Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Lonny and City Hall Nanny Statism


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Lonny Magazine


Loser:  City Hall (Nanny Statism)



This week’s winner is all about Target Market and content.

I’m talking about the online-only magazine Lonny that is tearing up the magazine world and showing that an online model that keeps its Target Market in mind and its content valuable and targeted can work.

Lonny, a bi-monthly, home décor magazine, was launched two years ago but already it gets 200,000 unique visitors a month and 30 million plus page views per issue.

And unlike its print competitors, it is free to the reader.

Some of the publicity has come from the fact that whereas the rest of the magazine world seems to be shuttering titles, it was refreshing to see a launch of something that met readers’ needs and was sustainable.

Lonny is powered by advertising, but here’s the takeaway: that advertising wouldn’t be there if the readers weren’t and those readers wouldn’t be there if Lonny wasn’t able to deliver the kind of content that they wanted.

This might seem obvious, but how many great magazines have forgotten this in recent years.  When Gourmet shuttered its doors, the people calling the shots made the mistake of thinking that a name is all you need to have a brand.  Nope. 

A brand without the content and connection to its Target Market is like a vacant storefront with the name of the business still stencilled on the window.

Here’s my take on Gourmet, by the way.

Bottom line, Lonny has found a way to connect with readers who grew up on print and those who didn’t by combining traditional-style magazine content with a network of a wide-range of influential bloggers in the home décor space.

While their competitors struggle with the high costs of print and probably have to curb the cost of getting the content that brings in the readers, Lonny is in the position of not having the hefty print overhead and being able to pay for that content.

Fact is, Target Markets can’t be fooled because they are target markets precisely because they are looking for something that you can provide –and if you don’t then they will go elsewhere.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Gannett cutting its workforce.  It’s worth reposting a portion of that here:

When the cost-cutting geniuses decided to stop publishing Gourmet magazine a few years ago, but still “monetize” the brand, they showed that they didn’t understand how media brands fundamentally work.

Bottom line, you simply can’t get rid of the talent, material and standard of excellence that is –in fact— your brand and expect what remains to have any value.  No matter how esteemed and established the name of your product is without the material, it ends up hollowed out.

In the last five years, the Gannett workforce has been reduced from 52,000 to about 32,000.  Mandatory furloughs are common and community newsrooms –once the backbone of this media company— are shrinking.

All the employees seem to be taking the hit, but the management is still awarding itself big paydays. 

There is no question that the Gannett business model is under assault from the Internet and mobile devices.  And there’s no question that cost-cutting is necessary.

But the issue for any brand is how you cut costs –especially a media brand like Gannett’s that requires talent and the right kind of spending to produce high-value content.  In Gannett’s case, the decision by management to keep executive pay packages rich while cutting into the livelihoods of the company’s employees not only looks bad but it badly hurts brand equity.

Why?  Because a media company’s brand equity is, more than almost any other kind of business, its content-producing employees.  This is especially true in journalism where journalists are used to working overtime without compensation just to get that next scoop or talk to one more source. 

Journalists have long put up with greedy management and executives who don’t necessarily appreciate the front-line realities of journalism, but the latest Gannett move injects insecurity into that equation.  A journalist will work hard and for less for a company that is going to be sticking around, but what Gannett management is doing reeks of a company squeezing out the last of the money from something that doesn’t have much a future.

My guess is that most employees must seriously be considering how to jump ship before it goes down and the best and smartest talent will make that jump before everyone else.

Folks, that’s not something you want, especially in tough times when shared sacrifice from top to bottom of an organization and the dynamic re-invention of a brand are what’s needed to avert disaster.  If Gannett management is serious about saving this brand then it needs to let everyone know that talented, dedicated people are what make a media brand –and it needs to join in the hard times.  End of story.

So, good luck to Lonny.  And may we all learn something about delivering for our Target Markets.


Folks, sometimes you really can fight City Hall and win.

Especially if you are the USDA, the city hall is in New York and it wants to take away people’s right to choose what they do and do not eat.

Here’s the story. 

A few weeks ago the USDA put the kibosh on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to make it impossible for people on foodstamps to use the foodstamps to buy soda.  City hall looks like it will continue to fight on with some version of its plan –so this is probably not over yet.

The idea apparently was to change the behavior of lower income people by forcing them to make healthier choices.

What a terrible idea.  I usually try to steer clear of politics, but when politics goes against the fundamentals of marketing I’ve just got to speak up.

Bottom line, this goes to the question of Target Markets and recognizing that things work best when you respect the consumer and try to satisfy their needs.

I’m all for people drinking less soda.  Especially kids who a recent study has shown seem to be drinking way too much.  But the fact is that you are doing no one any favors by banning something that they want and have a right to buy. 

From a health perspective it makes little sense.  After all, people’s eating habits take a long time to change and healthy habits have to come from the individual making healthy choices.  Removing one unhealthy choice –like banning the use of foodstamps for soda purchases—doesn’t help people learn how to become healthier eaters or establish good lifelong habits.

The USDA seems to get this.  They rejected city hall’s move on the grounds that it would be too hard to implement but also because USDA says it believes in using incentives rather than bans to influence behavior and raise awareness of healthy eating.

Basically, city hall’s move is nanny statism.  Telling a Target Market that it cannot have something it wants without telling them why or offering alternatives.  It’s bad marketing and bad government because it underestimates and misunderstands the consumer and, folks, it just won’t work.

At the end of the day, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, probably said it best: “This proposal was based on the false assumption that poor people were somehow ignorant or culturally deficient.”

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



TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  Believe in your Target Market and your Target Market will believe in you.








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *