The Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of the week: Apple and Nuclear Power

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:  Apple 

Loser:  The Nuclear Power Industry                                     



I have to admit that over the past few months I’ve been getting a little worried about Apple, a company that is perhaps one of the best brand creators the world has ever known.




Because Apple looked like it might just be falling victim to its old vices: arrogance and product exclusivity.


Apple in its first heyday blew its market lead by refusing to license its technology and open up to a larger market.  As a result PC clones took over and so did Microsoft which rode that global wave.


In its second heyday, Apple managed to keep competitors at bay largely by doing an even better job of listening to its customers and giving them what they wanted. 

But lately with the reluctance to embrace Flash video and the antenna debacle, I saw marketing trends that could spell doom.


My concern only grew as the tablet market started to bloom and competitors came out of the woodwork to eat Apple’s lunch.  Low-priced knock offs had damaged Apple the first time around and, folks, sometimes history really does repeat itself.


But with the release of the I-Pad 2, I think that Apple might just have shown that it has learned its lesson. 


Fact is, not only have they introduced a slimmer device with more features and even more appeal, they’ve done it for less than their competitors.  That’s right, they’ve actually hit a lower price point.


You don’t have to say any more than this, do you?  Higher quality than your rivals and features that show you’re listening and a cheaper price.


Bottom line, no need to worry about Apple for now.


One other note on Apple.  Apple might seem like an exception to the “people buy brands not companies” rule, but take a closer look and you realize it’s not.


When people identify products by the company moniker and consider themselves Apple users what they’re really saying is that as a result of such a long track record of exceptional products,  Apple, the company, has earned powerful respect off the back of its superb brands.


Apple isn’t about the game of corporate identity for the sake of corporate identity.  It is about its individual brands first.

A recent Chrysler commercial caught the idea of the uselessness of corporate advertising perfectly.  Basically, the spot was a love letter to the company and Detroit.  How is this supposed to sell cars?

To quote an off-colorful observation of a mentor of mine: “Corporate advertising is like peeing in your pants on a cold winter’s day.  It makes you feel warm at first, but just freezes you in end.”

Apple just doesn’t do this folks.  It reserves its biggest fanfare for product launches.


Almost since the splitting of the atom, the nuclear power industry has been struggling with its brand image.


Three-Mile Island.  Shoreham.  Chernobyl. 


Fact is, mention nuclear power and in most people’s minds disaster, not safe, clean and efficient energy, is what springs to mind. 


Now with the catastrophe in Japan, the so-called renaissance in nuclear power in the United States is probably going to take a big step backward despite what President Obama and other pro-nuclear politicians are saying now.


Folks, nuclear power isn’t an easy brand to market, but there’s no reason that it needs to be in such bad shape.


For decades the U.S. Navy has depended on warships powered by their own nuclear reactors without any significant incident. France gets more than 60% of its power from nuclear plants.  And for all of the disaster fears, the U.S. has never really had one.  Nearly all of the radiation in The Three Mile Island accident stayed sealed inside the reactor vessel which itself was inside a containment building.


The airline industry suffers terrible disasters but has managed to emphasize the safety of air travel over the gruesome images of crashes.  Cars kill tens of thousands of people a year. 


In the energy industry, it’s estimated that coal-burning causes 10,000 deaths each year.  For the nuclear industry to be as dangerous, there would probably have to be as many as 25 meltdowns annually.


Bottom line, despite the tragedy unfolding in Japan, nuclear power really isn’t all that dangerous.


So why the terrible brand perception? 


For one, in both the auto and airline industries there has been robust marketing that has led to the improvement of safety standards and the promotion of these improvements to the public.  People see how airbags work.  They learn about crumple zones in cars and anti-lock braking.  They hear about how safe air travel is all the time.


Not so with the nuclear power industry.  But just because a nuclear power plant is complex is no excuse not to promote how these plants work and why they are safe.  Unfortunately, for nuclear power the only time the public gets a crash course is when something goes wrong –and then it’s negative.


It’s hard to say what will improve the perception of the nuclear power brand.  My guess is that there needs to be a widespread effort to emphasize the benefits of nuclear power, especially the long-term benefits in people’s pocket-books from electricity savings.  The track record of safety is there and its superiority over other energy sources.  It’s the industry that needs to get its brand talked about in good times –not just bad.

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

Focus on your brands and your company will take care of itself.

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