Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Romney and J.C. Penney


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner:  Mitt Romney


Loser:  J.C. Penney



With his decisive win in Nevada, Mitt Romney continues to confirm his strength as the most viable candidate to challenge President Obama this fall, even Santorum’s surge doesn’t really change that. 

But “most viable” doesn’t mean a clear winner.  The latest polls show Obama with a strong lead over Romney.  That gap won’t change until Romney underscores that his differences matter to the electorate.

He must confirm his brand and not deviate.

What is that brand?  It is that of the Chief Executive Officer who is ready to lead a country precisely because he could lead a company, a man who could lead fifty states because he led a single state.

He needs to embrace rather than confuse his image in the electorate’s mind.  Mitt Romney is not an electrifying orator.  He is not the most dynamic or charismatic figure on the American political landscape.  And that’s fine.

Romney is the businessman who can make the business of America business again.  He needs to say this in no uncertain terms, tackling head on the idea that he must be exciting and refuting that being exciting is important.  It’s not –at least not for Mitt Romney.  He’s not a partisan really either and he needs to say this too.

He might even have to deliver a “negative” speech –a speech that defines what he is, by saying what he is not.  Something like:

If you want a real CEO not a Chief Entertainment officer, I am your man.  If you want an entertainer, debater or ideologue then , I am not your guy.  I am a business professional who is proud to be successful. I’m not divisive.   I love my family, love what I do and would love to have the opportunity to put into place what I have learned  in order to get businesses moving in this country.

Many are looking for the next Ronald Reagan, but it’s likely they are looking for the wrong traits.  They remember the inspiration and the charisma, but forget that Reagan was first and foremost the quintessential CEO.  Like a true CEO he knew how to manage, delegate, hold the line to get what he wanted, but also compromise when he needed to.  He got America back to work not only by motivating people but by appointing someone, Paul Volcker, who killed inflation despite how politically delicate this was.

In this sense, Mitt Romney is the true heir of Ronald Reagan.  Reagan had ideals, but he wasn’t an ideologue and he had an accommodating personality even when he disagreed with people.  Romney has this capacity as well.  Neither Gingrich nor Santorum do.

Gingrich doesn’t have the personality to win the majority of people over.  Santorum might have the personality, but is hobbled by the issues.  Both are essentially mavericks and neither has the managerial chops that Romney does.

Similarly, Reagan was genuinely wholesome but many couldn’t accept it as real, preferring to imagine that it was some Hollywood affectation.  Romney has the same disadvantage.  He is almost too clean cut.

But both men also share something that supported their bids for office: political executive experience. Reagan in California; Romney in Massachusetts.  As governors, both did what was necessary to accomplish specific goals even if it seemed to cut against their political grain.  In California, Reagan, an advocate of limited government, supported infrastructure projects that benefited the economy.  Romney has shied away from his health care role in Massachusetts, but should embrace this history instead.

Most important, both men knew how to cross party lines to get things done.  Romney managed to get the state legislature to cut spending by $1.6 billion dollars.  In his last two fiscal years as governor, Massachusetts ran surpluses of $600 to $700 million.  Reagan worked with Tip O’Neill and Capitol Hill Democrats.

Bottom line, Mitt Romney needs to lay claim to what he is: a corporate chieftain with executive political experience who knows about fixing broken balance sheets and making creaking companies and states hum again even if he puts an audience to sleep doing it.



Folks, this week I have Nick, an aspiring brand development professional, to thank for convincing me that J.C. Penney ought to be our loser of the week.


The retailer has been running ads that turn people off –bottom line, they’re unlikeable ads that rub people the wrong way.  Yes, I’m speaking about the screaming women ad.

Some of the ad geniuses are claiming that the fact that many people are upset about these ads, they have “cut through the clutter” and are successfully seizing consumer attention in a crowded landscape.

Maybe, but it’s cutting through the clutter in the wrong way and you need to consider the source of the compliments: ad men.

The consumer affairs website suggests otherwise.  It has received dozens of complaints from viewers pleading that these ads stop.

The real question is how could a major corporation that is in the business of trying to appeal to consumers find a way to alienate and annoy its customers?

My guess is that in this case, the creatives took over –consumed with their idea and unwilling to see how it might fit into J.C. Penney’s objectives.  They valued concept and impact over customers –did they even bother to test these ads on the kind of people who shop at J.C. Penney’s?  

I really doubt it.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAYBe creative, but trust your customers and let them shape how you reach them.








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