• 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

The Super Bowl for the “super” brands

I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, but I wanted to start this year’s Stealing Share Super Bowl conversation today. As I look at the list of advertisers this year, it is a familiar one with Budweiser, BMW, Coke, Doritos, McDonalds, and T-Mobile on the list, just to name a few. The cost for a single ad is up about a half million dollars over last year to $4.5 million.

I doubt advertisers could ever show a measurable ROI. But for this expense, agencies will do their best to show raw impressions, social media buzz and reach while using some alien technology to create a number that makes everyone high-five and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

But I ask you, “Who really cares?”

We don't always watch the Super Bowl just for the game itself.
We don’t always watch the Super Bowl just for the game itself.

InBev has purchased at least seven spots, which seems a little excessive. If it had purchased five, would fewer people drink Bud Light? What if it didn’t purchase any? Couldn’t the $30 million it spent have been used for something more persuasive?

And that is the thing. It is really not about persuasion. Consumers will forget most of the ads before they stumble to the TV to turn it off. Loctite, which makes glues, is spending its normal annual ad budget on one ad. Do you buy super glue often enough that you will remember one ad in a four-hour game filled with ads? BMW, Kia, Lexus, Nissan, Mercedes, and Toyota all have purchased ads. Will anyone remember which car company did which ad?

So to the advertising agencies, the network and the NFL, I say congratulations on selling that ad space. To the consumers, enjoy the entertainment. To the brands, I know it makes you feel good to see your ads on the Super Bowl telecast. But if you are trying to persuade consumers with this ad spend, you might as well just flush your money down a different kind of bowl.


Lance Armstrong finally admits the truth about the NFL

So when asked, if he had to do it all over again, Lance Armstrong admitted that he would have doped all over again. This, of course, was in the context of an era of doping.

So what does this all have to do with the NFL? Oddly enough, they are both quite linked because both Lance Armstrong and the NFL are simply saying, in the words of Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Who would have thought that this revered coach’s words would become such a sad commentary on the nature of sports?

Lance is just letting us all know that if, in an era of doing and cheating, he had to do it all over again that he would have doped and cheated. You see, cheaters seem to pay no price in sports and what Lance is really saying is that his cheating brought him all the fame and privilege of the entitled and those gains were worth the price of sacrificing his own integrity. For the hapless fan, there is really no way to vote and be counted on the continued hubris of Armstrong. His money is already in the bank.

There's only one way to vote against the NFL. Don't watch.
There’s only one way to vote against the NFL. Don’t watch.

The NFL is another story. Everyone here in the office is angry with me because I tell everyone that nothing will happen as a result of the Patriot’s cheating in Deflategate. My coworkers protest that “lots of changes will take place.”

Ridiculous. You see, you still have the right to voice your opinion on the NFL and its total disregard for human decency. You can stop watching the games (like the upcoming, soiled Super Bowl). You have within your power to remove the possibility of the NFL being akin to the gloating Armstrong (who plays contrition as he goes to the bank).

We have learned a few things about the NFL. It is not a sport, it is a religion. There are no NFL fans, just NFL adherents. What the adherents are willing to forgive the league of is a long list. Forgiving the torture of animals. Turning a blind eye to a guy who cold-cocks his wife in an elevator. Ignoring the permanent brain damage caused by just playing the game. Widespread steroid use (Lance would be proud). Keeping a commissioner in his high paying job precisely because he puts financial gains ahead of principle. Moving teams from one city to the next in the dead of night. Refusing to acknowledge responsibility for the dementia that the game causes and cheating to win at any cost.

So don’t complain about winning being the only thing when you ask no pound of flesh for the grievance. The NFL can do anything and get away with it because it is a super brand. It knows that the only thing is money and no one will make them pay. You know what? Lance Armstrong might have been a great football player had he taken a slightly different direction.


Do we really need Vudu Spark?

I’m a bit baffled with Walmart.

It seems like every major tech company in the world is releasing some kind of steaming television device. This begs the question, did Walmart need enter the foray as well?

We have the Roku Streaming Stick, the Amazon Fire Stick, and the Google Chromecast, not to mention Apple TV and all the smart TVs that stream on their own. Surely, this is enough for us to choose from.

Seems that the folks at Walmart didn’t think so.

Does anyone really need this?
Does anyone really need this?

Enter the $25 Vudu Spark, (even the name feels like a rip from the competition, doesn’t it?) brought to you by Walmart.

Yup, its cheap. But it’s also a piece of junk, and I hope people don’t buy it. Unlike the competition, which offers options like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO as streaming options, the Vudu Spark comes loaded with one singular app: Vudu.

How useless and boring.

The Vudu app kind of follows the iTunes movie store model whereby users can rent videos and TV episodes. So, you always have to pay.

This is not what people want. Nope, we want a lot of spectacular options for a small monthly fee.

Think about the decline of purchased music due to streaming services like Spotify. Why should we think TV and video are any different? Really, we shouldn’t, because they’re not.

So, I wonder what the point was of Walmart making this investment. It has the money to take a gamble, but why play the game when you know you have a losing hand?


Goodbye, SkyMall. You were loved.

Oh, SkyMall, how will I miss you? I’ve passed many hours with you on an airplane, especially during those times when the airline lets us sit on the tarmac for hours. (How kind of them.)

How I’ve longed for the Garden Yeti and the various electronic gizmos that could populate my home.

You know, I almost bought this once.
You know, I almost bought this once.

Your declaration of bankruptcy means I’m going to have to live without you. I’ll have to quit you.

The news about SkyMall’s bankruptcy doesn’t come as that much of a surprise. The only surprise was that it lasted as long as it did.

As much as I coveted many of the items in it, I never bought one single thing from it. The magazine was purely entertainment for me as I flipped through the pages to see what new, crazy thing SkyMall has come up with.

The entertainment allure started waning once we could play/read/watch on our phones and tablets on the plane. There especially became no reason to look at it when we no longer had to shut down our electronic devices. SkyMall just sat there.

Of course, SkyMall couldn’t make any money by just being about entertainment. It had to prompt people to actually buy something from its collection. On that note, it always had a problem. The products in the magazine are basically impulse buys, and it is hard to buy when you’re in an airplane.

SkyMall knew this, which is why it recently tried to tell readers that they could take the magazine with them and the airline would replace it. But it probably had a better chance of prompting sales by being on QVC or something than having passengers actually take it home and buy something. Even that became harder with the influx of the Internet.

Despite all that, I lament the loss of SkyMall. I have fond memories of chuckling over the products with colleagues who were traveling with me.

Goodbye, SkyMall. You may not have been a financial success but you were truly loved by this frequent traveler.


The State of CNN

I tuned into Tuesday’s President’s State of the Union Address and found myself totally disappointed. Not in the speech itself, that value judgment depends completely on your political bent, but on the coverage.

For whatever reason, I tuned to CNN. I just wanted to witness the speech and then flip the TV off. This speech is as close the US gets to royal pageantry. And I enjoy seeing the Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs and legislators in one room. I love it when the Sargent of Arms announces the President’s arrival. I don’t care if his name is Bush, Clinton, Reagan or Obama, it gives me a bit of a thrill.

I'm done listening to these blowhards.
I’m done listening to these blowhards.

However, I had to sit through a rehash of the exact words the President was going to speak…over and over again. And this rehash was before the speech. Good God, someone should do their homework and not take the easy way out. I guess I expected more from Wolf Blitzer.

The President had barely started his proclamations when CNN had a screen violator asking us all to vote— in real time on the President’s speech. That was it. I had to find a channel that was not part of the political spin that had sickened me in the past decade or so. I am not even sure where I re-tuned but it might have been C-Span or PBS. All I knew was that I wanted no commentary and no asinine opinions. I just wanted to hear it and see it for myself.

CNN had already ruined a good deal of the speech because it pre-told me several times that President Obama was going to pronounce that the worst of times was officially behind us and that “the State of the Union was strong.”

Why am I so offended by these live polls? Because I am a researcher as well as a brand strategist and I have a deep background in research. This is NOT research (read about real research here). This is a self-selecting sample that is in no way representative of the actual responses. What you end up with looks a lot like what spin doctors would produce. It is an inverse bell curve, overly sampled by people at the extremes. Only those who love it or hate it responds. This is why we never build brand messages on self-selecting methodologies or focus groups. It is just process gone wild.

So, CNN, MSNBC, FOX and the other entertainment channels that pretend to be news outlets— I’m done with you. The state of affairs that our nation finds itself in, one of severe disagreement and the inability to govern, might be in many ways a result of the so-called dialog incited by these media giants. Funny how much we mimic those news broadcasts.

I’ve got an idea, why don’t we make the next State of the Union address a reality show? We could comment on the suit selection and have it hosted by Ryan Seacrest.


The NFL brand damage continues: Deflategate

Boy, what a year for the NFL.

In case you have not heard, in the AFC Championship Game, the New England Patriots used 11 under-inflated balls throughout the course of their 45-7 blow out win over the Indianapolis Colts. An under-inflated ball allows the players to grip it easier, making it easier to throw and catch. In a sloppy, rainy game (which this was), this could be a huge advantage.

That grip seems pretty good.
That grip seems pretty good.

It can be debated how much of an advantage Deflategate may give a team, but the damage is nonetheless done. When you consider how many other issues the NFL has had this year, this is just another example of a league losing control of its brand.

Let’s be clear, the Patriots certainly cheated. But the worst part is that they got away with it. If the NFL really cared about its beloved shield, it would make sure there would be no possible way this could happen. For example, rather than have the teams each provide 12 balls, have the NFL provide all of the balls and not let either team see them or touch them until kickoff. Why would the NFL give a team an opportunity for an unfair advantage if it really cared?

(As an aside, as of 9:30am eastern, NFL.com has no mention of this situation anywhere on its site.)

As I have said before, the NFL seems to only care about something when it is forced to care about something. Good brands look for areas of weakness and fix them. Bad brands wait for areas of weakness to find them.


Pebble Steel made me a believer in wearable technology

What’s the deal with smart watches?

Up until now, I didn’t get it. I thought the brains behind the world’s biggest tech companies were out of ideas.

As I am curious to find answers to my questions, I wanted to find a reason to believe in smart watches.

Digging around and reading reviews and articles about different watches, I soon found myself enamored with one: Pebble Steel.

I appreciate the Pebble company. It began with a groundbreaking Kickstarter campaign (raking in over 10 million dollars). It’s not a powerhouse brand like Apple, Samsung or Motorola, which made it shine all the more for me.

The right message for the right market.
The right message for the right market.

In fact, Pebble feels magically homespun to me in the way Apple’s birth does. I like that it was rooted with a visionary who sampled a concept he believed in until it was perfected.  Before Pebble became too big, I wanted to be a part of its history.

I had to own one. And now I do.

Pebble Steel, the second incarnation of the company’s smart watch, is a true joy. Its elegant interface makes my connectivity to the world a breeze. It has pleasantly useful notification and fitness apps too. I couldn’t be happier. Its theme of “Pebble. Uncomplicated.” hits right tone and message. Most of us see technology as too complex, when we really yearn for simplicity. (Simplicity is part of what has made Apple such a brand giant.)

Did I find the response to my smart watch skepticism? I think so.

What did I learn? I want to be one of those people that is part of a revolution before it becomes a revolution.

I can do that with Pebble.


Destination marketing: Good isn’t enough

Last week I wrote about the potential brand benefits of Cuba as a travel destination, with its brand equity of the pre-Castro years making it forbidden fruit for new US travelers.

In that post, I mentioned that the destination and tourism category is overfilled with similar messaging, meaning there are few real destinations in the world that actually own something.

Some asked me for an example of a destination struggling with coming up with that differentiation. So I bring you, Jackson Hole.

You can see what the marketers of Jackson Hole are trying to do here. They are trying to own “big” in nature terms. That humans are in awe of the vastness surrounding Jackson Hole.

The problem is that the real takeaway (remember, viewers see ads in a snapshot, not as a deep examination) is that Jackson Hole is just like Vail, Aspen or any other ski resort. There is an attempt at an emotional cue, and it’s better than most, but I don’t think that’s what prospective visitors are going to take away from it.

Its theme of “There’s More to Winter” isn’t bad, but Jackson Hole has not linked it to the idea of vastness. It’s still about all the things you can do in winter. It’s still about product benefits, in the terms of the destination and tourism industry.

I point out Jackson Hole not to pick on it. I point it out because it’s systematic of the lack of courage from destination marketers. They don’t go far enough, dipping a toe into the lake of emotion without going all the way.

I’m not suggesting Jackson Hole (and others) go weepy. What I am saying is that the theme should match up with the message. I supposed you could make an intellectual argument that the vastness of Jackson Hole gives you something more to look forward to in winter, but instinctively, it’s still about skiing and other winter sports. That there’s more to do in Jackson Hole in the winter than anywhere else.

Nice try, Jackson Hole. But, like your competitors, you can do better. Because the problem with destination marketing isn’t bad marketing. It’s the only good.