• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

    Tom also regularly speaks at conferences as a keynote and break-out speaker. To find out more on inviting him to your speaking engagement and view a video of him speaking, click here.

    You can also reach him via email attomd@stealingshare.com.

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Walmart makes a big mistake

Another reason a competitor can beat Walmart

Don’t kid yourself. Words are important. In brand development, they are key because they provide the scaffolding upon which a brand can engage prospects and customers to remember and prefer them.

Walmart.com-Polaris-Search-Engine-Kosmix1The hardest part of brand strategy and positioning is to remain single-minded. The human tendency to complicate the simple and claim more than one position is a challenge under the best of conditions. When you play the game with scared money (a term gamblers use for playing with money you can’t afford to lose) the tendency to drift from a single-minded idea to multiple messages becomes more alluring.


After all, it seems to make sense when you are the market leader to claim as many emotional support points that you can. The problem is that it is the worst thing you can do. After all, if you can’t decide who you are how can you expect a prospect to figure it out? (I guess it must be in the water, I wrote about the same problem with MOEN last week) 

Look at Miller’s example

Probably the most famous example of this duality can be found in Lite Beer from Miller. Miller singlehandedly built the light beer segment and trademarked the best brand name in the category— Lite Beer. But it all went to hell when Miller tried to claim two values. Tastes Great. Less Filling. Enter the competitors. Today, both Bud Light and Coors Light outsell the original “Lite” beer.

It is not just naive marketing  that doomed Lite Beer. It was a much deeper problem, which is why Miller should pay attention to words. Words give us a glimpse at what the brand management believes to be true. For Miller, the problem turned out not just to be a common cold virus, it might just have well been Ebola.

It was a symptom of a bigger issue. A glimpse inside. Miller was a brand that could not decide between two category claims. It refused to make a strategic decision and forgot to salute Picasso when he said, “Omission is a creative art.” The decision to try to own two themes was just the tip of the iceberg that went on to sink the Titanic of Miller brands. Most likely, Miller left the branding to an ad agency. A big mistake when dealing with brand themes. (Read our detailed market study on the retail segment here).

So what is Walmart promising? Save Money. Live Better. Two ideas and two claims. Because Walmart already owns “Save Money,” it should have just been about “Live Better.” It is far more emotional and it extends the personal value of saving money to living better. (Read how to use emotional switching triggers here) 

The fact that Walmert blundered this badly is not in itself fatal. But the thinking that it is OK is. It is one of the first chinks in the armor of the world’s largest retailer. Something or someone is terribly confused. It won’t stop there. It is just the first visible signs of a cancer within the company’s marketing and branding. (Read how to analyze a market here).

(Here is an earlier blog on Walmart vs. Supermarkets)

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