• 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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The Tom Dougherty Blog

Fantasy football has overtaken the NFL

For years I have been waffling on my feelings about fantasy sports, especially fantasy football.

The cynic in me immediately disliked the concept of fantasy anything. For me, fantasy football seems like a frat-guy version of Dungeons and Dragons. Nothing against D&D either, but it appears to be an ode to the imaginary. For anyone other than a kid, I see fantasy as a waste of time for adults.

That’s me though.

Fantasy football
Fantasy football means fans watch the games like this.

But I also think fantasy actually hurts sports. I don’t like that it has changed how most fans watch games. Sure, folks may still have a favorite team but, with fantasy, you’re rooting for singular players, not a team. You may find yourself rooting for a player playing against your favorite team.

This creates a seemingly impossible reality for players to live up to. Take what Seattle’s Jermaine Kearse had to say about it.

“I think it’s starting, kind of, to be more about fantasy football than, like, football. You start to see that. All you hear about is, ‘Oh, this guy got me this amount of points.’ I was talking to a teammate and he made a really good point: It also gives people just reasons to watch games they really wouldn’t watch. But I think it’s all about fantasy football for fans. Or that’s where I think it’s heading.”

Fantasy football makes fans root for players, not teams.

More and more fans are consumed by fantasy football. The rise of Draft Kings and other online fantasy sites has increased. Fantasy football has become a billion-dollar industry.

My children, for example, only know the sport because they play fantasy. My oldest son, bless his heart, doesn’t even know how many players position themselves on offense and defense. But he knows enough to play in three fantasy leagues where he typically finishes in the top three. Go figure. He’ll only watch games involving one of his players and cares only when those players do well.

My assumption is that he is not alone in this habit. In fact, my guess is that he is in the great majority. Fantasy football isn’t going anywhere – and the NFL knows it attracts the average fan, like my son – but something is lost when you approach the game that way.


Apple Sirius XM would be a bad fit

The battle over market share in the automobile industry will be fought over technology, according to a study by Nielsen. With that in mind, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said an Apple Sirius XM acquisition would make sense so Apple can own more space in auto technology.

For the first point, consumers are already expecting a greater level of technology in their cars. Most of us have become accustomed to using Bluetooth to play music and podcasts from our phones through the auto’s stereo system. And GPS is now simply a table stake. It’s what you have to have to even be a car manufacturer.

But the stakes are getting higher because the differences between automobiles are small. They all last longer, get better gas mileage and have similar designs.

Now, though, the new expectation is that all cars will have rear camera mirrors, smartphone-linked media functionality, blind spot detection, surround view cameras and smartphone-navigation interfaces. If they don’t have those things, then you can’t be manufacturing cars.

That doesn’t even take into account the coming of driverless cars. Like most of our devices, we’re expecting our cars to be smart, just like our phones and, for some of us, our homes.

Apple Sirius XM would not fix Apple’s issues.

That’s why Cramer is proposing the Apple Sirius XM acquisition. Apple is reported to be working on a car itself. Even if that doesn’t happen (and I have my doubts), Apple wants to be more important inside the car than it is now. Just like any technology company.

Apple Sirius XM
Apple doesn’t need Sirius XM.

But Apple Sirius XM is a bad fit. While Sirius XM is adding subscribers, it doesn’t fit within Apple’s brand. Apple doesn’t have permission to own Sirius XM. Actually, more accurately, Sirius XM doesn’t fit into Apple’s brand of “Think Different.” Sirius XM is radio and, while that has value, it does not represent the true innovation that has made the Apple brand.

Admittedly, Apple has lost its way a bit in fulfilling its brand promise. The brand that Steve Jobs built set very high expectations that Apple hasn’t met recently. It just keeps trotting out new versions of the products it already has, while purchasing Beats in an attempt to goose Apple Music. What would it need Sirius XM for?

If I were Apple, I’d concentrate on new products, not just acquiring new properties in the hope that they will help. Any new innovation must come from Apple. Because the reason people buy Apple products and stand in line for the first run of them is because of the brand.

If the new product or service does not represent “Think Different,” than Apple shouldn’t do it. And Sirius XM is not different.


Extra Crispy Sunscreen does what for KFC?

A few days ago, KFC announced that it would sell a brief run of Extra Crispy Sunscreen that works like regular sunscreen with the added benefit of smelling like extra crispy fried chicken.

Extra Crispy Sunscreen
Is Extra Crispy Sunscreen mean Yum Brands and KFC have lost their minds?

At first, this just seems like a mindless marketing tactic to build on the current campaign starring George Hamilton. I knew it was a thinly veiled attempt to generate social media activity and get some play in publications. I passed it off as sophomoric and lacking any real ability to gain any sort of preference.

Until I read the press release.

It reads like most other releases on promotional gimmicks, carefully weaving in the details of the gimmick with how it is supposed to relate to the brand. However, as I read the last paragraph, I was dumbfounded. It is a quote from Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer of KFC US. It reads:

“While I’d love to tell you our customers have been asking for this, they haven’t,” Hochman added. “In fact, I’m pretty confident nobody ever asked for this. It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”

Extra Crispy Sunscreen doesn’t help the brand.

I have been a very outspoken critic of how Yum brands have lacked much considered thought in its brands. I’ve been hard on the company because it’s my job to find issues with brands and develop a strategy to fix them.

But now it appears I haven’t been too hard on them at all. Yum and KFC have no idea where they are going from a strategic direction as evidenced by the statement, “…It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”

Make no mistake, out of the box thinking is how I operate, but that thinking has to be tied to an overarching strategy. KFC’s foray into skin protection has no strategy – and the quote proves they know it.

There is nothing about Extra Crispy Sunscreen that ties people to the brand meaning of KFC. Sure it may tie them to the nostalgia of the brand, it does not make consumers more loyal or apt to try KFC for a meal. It generated some buzz, but it’s buzz about the sunscreen, not KFC’s brand.

If I were an investor, I would be worried about what was going on in that C-suite. In quick service, activity without accomplishment is costly, especially for brands that are already struggling.


The Dish Tribune war only affects Dish

If you are a Dish subscriber, you are well aware of the Dish Tribune Media dispute, with Tribune owning 42 local stations and WGN America. All Tribune Media stations went dark on Dish on June 12th.

This is bad for both brands, but terrible for Dish.

Dish Tribune
The Dish Tribune dispute puts the onus on Dish, not Tribune.

At issue is the price Dish is willing to pay Tribune to air its stations. Depending on which side you are on in the Dish Tribune war, Dish claims that Tribune wants more than its worth and Tribune claims that Dish is not negotiating in good faith because Dish is not willing to pay the same that other cable and satellite providers are paying.

The beliefs in the Dish Tribune dispute.

If you have read anything at all on our site, you know that what is actually true takes a back seat to what is believed. From a consumer’s perspective, subscribers of Dish believe they are the ones being punished and it’s Dish, not Tribune Media, that doing the harm. Needless to say, Dish customers are complaining to whoever is listening. If you believe Tribune, nearly 300,000 subscribers left the satellite provider in the second quarter alone.

From a business perspective, I understand that Dish wants to get Tribune as cheaply as possible. (It also doesn’t help Dish that it’s behind DirecTV and some cable providers in subscribers, meaning it doesn’t have the cash others do.) I also understand that Tribune wants to get paid at the same rate it does from the rest of the TV providers.

As a customer, therefore, I get angry at the company I am paying each month to bring me the content it promised to deliver. I think most consumers believe they are paying too much for the television programming already, which is one of the reasons so many people are cutting the cord.

What does Dish accomplish by telling its customers that the Dish Tribune dispute is the fault of the content provider? Does it expect its subscribers to stand up in support?

Dish has a serious brand problem. Its promise to deliver content has failed. The belief is that Dish is wrong and that Tribune is being reasonable.

Since a lot of Tribune Media stations air NFL football, subscribers will be forced to watch the games elsewhere when the season beings in a few weeks. At that point, it will be too late for Dish.


Don’t have time to read? Try Audible.

I don’t mean for this to sound like an advertisement. But I’ll tell ya, this might sound pretty close. I suppose when you are in love with something, you want to let it be known. It’s a pleasure to share it with everyone else.

My latest pleasure is Audible.

Audible
Audible is a way to devour books if reading time is limited.

You see, I live a really busy life. In that hubbub, I’ve lost time indulging in my favorite pastime of all — reading books. As a young guy, you would never find me without a copy of something by my side. But as life progressed and my table has become more and more full, the chance for those relaxing moments happens less often.

But since I’ve been using Audible, I’ve listened to six books in two months. I just re-read Dune, listened to John Krakauer’s Missoula and I have intentions on finally listening to The Alchemist.

Audible (now owned by Amazon) is a brand that fulfills a unique need that few others have. Without much competition, save for OverDrive (a public library-based audiobook and eBook site), Audible has a need-based position locked up. (In addition, most of the audiobooks on iTunes are from Audible.)

Audible is unique, need-fulfilling brand. 

The great French general Napoleon based many of his strategies on the beliefs of human tendencies. To paraphrase within the context of branding, with careful planning and insight, you may in fact find an ally and advantage in the market leader. Brand messaging is often overlooked. Napoleon taught us that our advantage often lies in an understanding of human nature.

Audible understands human beings like me by aligning itself with a belief that learning is still important – even if we don’t have time for it. May I add, it helps that most of the books are read by actors too. (Others are sometimes read by the authors themselves.) That takes the already high level of enjoyment up a few more notches.

But enough of my yapping. I need to get back to listening.


The Ryan Lochte and Rio brands clash

Not to take it too lightly or too seriously, but the Ryan Lochte incident in Rio is interesting to me because it’s a war of two, highly different brands.

On one hand, you have Lochte, an Olympic swimming champion most known for partying with Prince Harry in Las Vegas and general knucklehead behavior.

Lochte
The brand of frat behavior.

On the other, you have Rio, known for its spectacular sights on the beach and street crime in the streets.

When Lochte claimed he was mugged, there were two reactions, both coming from a different brand perspective. With Lochte, knowing his general doofiness, there was some initial suspicion that maybe he’s not telling the whole truth or incapable of lying. As Greg A. Bedard of Sports Illustrated tweeted at the time, “It’s Lochte. We’re amazed he can dress himself. Everything else is gravy.”

The other reaction was an outrage from Brazilians; angry that frat boy behavior – demolishing parts of a gas station bathroom instead of being mugged – would besmirch the efforts of Brazil to make the Summer Olympics a safe place.

Both reactions were born from emotion.

What the Lochte and Rio brands mean.

Emotion is where brand lives. Companies often believe that rational arguments are the way to steal market share, but they are only supporting points for the emotional reason for choice. We don’t like to think that we choose based on emotion, but we do. We just don’t always realize it. It takes hard brand work to dig deep enough to find those emotional triggers that make brands preferred.

Think of it this way. The rational approach to the Ryan Lochte incident was to say, “He was mugged.” Then when new information came out, “Video shows he didn’t. He lied. End of story.”

Instead, emotions are swirling. Some may forgive Lochte because we know, as Bedard said, he can barely dress himself and he apologized (sorta). Others are angry that a lie hid a sinking suspicion that Lochte thought his tale would be believed because of the City of God brand of Rio.

Either way – and you can believe both – the reactions prove that emotion always wins the day.


Losing strategies from AT&T, Target

You know a brand is failing when it gets desperate to find new customers and keep its current ones, often by reducing prices. It’s the last gasp of brands in markets where brand meaning is ineffective and often similar across the board.

That’s what has happened for both cell phone carriers and retailers. Two cases in point: AT&T and Target.

AT&T
AT&T is in defense mode…

AT&T is doing away with overage fees for data plans, instead reducing the speed of data customers receive if they go over their limit. AT&T is hoping customers will opt to buy bigger data plans or simply be satisfied that they are not getting unexpected fees.

AT&T is following in the footsteps of both Verizon and Sprint, who have similar processes. (Although Verizon actually charges for what it calls its Safety Mode.) This is a defense tactic. And once you are in defense mode, your brand message isn’t working.

Target isn’t doing any better, and maybe worse.

Then there is Target. CEO Brian Cornell told investors that it will double down on the second half of its brand promise: The Pay Less section of “Expect More, Pay Less.”

Target
…and so is Target.

Great. That means Target, which saw a dip in sales of 1.1% last quarter, will reduce prices (and, therefore, margins) to compete with Walmart, which already owns the “Save Money, Live Better” space in retail.

One thing retailers like Target have not learned is that, if you copy the market leader, customers will default to that market leader because market leadership becomes the only reason to choose.

You see that strategy all the time in many markets. Someone takes market leadership with a unique claim and everyone in the industry follows suit, thinking it’s a winning strategy for them as well.

But that’s not how it works. To steal market share, especially if you are not the market leader, you need to be different and better than the market leader. You have to present yourself as a true choice.

AT&T could hold onto its customers with a better brand message than “Mobilizing Your World” because that’s just a definition of its category. If it had something more meaningful, then reducing data speeds to eliminate overage fees wouldn’t need to happen. It would already have true preference.

Same with Target. Give customers a reason to prefer you, not just put your thumb in the hole of a collapsing dam.


Macy’s should have seen this coming

We have written a number of times about Macy’s failing brand. Most recently we wrote about it in July and also in May.

Whenever we have written about Macy’s, the theme has always been the same. It needs to change. Macy’s problems are not unique. The retailers is just one of the most glaring examples of how badly retail in general fails to predict and adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their customers.

Macy's
The problems at Macy’s have been there for years.

Now, Macy’s is closing 100 of its namesake stores sometime in early 2017. This roughly accounts for 15% of its total remaining stores. If you recall, there once was a retailer called Circuit City that employed the same strategy, figuring it was better to just close stores rather than change. We all know how that turned out.

While Macy’s has brand equity and heritage that Circuit City lacked, this is still a major problem for Macy’s, the malls its stores anchor and the retail industry in general.

Macy’s and other retailers have failed to act.

Macy’s claims that closing stores will allow it to improve overall business and help it to better perform in an omni-channel environment – specifically online. Macy’s isn’t the first one to make this claim, but online isn’t the problem. Whatever its brand means is the problem.

The blame retailers place on companies like Amazon is simply an excuse for poor management and a failure to act. Amazon has been in existence for 22 years and retailers couldn’t see what was on the horizon?

Amazon has given consumers a reason to care about Amazon. As difficult as it for retailers to grasp, it’s not all about price. Amazon has consistently tweaked its services to better meet the needs of the changing customer. Retailers, on the other hand, have historically failed in even giving consumers a reason to care about their brands, instead believing their troubles are all about bargain shopping online.

As I think about retailers like Macy’s, JC Penney’s and Sears (just to name a few), I struggle to understand who they believe their target audiences are. Not knowing who the brand is for is quite troubling.

But at least I know who it’s not for.

I don’t believe all is lost for brick and mortar retailers. They still have an opportunity to make their brands important to the consumer again. But I do believe they need to stop blaming their legacy of inaction and poor vision on something that has been brewing for nearly a quarter of a century. Online isn’t going away and we all knew that the moment when we first saw it.

Everyone but the retailers themselves, apparently.