Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: GoDaddy and Warren Buffet

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

Brand Winner… And Loser…


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

Winner:  Go Daddy 

Loser:  Warren Buffet



GoDaddy, the Domain name company, is in public relations hot water over a video showing its flamboyant CEO hunting and shooting a rogue elephant in Africa.

Folks, as usual the PR folks are suggesting that the CEO and company must now run for cover, apologize and repent.

I have nothing against prudent brand crisis management, but in GoDaddy’s case it would be the wrong move. 

I’m not endorsing elephant killing, but the PR folks miss brand reality with their one-size fits all strategy.

After all, GoDaddy is a company that has successfully harnessed bad-taste and controversy to drive its brand.  

Not only that but its reach is broad and its Target Market is so general as to be impossible to pin down.  We’re talking about anyone and everyone who wants to register a domain, needs webhosting etcetera –for a very competitive price.  The company has grown despite all the controversy of years past and there is really no reason to think that the elephant incident will curtail its growth.

Bottom line, there are some companies, GoDaddy is definitely one, whose core business is basically immune to controversy.  If the CEO of Starbucks hunted an elephant that would be different.  Starbuck’s brand story and philosophy would be at odds with that.  But most important, its Target Market would be deeply offended and that would likely hurt sales. 

For GoDaddy, simply getting its name out there –good or bad publicity— will work.  As long as that publicity has nothing to do with the quality of their Internet services then all is well.


Warren Buffet has been a darling of the media for a long time now.  He is also a great brand who built his brand by focusing on what he does best: make money for himself and his investors.

But recently he has injected himself into the public square in ways that run counter to his long-term brand strategy.  “The Oracle of Omaha” has publicly defended the big bank bailout and then, as it turned out, profited handsomely from it by way of his Goldman Sachs options.  In other words, he put his credibility on the line to argue for the use of taxpayer funds that made him money.

Fact is, when a brand becomes so visible, its contradictions are scrutinized.  For Buffett this has meant that people have begun to question whether he has actually been more self-serving and less transparent than everyone had believed.

Now his groomed successor, David Sokol, has left because of an apparent conflict of interest… some have even called it front-running (trading stock of Lubrizol on his own account while Berkshire Hathaway was in the midst of taking it over).

Brand equity is not gained overnight.  But it can be lost that way.  In Buffett’s case, the losing of his brand equity has happened over the last year as people have come to question some of his actions.  But this case could make his brand equity plummet –especially if the S.E.C. detects wrongdoing.

The Sokol resignation could mean that Buffett doesn’t run a tight ship at Berkshire Hathaway since there should certainly have been basic ground rules on stock ownership and disclosure by its top executives. 

Or, and this would be much more damaging, the ethical standards everyone ascribes to Buffett aren’t actually practiced at his own company.  In fact, Buffett could quickly get lumped together with a list of Wall Street scoundrels and the general distrust of banks and financial companies.

My sense is that what Buffett needs to do is tackle this issue head-on and explain everything in the kind of detail that he is famous for in his annual letters.  He needs to confirm his high ethical standards and the fact that he is not just another Wall Streeter.

Then, he should take a step back from the public square.  His brand doesn’t need to be promoted…  It needs to be preserved.

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

What kind of exposure works for your brand?


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