Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: American Idol and Goldman Sachs



Brand Winner…

And Loser…




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


Winner:  American Idol


Loser:  Goldman Sachs




The prophets of doom have been proven wrong: American Idol has not simply fallen apart after the exit of its long-time judges.

Many understandably predicted that the ratings wonder and cultural phenomenon would fold after the cast shake-up, but instead it has prospered.

Not only was American Idol once again the show with the best ratings for the 2010-2011 season, but Fox reported a 21 percent viewer surge for the show’s finale which included the first time in five years that it grew its 18-49 year old audience numbers.

Fact is, while some of the uptick in ratings is definitely due to new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, the real winner here is the show itself. 

When a format is as durable and likeable as American Idol’s, that’s the brand, not Simon Cowell or anyone one else who sits in the judge’s box.  Speaking about great brands, Cowell is one and understands that ego has to be put to the side when it comes to an entertainment brand’s success.  This is Cowell speaking about his departure for Idol long before it happened:

There has to come a point when I will step down from being on camera and remain behind the scenes because you can’t keep doing this forever…I think by [the end of my contract] that the public will be sick to death of me anyway and it will be time to go.

And that’s the thing about great brands, they know what is essential to success and then keep doing it.



Goldman Sachs had a bad week.

The unflattering media coverage of the investment bank continued with HBO’s To Big To Fail.  More serious, according to The New York Times, the authorities look they are about to pile on the company.  The Manhattan District Attorney has served Goldman Sachs with a “broad subpoena…for documents about its mortgage-related transactions.”  The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation based on a Senate subcommittee report.  Others look to follow — possibly “every major law enforcement authority in the country.”

Bottom line, even though the legendary bank has managed to soldier through a lot of bad publicity, this time the brand damage looks like it might be critical. 

Fact is, while people might joke about the “crooks on Wall Street” or think the stock market is like a casino, actually treating a major investment bank like a criminal conspiracy changes everything.

The Goldman Sachs brand isn’t for the guy and gal on the street (even if it did pretend to be a commercial bank for a while during the financial crisis).  But this kind of negative attention won’t only affect a general perception, it could alienate the company’s Target Market: corporate clients, wealthy private clients and other banks and trading partners. 

Bottom line, for an investment bank to function, it needs to be seen as credible and above board.

Maybe nothing will come of the subpoena, but if anything does, then folks, Goldman Sachs will have a lot of work to do to refurbish its brand. 

As of this writing, it looks like Goldman is going on the offensive against the government and its damning report on the bank’s housing bets.  That’s a start, but it’s more a legal move than a brand move.  Simply put, the bank has also got to be seen as contrite and ready to accept responsibility if that’s what’s needed. 

The last two years have seen Goldman behave like business was usual when it was anything but –and that, and its general attitude of being above everyone and everything, can never be good for a brand.

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



TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  No brand is untouchable.








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