its opening weekend, the latest Harry Potter movie and the franchise is the clear brand winner.


Harry Potter is an example of what happens when you get a brand right from the beginning and then nurture that brand –always making certain you stay true and consistent to the brand and its Target Market.


A large part of the credit belongs to J.K. Rowling who held the movie makers’ feet to the fire.  Sure the movies aren’t 100% true to the books –no movie can be— but they’re more true than most movies are to their source material and, more important, decisions like keeping the characters British and trusting that the audience would support this proved critical. 


Technically, the movies are brand extensions of the books.  And what mattered was that the movie decisions basically supplemented the appeal of the books and didn’t alienate the readers.  Even in the case where readers might have been disappointed in the movies, the readers were never disappointed so much that they shunned the big screen.


Great brands are built one confident step at a time.


The lesson for all of us here beyond just the brand lesson is that even in our fractured multi-media age, great content can build the kind of loyalty that can create a shared experience across many diverse Target Markets and media platforms.  The key is the content.


Hats off to the boy wizard!




The TSA is the loser of this past week… 


because of their intrusive screening methods, but because they haven’t convinced the American people that TSA is the right brand for the job of keeping us safe.


Fact is, TSA was a brand created on the run.  Unlike products designed to fit a market need and generate consumer support, TSA was –like most wartime efforts— forced on the American public one painful bit at a time


The result was a brand that has always been seen as playing catchup with terrorist reality.  A shoe-bomber is discovered and suddenly people have to take off their shoes when they go through security.  A terrorist has a bomb in his underwear and now it’s full-body scans and pat downs.


With most brands there’s a product life-cycle.  It’s introduction, growth, maturity and then decline.  TSA was introduced badly, its growth has been seen as out-of-control and somewhat random, and, everyone basically knows, that it can’t decline (i.e., go out of business).  Basically, TSA or some version of it is here to stay.  Gone are the days when there is no security to go through to get on a plane.


Bottom line, TSA needs to take more control not less.  In other words, it needs to make clear what its brand is all about: stopping terrorists from either taking over planes or blowing them up.


TSA needs to aggressively market one message: “We’re Here To Keep You Safe.” 


This is not about politically-correct profiling.  TSA should profile passengers, but they should also treat everyone as if they are a potential threat… because terrorists have the potential to turn almost anyone into a threat.


In other words, critics of TSA make the argument that its ridiculous to treat granny like a terrorist but ignore the guy with the long beard and kufi.  But if the terrorists know that the only person TSA is looking for is the guy wearing the kufi, they’re going to find a granny (or impersonate one) to get their evil work done.

Let’s a take a page from the Israelis who have decades of experience thwarting terrorism.  They’re basically tough on everyone who flies or comes across their borders. 


What TSA is doing wrong is not getting the message of their mission out there.  The problem isn’t the full-body scans or the pat downs.  It’s that we, the American people, don’t have faith in their brand.


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



Many brand crises that seem to come “out of the blue” don’t and, in fact, can (and must) be planned and prepared for.

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