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



Brand Winner…

And Loser…




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


Winner:  Nathan’s Famous


Loser:  Google



Folks, this week Nathan’s hotdogs is our winner.

Why?  Their world-famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island.

The event is so important for Nathan’s that it consumes most of their annual marketing budget.  Never was money so well spent.

This year, the event was watched by a crowd of 40,000 and broadcast by ESPN to an estimated two million viewers.  There was even a blimp and wise Target Market expansion: females competed for a different contest title sponsored by another smart marketer Pepto Bismal.

Nathan’s Chief Marketing Officer calls the contest, “One of the greatest marketing stunts ever.”

He’s right, even though I don’t like the word stunt because, really, there’s no stunt involved.

A stunt is a television station dropping turkeys out of a helicopter on Thanksgiving Day.  A stunt is about trying to get attention without thinking about the essentials of your brand and how your promotion relates or re-enforces those essentials in your customers’ minds.

Why Nathan’s contest works so well is that in the end it’s all about the brand.

Center stage and cast in a very positive light is their product: the Nathan’s hot dog.  That’s what contestants must consume to win.  Next comes the setting: Coney Island.  The setting re-enforces the brand.  Nathan’s is the Coney Island hot dog.  The company was started there 95 years ago and still carries that something-out-of-the-ordinary image with it wherever its stores operate.

Nathan’s doesn’t air TV commercials.  It doesn’t have to.  Nor is this contest just a once-a-year buzz.  Sure, July 4th is the big day, but there are qualifying events and plenty of buzz spread across many different venues to keep Nathan’s in the spotlight. 

Fact is, when you get the marketing right, things just fall into place.  And you only get the marketing right if you know what your brand stands for and honor that.  Everything starts there. 

By the way, this year’s Nathan’s winner is Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, retaining the coveted Mustard Belt for the 5th straight year in a row with 62 hot dogs consumed.  The women’s champion, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, downed an astounding 40.


Over an amazing decade, Google has grown into one of the world’s most profitable and powerful companies.  It has earned its place by providing people the world over with a service and innovation that has truly changed the way we live and do business.

But no brand is beyond reproach.  That’s why Google is this week’s loser.

It looks like the technology giant could about to be hit with the largest fine in American history for profiting from questionable advertising.

Folks, the problem seems to center on poorly regulated online pharmacies and the sale of over the counter drugs.  Apparently, regulators and watchdog groups have been warning Google and other search engines about the risks of these online pharmacies for years.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Google curtailed advertising from these sites or turned down the likely millions of dollars in revenue.

According to Joseph Califano, Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse head, he warned Google about this in 2008.  Califano had found “prominent displays of ads for rogue internet pharmacies in a Google search for controlled drugs.”

Bottom line, even without the fine, this kind of thing is bad for Google.  A company that has brought so much benefit to society usually gets a free pass, but only for a certain amount of time.  The honeymoon really might be over.

The problem here is that if Google starts looking like just another cynical corporation and not something new like it’s informal motto “Don’t Be Evil” suggests, who knows what other brand shoes may drop.  Other kinds of unsavory ad money or practices might get scrutinized now, if the good will that has buoyed up this brand starts to vanish.

Fact is, brands don’t usually diminish with one big mis-step.  It’s usually a case of a series of mis-steps.  Last week also saw a federal judge refuse to dismiss several lawsuits against the company regarding using people’s open Wi-Fi networks to illegally collect private information.  That’s on top of another invasion-of-privacy kerfuffle caused by the photos the company was taking for its Street View application a few years back.

Things like that add up for a brand and Google will need to start taking some very affirmative and very public corrective action soon to turn around potential brand damage.

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



TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –  Brands fall apart one mistake at a time.








Leave a Reply

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