Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: GM and (Re)Brand USA


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  GM


Loser:  (Re)Brand USA



Folks, General Motors is our winner this week.  The company has continued to be a winner ever since the spring of 2008 and the Federal bailout –despite all predictions to the contrary.

I don’t want to blow my own horn here and frankly I can’t because my correct call on GM all the way back to that point has been based on one simple and universal rule: people buy brands not companies.

Investors buy companies, but people are in a relationship with brands and General Motors is a brand company.  You are a Chevy buyer, a Cadillac buyer, etc.

The $7.1 billion dollars that GM has posted in profit so far this year is the direct result of the company’s focus on its brands.  That’s right, $7.1 billion dollars.  End of story.

We’re talking about a company that prior to 2008 had lost $82 billion and the global sales lead –well, it’s also wrested that lead back from Toyota.

Here’s a earlier take on GM.  I think in light of this past week’s news, it is definitely still worth a read.


When you’ve got one of the most recognizable flags in the world with bright, definitive colors and a deep, resonant history, it’s hard to understand why you’d want to create a generic-looking logo populated by dark and light blue dots.

But that’s exactly what the Corporation for Travel Promotion’s rebrand of the United States of America as Brand USA has done.

This really is crazy –another astounding example of: if it ain’t broke let’s do something to break it.

Sometimes no action is better than the wrong action and, boy, do I wish that these folks hadn’t taken any action at all.  One of their slogans “Discover the United States of Awesome” doesn’t really do it for me.

Brand USA is said to be the first “coordinated global marketing effort dedicated to welcoming international travelers to the United States.”  The CEO of the effort, Jim Evans, says that it is necessary because the U.S. “lost its way” over the past decade

Apparently, there’s been a drop in the number of U.S. bound tourists.  According to Evans, 78 million people haven’t visited the U.S. in the last ten years who were originally predicted to.

Also, the rebranding group’s research has shown that many tourists think of the U.S. negatively, labeling inhabitants as “brash and arrogant.”  Megan Kent, global business director at JWT, the international advertising agency, is excited about the chance to “launch a country.”

Hold on a sec!  That’s exactly the problem.  The U.S. shouldn’t be launched, relaunched or, for that matter, rebranded.  Why?  Because it can’t be.

What you can do is to underscore what’s great about the U.S. and what you hear back from potential tourists. . . things that the branding group is discovering, like our reputation for pop culture and the diversity of our geography. 

By all means stress these positives and –another smart initiative by the branding group— try to make tourists’ logistical experience as easy as possible (one idea is to make a “trusted traveler” line to help tourists move through immigration faster).

But the bottom line is this, you shouldn’t spend good money on a bad idea.  Red, white and blue are the colors.  They’re established.  Just like America is established.  Some of the travel trends are no doubt economic and the result of globalisation which has made non-USA destinations more accessible and attractive.  

There’s nothing wrong with a coordinated tourism campaign –the US hasn’t had one. Not only that, but the average overseas visitor spends $4000 on goods and services each trip –so it’s worth promoting this for the sake of American jobs. 

But my sense is that rather than spend the estimated $200 million a year that this new initiative plans to spend on blue pixels and social media ambassadors give 100 good old American dollars to every single international traveller stepping off that plane. 

Believe me, word of mouth will do the rest.   

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – Brands must be supported by consistent action over the long-term.








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