John Tantillo (Ph.D. '80)
John Tantillo Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite class was a graduate-level Principles in Marketing class taught by Dr. Dorothy Cohen. Here's the story: I was finishing my course work in psychology and wanted an alternative field of study because, frankly, I didn't think that the one-on-one practice of psychology was right for me. Dr. Cohen was a revelation right from our first class. Basically, her conviction was that marketing is about satisfying needs – not a cynical exercise in selling people things they don't need. That changed everything for me. Suddenly, I saw the world differently. It was one of those pivotal moments in life when I knew this (i.e., marketing) was what I wanted to do.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job was as an assistant professor in the St. John's University School of Business' Marketing Department. I taught graduate and undergraduate marketing courses that emphasized a strategic approach to marketing, but I never strayed too far from the sales essentials. What did I learn? Number one, I learned that the most important thing about teaching was motivating the students to want to learn because, without that, no information is going to actually sink in. Number two, I learned that while I loved teaching, I really wanted to get out into the marketplace and test those marketing theories in the front lines of business. And that is exactly what I ended up doing.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
Branding is my area of expertise. As I said, after leaving academia, I actually took a roundabout path that carried me through politics and corporate work until I founded my own consultancy. It was there that I began to recognize the importance and built-in equity of branding, an area that even now I believe – despite all the coverage and lip service— is still poorly understood.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Embrace the negative option: NEVER GIVE UP on your dreams, so that you can become the brand you are truly meant to be. This means surrounding yourself with people who support you, then planning the work and working the plan. Expect failure and learn from it and never give up. I really mean this. If you look at the people who succeed, never giving up is the one constant with all of them.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What is your favorite part of your job?
There's not a single favorite part – there are many parts: motivating others, problem solving, discovering opportunity where others only see crisis, teaching (I'm still a teacher at heart.), putting marketing theory to the test, using marketing to predict outcomes and, overall, championing the power of marketing and branding.
What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
One of the most gratifying moments happened in the last few years. I made a prediction that General Motors would bounce back after the government rescue. Now, you've got to understand that at the time everyone seemed convinced that GM was finished and told me so on the various TV panels I was on. But I stood by my prediction because it wasn't based on my feelings; it was based on pure branding logic. GM is a company built on its brands and as long as consumers had strong relationships with each of those brands, the company itself would inevitably prosper. You don't win 'em all, but that was a good one.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing to in the future?
My dream would be to finally help get marketing "over the line" and respected as the powerful, analytical, business, and even life tool that it is. To do this, I hope to continue writing and broadcasting those central principles of marketing and branding that I believe can really transform the perception. Carl Sagan managed to infuse incredible excitement into astrophysics – why can't the same thing be done for marketing? If I can somehow convey to many people the revelatory power that Dr. Dorothy Cohen had on me – a skeptical grad student – well, wouldn't that be great!