Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Ashton Kutcher and The IMF

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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

Winner:  Ashton Kutcher

Loser:  The IMF




Ashton Kutcher is the winner of the week and not just because he has landed a plum role on CBS’s hit comedy Two and a Half Men. 

If anything, the decision to select Kutcher to replace Charlie Sheen on the show is the consequence of years of consistently winning brand strategies on the part of the entertainer.

Why pay Kutcher $750,000 an episode (his estimated salary)?   Simple.  He brings one of the most established entertainment brands to the table. 

Fact is, press reports don’t describe Kutcher as just an actor anymore.  No.  He’s known as a social media entrepreneur. 

Kutcher has more than 6.8 million followers on Twitter and has just partnered with Ubermedia to launch a unique Twitter client intended to appeal and support his fan base.   

Talk about a guy who understands that the role of an entertainer is to deliver what the fans want.  Charlie Sheen forgot this.  He mistakenly thought that his concerns and pre-occupations were his fans’.  His tour wasn’t about serving their needs, it was always about serving his own –that’s why it flopped.

But Kutcher is no Sheen.  He was one of the first and is certainly one of the savviest when it comes to using social media to support his traditional media roles in movies and on television.

CBS and the show’s producers know that when they get Kutcher, they’re also getting a one-man marketing machine. 

Sheen did this too, you say?  Sure, but he did it backwards.  It was the success in the traditional media that gave him the initial power to strike out on his own with Twitter –but when there isn’t content behind social media momentum you see what happens: things fizzle like they did for Sheen.

Kutcher’s development of a Twitter following was strategic marketing, it was done over time (albeit a very short period) and reflects genuine fan interest and support; Sheen, on the other hand, followed a promotional and fad-like trajectory.  His ranting drew attention and a quick spike in Twitter followers but these followers simply did not have the “quality” of Kutcher’s.

Kutcher’s smart enough to know that the two, traditional and social media, work best when they work together.  Hats off to a great brander!


The International Monetary Fund is our loser of the week for one very simple reason.  When they had the chance to get rid of a brand liability –Dominique Strauss-Kahn— they didn’t.

The IMF brand crisis didn’t begin last weekend, it began long before that when Strauss-Kahn was barely punished for an affair that in almost any other corporate or government context would have ended his career.

The fact that it didn’t said all you need to know about the IMF. 

Bottom line, the problem is cultural with the organization.  The Strauss-Kahn scandal needs to wake up the organization and all those who support the organization.

What’s needed now is a top to bottom review of the culture inside IMF and an active statement of reform made by the leadership.  Next, action that fixes the problem and the right kind of communication to let everyone know that the problem has been fixed. 

No organization and institution today should be making a mistake like this…  Folks, I’m not talking about public relations here or putting the right spin on a crisis, I’m speaking about the essence of marketing which is having the right structure, or in this case, corporate culture, in place from the start –or else sincerely fixing the problem.  No amount of story-crafting will change the underlying story-rot at the center of IMF’s permissive culture and the same holds true for any institution today –the brand message comes directly from the everyday truth of the brand.   And that truth is partly based on a history of decisions both small and large like the decision to look the other way at executive behavior at IMF.

Brands are destroyed one bad decision at a time, but they can also be rebuilt.

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




Brand success or failure is the result of individual decisions over a period of time.





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