John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of the Week: Knicks and James Franco

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Brand Winner… And Loser…


John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: 


Winner:  Knicks

Loser:  James Franco




Folks, I’ve written extensively about what I call performance brands. 

Performance brands are typically found in sports where performance in the arena of play provides a powerful driver for brand recognition and redemption whenever brand image redemption is needed –these days it seems to be needed quite a bit.

The New York Knicks are the winner of the week because of their decision to hire Carmelo Anthony.

This decision is paying huge dividends.  The Knicks’ victory over the Heat and Lebron James was stunning and already you can feel the re-emergence of a great sports club, an updating of the brand.  It’s amazing what winning can do.

More than that winning fits the New York Target Market, the Knick’s primary fans.

If you understand the performance brand dynamic, you can make some very accurate predictions on brand outcomes that will have some conventional thinkers scratching their heads trying to figure out how you did it.

I had this experience with Tiger Woods when he was widely thought to be washed up after last year’s scandal.  I argued that his brand would ultimately sail through. 

My point then was that as a performance brand, Woods would continue to retain his incredible media platform if he continued to play well.  If he kept that platform, well, bottom line, his brand would have powerful visibility and he would have the chance to build his public persona brand back. 

Not only that, but performance brands are resilient because they are all about their Target Markets.  Lots of people in the general public might have had big problems with Tiger Woods and that was what most of the media cared about, but at the end of the day, the general public isn’t Tiger’s Target Market –golf fans are.  Those fans care more about his winning than they do about his poor life choices.

The New York Yankees have understood the performance brand dynamic for generations.  If you continue to win on the field, your brand will continue to prosper, you will cruise through scandals, you will build global good will and great marketing opportunities. 

Sure, there are teams that people love in spite of a record of losing –but those are strictly local brands.  To be a world-class franchise, a sports brand needs to win. 


By all accounts, James Franco turned in a pretty flat performance with his Oscar co-hosting gig on Sunday.


But that’s not the only problem with the James Franco brand. 

The problem with the James Franco brand is that he still doesn’t really know what he is.  As a result, we don’t either.


Fact is, Franco is first and foremost a very talented actor.  He’s not a performer in a traditional, show-biz sense.  He’s no Billy Crystal, Hugh Jackman or Steve Martin.  He can’t pull off the glitz.  He doesn’t do stand-up.  He doesn’t do song and dance.


Bottom line, he shouldn’t even try.  At heart, he is shy and intellectual –he’s studying for a PhD!—  and when shy, intellectuals are put in the spotlight…  Fuggedaboutit.  It’s always foot in mouth.


That’s where the embarrassing and brand-smashing Vanity Fair answer about what he does in his spare time came from.  He has the making of today’s suave leading man, but his candor made him seem immature and not too appealing.


In terms of brands, an actor’s actor is what Franco most likely should model himself on going forward. 


Think Robert DeNiro.  We know that DeNiro’s thing isn’t playing host or opening up all that much. He’s a pretty private man who people respect because he turns in great performances on the screen.   DeNiro knows what his brand can do and what it can’t do.  If he was every asked to host the Oscars, my guess is he would say no, immediately if not sooner.


Marketers can learn a lot from brands that struggle to define themselves like Franco.  The most important takeaway is this: a brand has got to know its limitations.

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


If you don’t discover your brand’s limitations, they are doomed to limit your brand.

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