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

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:  Tiger Woods    

Loser:  Gannett



Schwartzel won the Masters; but it was Tiger Woods’ strong finish that will be seen as a historic turning point.  Woods came back from a big deficit to reach the top of the leader board.  By doing so, he confirmed what I’ve been predicting: the Tiger brand is coming back.

Last summer Tiger surprised everyone by ranking as the most popular athlete in the United States.  What I wrote then looks even more true now:

Bottom line, Tiger Woods is a performance brand. It’s what he does on – not off — the golf course that matters. It’s the same for all athletic brands. If you win, you will be liked (except for those rare cases in which you win but are really, really hard to like).

Tiger might not win every tournament he is in, but in golf no one ever does –so despite what non-golfers might be saying, Tiger really is excelling on the green. The point is consistency, and dogged improvement, which he’s displaying. People who know golf know that Tiger Woods is coming back impressively and much sooner than anyone expected.

The bigger point here is that what matters as a predictor of a sport brand’s ultimate success isn’t the inevitable media uproar –it’s the ability of the performance brand to continue to win and to appeal to his customers and fans.

For Tiger Woods, this means appealing to men between the ages of 18-44 who are sports enthusiasts; enjoy golf; and are more forgiving of male indiscretions even if they’re repugnant. It is this group that is the most important to Tiger and his marketing team. And he hasn’t lost them –not by a long shot.

Many of the public relations people turn to the standard playbook when a crisis like Tiger’s erupts. They seem to think the old mea culpas to everyone must be given and that from some public relations disasters there is simply no recovery

Again, for Tiger and golf stars in general, winning means being consistent. The golf Target Market, its fans and customers, understands that inconsistency is a key factor in this arduous game and that most lose in this sport because they fail at being consistent. Golf is simply different from all other sports and this will continue to work in Tiger’s favor since his legendary consistency is definitely intact.


What we saw at the Masters was Tiger Woods displaying that consistency and the coolness and determination that has characterized his excellence as a golfer.  Commentators noted the return of the classic Tiger confidence as he strode the course.  That confidence and his incredible talent means that soon he will be back at Number 1 –and when that happens all of the rest of the pieces of his brand (the sponsorship and advertising opportunities) will fall into place as well.



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.

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


A media brand is nothing without content that is in demand.



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