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


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


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

Winner: Tom Cruise


Loser:  GlaxoSmithKline



Folks, it is sad to see any marriage break up.  Especially when kids are involved.

So in no way do I want to make light of what is happening between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

That said I believe Tom Cruise will emerge an even stronger brand from this latest visit to divorce court and the gossip pages.


Because Tom Cruise has always thrived on adversity and this particular adversity couldn’t have come at a better time for his career.  After all, he is arguably entering a very uncertain period of his life and would be undergoing a major transition whether or not he was getting a divorce. 

Fact is, Tom Cruise is getting old. 

Unlike actors such as George Clooney or a classic like Cary Grant, Tom Cruise still banks on his boyish persona to charm them at the box office – in some ways in our minds he’s never really grown up.  He’s our Peter Pan, despite some bold acting choices and the diverse roles. 

Some portion of his every role in the last ten years, whether it was Vanilla Sky or Mission Impossible 4, still benefits from a good dose of Top Gun.  Sure he’s played against type in comic roles like Tropic Thunder, but for the most part when Cruise is physically recognizable, it’s Cruise, still the young man, we are accustomed to.

But Tom Cruise turned fifty on Tuesday.  Risky Business is a long, long time ago.  At some point, he will have to make that transition that he has long avoided: he will have to become middle-aged.

The sympathy he is likely to get from this latest chapter in his life might just be what gets him there.  By all accounts, Holmes was the driver of this decision and Cruise was taken completely by surprise.  He will need time to heal, but my guess is that the public will see and accept a new side to this man who is known for always being in control.

Cruise is someone who never stands still.  Some celebrity brands only have one trick up their sleeve; others (Madonna) can re-invent themselves until the cows come home.  Cruise is one of the latter.  He managed to keep driving ahead long after many critics said his career was in the decline.  And I wouldn’t bet against him now.


GlaxoSmithKline has just become a textbook example of what marketing isn’t.

I think the 3 billion dollar fine and the misdemeanor criminal charges really cement the lesson. 

According to the Justice Department, Glaxo pushed anti-depressant Paxil to those under 18 even though it wasn’t approved for that age group and Wellbutrin for weightloss when it wasn’t approved for that use. 

Not only that, GSK did extreme things to promote its drugs like sending out misleading medical journal articles and giving doctors spa treatments and meals that were basically kickbacks.

Wow.  How could Glaxo, a multi-national with an established corporate ethos and sophisticated legal and marketing strategy, do something like this on such a scale?

The facts aren’t out yet, but my guess is that sales hijacked marketing in this case.  If a sales person is given a free reign, he or she will often do what it takes to close the sale — sales, in the absence of a comprehensive brand strategy and the right controls, can easily go off the rails.

The charges show that things were out of balance at Glaxo beyond sales (underpaid Medicaid and didn’t supply safety information on its drug Avandia). 

Bottom line, problems on this scale don’t happen in a vacuum and they aren’t fixed in a vacuum. 

For Glaxo to get back on track, it needs to address this problem on all levels.  Andrew Witty, the company’s CEO, has said the charges belong to “a different era for the company.”  That statement is a start but for Glaxo to find its way, the company will need to clean house and make sure that this era is genuinely behind this brand.

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


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY: There are no short cuts to creating true brand equity.








Leave a Reply

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