• 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

Oculus Rift launch, virtual reality

Does anyone remember the movie Lawnmower Man? The year 1992 gave us this little movie gem (ahem…) that showed us a possible view of the future of virtual reality. Before and since, we have seen VR developed in a variety of applications with mixed results. Google even tried its own version, calling it “augmented reality.” But even with this much interest in VR, not a single product has ever really held a promise of something bigger.

That is, until now.

The Oculus Rift launch, which was born from a Kickstarter campaign, has smart marketing and PR behind it, and it’s a pretty big deal. If you don’t know, Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, but differentiates itself from its predecessors in a couple of key ways. It is affordable, wearable and developers are creating content specifically for it. The brand launch should be just as exciting as the buildup, as the Oculus Rift design was unveiled this week.

Get ready to put on this bad boy.
Get ready to put on this bad boy.

The headset, shipping in early 2016, is initially aimed at the hardcore gaming community. But already more than 500 games and apps are either out or are in the process of being developed to support it. As all promising things, the real promise of Oculus Rift is something much greater.

Oculus Rift is not just about gaming, though the possibilities in gaming are enough to get a whole host of other companies into the fray. No, Oculus Rift is really about the dawning of a new mass technology.

Because content providers see such an opportunity, there is a lot excitement about the Oculus Rift, which is why Facebook bought the company for $2 billion and gamers are anxiously waiting for the product to ship. What is so interesting is that there is almost an Apple-esque excitement about its launch even though a single unit has yet to be shipped.

The future of Oculus Rift after the brand launch.

As what Apple did with the iPhone, Oculus Rift has an opportunity to change the way we think of a device. But in order to capitalize on this possibility, it also has to maintain the way it thinks of itself.

Success can bring a lot of things to a company, meaning it can satisfy a company too much and it gets defensive. I think Oculus Rift would be wise to always think of itself as that $2 million Kickstarter project, staying hungry, idealistic, and eyes wide open to what could be.

That is why people are coveting its brand today and it’s the only way it can be successful in the future. There are a lot of companies that are entering VR and it would be a shame for its initial success to be Oculus Rift’s downfall.

Microsoft Surface 3 vs iPad

For the first time in a long while I am intrigued by a piece of technology that doesn’t have an Apple logo.

Sure, I’ve written about the Pebble watch with high praise recently and even proclaimed my desire to own Neil Young’s Hi-Def music player, Pono.

But this bit of lust almost feels like I am cheating on Apple.

That’s because my infatuation is with the new, Microsoft Surface 3.

Could this hurt the iPad?
Could this hurt the iPad?

The iPad hasn’t been revolutionary for a while.

The iPad Air 2 and subsequent iPads seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern. Not really improving drastically from model to model. Thumb recognition is nice and all, but it’s not reason enough to upgrade immediately. Is it for you? What’s been nice about the mediocre iPad upgrades is that I don’t feel tempted to buy a newer iPad. I can hold onto my current model for a while. It’ll do just fine.

This mindset, unfortunately, is problematic for Apple. Since it appears that it’s nearly maxed out with what the iPad can do, less and less people are buying them. Numbers don’t lie.

And so, when I see what appears to be a well-designed hybrid machine in the Surface 3, which also costs just as much as an iPad, there is the promise of a ripple in the market. The Microsoft Surface 3 vs iPad war may not come out completely in Apple’s favor.

The Microsoft Surface 3 meets business needs.

For as long as I can remember, I have wished my iPad would completely fulfill my business needs. A streamlined keyboard (because I can’t standing tapping away on my tablet screen) and a track pad or mouse (all of which the Surface Pro 3 has). I want a plethora of convenient options designed to work seamlessly with my device. Options so good that maybe, I could say goodbye to my laptop.

Instead, when it comes to the iPad, I have to buy all sorts of third-party parts that only partially work well, and worse yet, don’t aesthetically add to the beauty of the device. Why would Apple allow this to happen?

These days, when I look to the Surface 3, I see everything I want in a hybrid tablet, options, sadly, I can only hope the iPad would introduce.

Mayweather Pacquiao a bust

I’m an idiot. I should have known better but I couldn’t help myself in ordering the pay-per-view Mayweather Pacquiao boxing match. It was, as many of you who did the same thing know, a bust.

It wasn’t just because I wanted Pacquiao to win (because I do think Mayweather is a scumbag) but because I wanted to see a championship fight. What we got was a lot of Mayweather evading, using the calculator in his head and responding with light touches to score points. It wasn’t boxing. It was touch football.

My belief system made me do it.
My belief system made me do it.

The thing is, I should have known better. Boxing has become horribly irrelevant ever since boxing went to this pay-per-view model because it sets up expectations when you’re paying nearly $100 to watch.

Gone are the days when boxing was a regular feature on network TV so you knew the fighters, your expectations were akin to checking in on your favorite TV drama and watching the big fights was a communal experience.

Now, even though NBC Sports and other outlets are trying to resurrect the sport with regular broadcasts on a lower level, the pay-per-view model sets up an expectation that can’t be met. The Fight of the Century? Please.

My own precepts made me do a silly thing.

There’s a lesson here that goes far beyond Mayweather’s boxing style. (I was warned ahead of time on that too.) Consumers of all types believe that you get what you pay for, meaning that the lowest cost item in any category is believed to be the worst. While a premium price means you are getting the best quality. It is a precept that most of us share.

While that didn’t turn out to be true in the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, it was believed. That’s why the purse for this fight, when you include the pay-per-view numbers, is expected to top $300 million.

We all tuned in because, with that price point, we believed it would be the Fight of the Century.

I believed. Because I longed for the days when I was coming of age in the 70s and watching Ali, Frazier and Foreman on a regular basis. We’re never going to see that again – no matter what I believe when the next so-called super fight comes around again.

Twitter is finished and done

Twitter is finished: Only a gnat wants it.

Twitter is finished
Twitter is finished. Age has caught up.

OK, so in full disclosure, I tweet on a daily basis (#BrandGenius). But I have to tell you I do it because I think I have to rather than because I want to, or see it as valuable. It is also funny that some of you who read this today will do so because of a tweet. Such is the conflicted world we live in today. But the exception does not nullify the truth. Twitter is finished and is only for those with the attentions span of a gnat.

I am not part of the controversy as to if Twitter is a news medium or a social network.  For me, it is an almost obsolete social network with about half the value of the valueless Googgle+ which is only important because Google cares about it as part of your web sites SEO. (You can read an earlier blog on Twitter here)

As a brand guy, I completely get the importance of clarity and simplicity but even Abraham Lincoln would have trouble saying anything of meaning in 140 characters. (Lincoln would have found Twitter lacking in that he used 1,471 words in his famously brief Gettysburg address.)

What I find in Twitter is a lot of pandering garbage. Vainglorious snippets of self-importance or snarky rebuttals.

Twitter is finished and is aging.

For me, Twitter has already outgrown its value and, in many ways, the more people that use it, the less valuable it becomes. Greater use just means more noise. How much opinionated overload can we bear in the din of noise hitting us from every direction? If you are like me, you don’t find yourself in the information age, you find yourself in the age of noise. I spend most of my time trying to filter out the few bits of information that I find valuable. The rest is all SPAM.

Twitter is finishedTwitter is finished and I now look at it with the same vision I had some years back for Myspace. I remember when it had value for musicians and bands and then became more mainstream before imploding on itself as other social media did what Myspace did but in a better and more efficient way.

I still remember the idea of net years and how time was speeding up and relevancy was becoming more compressed. Nowhere is this more true than with Twitter. Like a supernova, it burst upon the heavens with a big flash. Everyone looked at it with awe and anticipation for what it promised. Now it is just a fading patch of light destined to become a black hole.

If you use Twitter, I have a bit of wisdom to share with you that was passed on to me by a childhood friend. His dad once told him, “a man who walks around with his hands in his pockets has too much time on his hands.” I think that if you have time to engage in 140 character blurbs about anything and everything… well you have too much time on your hands.

Wall Street agrees with me— Twitter is finished and, as a result, Twitter’s value has tanked in recent weeks. I would be interested in what you have to say. Let me know how Twitter has advanced your life, business or cause. But, hey, don’t tweet me at @BrandGenius. Please just comment on my blog. That way, I can assure you I will read it.

Arby’s We have the meats

The fast food industry has unstable in the last few years with major category players posting losses quarter after quarter. Arby’s is bucking the trend and posted a rather nice increase of same-store sales in the first quarter of 2015 of 9.8% system wide.

Arby’s has done a rather nice job of positioning itself within the fast food category because it has its own niche. Arby’s as a product is always been something a little different, traditionally focused on roast beef sandwiches. It’s relatively new positioning summarized by Arby’s We Have the Meats campaign is both true to its core business as well as differentiating in a crowded marketplace.

“We have the meats” is after all the only reason that people go to Arby’s in the first place, to have a hot ham and cheese or piled-high roast beef sandwich. But more than that, this positioning has helped Arby’s redefine what it does internally, including bringing even more “meat centric” items to its menu. Simply put, Arby’s is for those who want the meats.

Just wish the campaign itself was executed better.

Arby’s revenue numbers do not lie. This unique positioning is working, especially as competitors are trying to out-menu each other.

What is interesting to me, however, is that the execution of this position is mediocre at best. Given how unique the position is, I would really like to see advertising messages that are a little more emotional. But the reality is that this positioning is so good and, in a crowded market where the other guys are either saying the same thing or nothing at all, Arby’s is succeeding.

Let’s face it. Even when you consider the mediocre execution of this position, it still goes to show that a position that is both different and better than everything else in the marketplace and stays true to its core business can be successful even in a declining market.

Apple Watch marketing to women

The biggest news in the tech world right now, aside from possibly the Tesla home batteries, is the release of the Apple Watch. Being an Apple guy through and through, any news about the company is intriguing to me.

But you probably knew that already.

I’ve written countless blogs about the Apple brand, as well as several blogs about the Apple Watch. Most recently, I discussed the watchbands that Apple is selling and how the company is, wisely, thinking fashion forward. Yet, I want to take that fashion forward marketing a step further and expose some of the real genius behind the Apple brand.

The Apple Watch marketing targets women too.

The Apple Watch marketing is also targeting women.
The Apple Watch marketing is also targeting women.

Most days when I commute to work, I listen to bits of the TWIT podcast. This week’s TWIT, which stands for This Week in Tech, primarily focused on the host of the show, Leo Laporte, receiving his new Apple Watch and how his guests were still waiting on theirs. Most of the banter, as I expected, centered around Leo not being a huge Apple guy so he was still skeptical about the necessity of the Apple Watch.

Then one brilliant point was made by the female guest, Christina Warren: The Apple Watch is the only smart watch that has been created with women in mind too.

Think about it, what other smart watch company has even considered women when designing watches?

I’ll give you the short answer: none.

Apple puts the “smart” in its smart watches.

Of all the other smart watch companies in existence, aside from maybe Pebble, Apple consciously included designs that would appeal to both sexes and much of the Apple Watch marketing has been targeted to women. Warren said she had already ordered a female-friendly watch with an additional leather strap. Moreover, she commented several times about how excited she was to get her watch.

While all smart watches are still seeking their niche, one thing has become vividly apparent to me. Apple will be the company that finds that niche. Reason being: It has kept all doors open, while its competitors have shut half of theirs already by opting to design bulky, male-centric technology.

Advance Auto Parts commercial

Most brands get it completely wrong when marketing themselves. Oh, they do a great job of portraying the benefits of the product or service they are selling. But they miss the important element of emotional intensity when trying to create a preference. They think purchase decisions are rational. They could not be more wrong.

Advance Auto PartsHere is an example of a brand that gets it mostly right (maybe even completely right). Advance Auto Parts has a campaign running right now that makes me think it actually gets it.

When you are looking to steal market share, all the bells and whistles that your brand claims are important and most marketers communicate those in spades. But they usually miss the great tiebreaker in preference. Highest emotional intensity.

We all buy the things we believe we need and want. Few, excepting compulsive shoppers, buy just for the satisfaction of buying. But preference for like products or offerings comes down to emotion. The best brands find a way to reflect the sense of self that the prospect wears on their sleeves. At the end of the day we all prefer to buy brands that reinforce our own emotional identity.

Advance Auto Parts seems to get it right.

In the Advance Auto parts commercial, the car repairman is portrayed as a hero. A no-nonsense, straight talking and hard working guy who has his priorities straight. He dislikes those feminine (their definition) discount cards and affinity programs that make you carry a membership card or enter a number or address. If Advance Auto Parts is right in this assertion, it is a great campaign. If it is wrong…well, it’s still a good campaign.

In a category that is a desert of emotion, this campaign stands out. It will do more to build its business than any sale or featured product. After all, we all know where to buy the brake pads. That is a no brainer. Now we also know who shops at Advance Auto Parts and that is the dealmaker. It works because it honors the customer. It says he is worthy and smart. Smart enough to realize that there are always sales and deals.

We always conduct projectable market research to understand the underpinnings of those emotional triggers. If Advance Auto Parts has done exactly that then it has just hit a home run. Usually, however, brands try to save cash and rely on instinct and the best guess of the ad agency to figure all this out.

Advance Auto Parts So ,Advance Auto Parts, if you do not have the research to back up the highest emotional intensity of the brand promise, and the needle does not move, don’t blame the campaign. Blame the agency. If it works, stick with it. Sometimes it’s great just to be lucky.

I am thinking that, to the executives at Advance Auto Parts, they see this as just an advertising campaign and not a brand reposition. I say that because the web site reflects none of the emotional intensity or even look and feel of the campaign, for that matter. You would not even know you were navigating to the same brand that was advertised. Too bad. It might have lightening in a bottle.

Comcast Time Warner Cable merger

The news that the Comcast Time Warner Cable merger will not be pursued is good news for consumers. But it’s no reason to celebrate.

Comcast saw how the proposed merger was going to be received by the FCC, so it backed out of the $45 billion merger before the regulatory body could say no.

The Justice Department and public interest groups had rallied against the merger because it would have given the proposed cable company 60% of the broadband business in the US. That would have created a near monopoly and everyone would suffer, from me to you, and to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. It’s consumers who suffer most from mergers.

Viewers will still feel the brunt despite the failed merger.
Viewers will still feel the brunt despite the failed merger.

The newly merged company would have charged higher rates for Internet services and probably would have charged a premium for streaming services to reach you because they take up so much bandwidth.

So, yeah, the news that Comcast is backing out is good news. But it’s not all peaches and cream out there. Comcast and Time Warner Cable rarely compete against one another, so those dangers still exist.

Streaming services should also be on alert.

Cable companies know they are going to be more Internet Service Providers than they are cable TV companies in the future. Another report by MoffetNathanson Research found that Netflix accounts for 6% of all viewing in first quarter 2015, with more than 10 billion hours streamed.

Many estimate that those numbers will continue to rise and, while I suspect those numbers are generally right, Netflix is notoriously protective of its own viewing data. (Meaning that MoffetNathanson did a projection based on consumer surveys.)

What this means is that, while the Comcast Time Warner Cable merger is not happening now (don’t think they won’t re-group with a better strategy down the road), it doesn’t stop them from controlling the Internet to stay afloat. They know they will not be the TV viewing powers that they once were, so they are going to control the medium by which their competitors reach viewers.

So, yes, the failed merger is good news for consumers. But it doesn’t mean that we can now dance in the street.