Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Coke/Pepsi and Tebow


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Coke and Pepsi


Loser:  Tim Tebow



Coke and Pepsi have done it again.

I’m talking about how the soda makers responded to what could have been a brand damaging debacle with confidence, speed and clarity.

Here’s what happened (because the soda makers did such a good job with their response you might not have even heard of this one):

Basically, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog group, found low levels of a potential carcinogen, a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, in some samples of both Coke and Pepsi.  The chemical was apparently a result of the caramel coloring manufacturing process.

The Center petitioned the FDA to ban the use of the caramel.

Even though the FDA itself announced that a consumer would have to drink hundreds if not thousands of cans of soda every day to even cause concern, Coke and Pepsi acted.

They announced that they would change the process by which the caramel color was manufactured.  End of story.

Why does this make them the winner?

Because they didn’t dawdle, they didn’t get defensive, they were able to weigh the pros and cons and clearly –and I believe correctly– recognized that not to take action against the perception of a carcinogen in their sodas would end up hurting their brands.

Brands need to act with this kind of decisiveness and great brands –brands that endure the test of time– usually do act this way.


This week’s loser is a victim of the inflexible, unyielding and powerful rule of sports branding: performance.

Yes, folks, I’m speaking about Tim Tebow and how it looks like even the possibility that Denver might win Peyton Manning has the town ready to bid last season’s celebrity QB goodbye.

Here’s how one Denver sports columnist, Brad Schmid, put it: “Tim Tebow led the Broncos to their first division title and first
playoff win in more than five years. Yet I am as ready as anyone else to
throw Tebow overboard for the first free-agent Hall Of Fame quarterback
who happens to saunter into town.”

He’s not alone.  A majority of Denverites (Denvernians?) seem ready to grab Manning at the expense of Tebow.

What explains this?  It’s that inflexible rule of sports branding, namely if you perform your brand gets stronger.  Sure, there are other factors that can make you stand out and generate affection and there are many great performers who fail in the personality department, but the bottom line is usually performance.

That’s why Tiger Woods has maintained his brand status despite all predictions to the contrary.  Here’s a longer take on the Tiger Woods situation with another link to a analysis of how performance brands work.

Fact is, Tebow won, but he never triumphed.  Yes, he brought Denver to its first playoff win in five years, but the Super Bowl eluded his grasp.  He performed marvelously, but the perception is that he faltered and that’s what matters here.  He’s not a proven performance brand.  Until he is Peyton Manning will win every time no matter how colorful Tebow is.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYGreat brands act  decisively.








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