• 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

Brexit succession means nobody wins

The unthinkable happened with Brexit

Brexit is racismBrexit was a bloodless civil war. We have come along way (or have we?). Time was an obscure Archduke could be assassinated in Bosnia and the whole world would be dragged into a global war later called the First World War in history books.

In 1861, the United States of America began a bloody struggle to decide the legality of succession. We called that fight the Civil War and it took four blood soaked years and millions of lives to settle. In the end, the decision was made that no state was sovereign enough to resign its place in the United States.

Shelby Foote famously said that, before the Civil War, people said the United States “Is” and after the Civil War they said The United States “Are”.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom VOTED to leave the European Union. In our Twitter world, the vote was shortened to Brexit. It is an example of how blind nationalism can cloud judgment and how people will emotionally vote for things that in the long term are not in their own best interest. I wonder if Scotland wishes it had another shot at their historic vote to remain in the United Kingdom? Scotexit never became a word.

Brexit means?

Brexit winsI think a great deal of world stability will be shaken by this vote. I can see further troubles stirring in Northern Ireland again. I believe the uncertainty in the world’s monetary systems will shake rattle and roll the financial markets for a while as the global community tries to discount this tsunami of change. Everything we have come to rely on in this global world has been challenged.

But the reason I write this is because NO ONE doubts the RIGHT of the UK to secede (not to be confused in any way with succeed).

In the US, we thought the illegality of succession was decided and written in blood 150 years ago. Americans believe we have a corner on the market when it comes to freedom and liberty. We are wrong.

Freedom of self-determination was just exercised in Europe to an extent we can’t even fathom in the US. Had this RIGHT been self evident, I would be penning this blog in the Confederate States of America because I live in North Carolina—a state that lost 1 out of every 4 casualties at Gettysburg  during the Civil War.

To me, it does not matter if you think the American Civil War was fought over state’s rights or slavery. The impetus for the temporary dissolution of the United States in the late 1800’s was due to a racist issue.

I think the same is true for Brexit.

Racist underpinnings

I don’t believe it was so much an economic issue as it was over a war on immigration. The UK did not want Europe dictating immigration policy. They just don’t want THEM settling in the UK any more.  Think about it, the UK never surrendered their currency to the Euro. The Pound  Sterling remained.

BrexitSo much for economics driving succession.

I find Brexit a sad move. Not for all the obvious reason of a common market and ease of travel. I find it sad that bigotry wins anywhere and under any circumstances.

You can have your DNA tested for just a couple of dollars (or Euros or pounds) these days. It points to your REAL ancestry.

Funny, the differences are very small. We all began in Africa and are very much the same. Only the adopted and insignificant drapery of religious preference and favorite cuisine separates us all one from another.

Bing It and Uncle Buck

Bing it. I mean Google it.

Go ahead and Bing it. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly the phrase used in the ABC Television Series Uncle Buck. Pretty obvious that Microsoft paid heavily for the endorsement. So heavily that its product placement was imbedded in the script and not just on some cereal box sitting on a kitchen table.

Uncle buck. Bing it
The TV ripoff based on the John Candy classic

The idea of Googling something has become part of our everyday vernacular. We say it even if we use Bing as our search engine. It’s an expression based upon usage that arose form preference but means less than it did years ago when search engines were in a war for our loyalty and usage.

You know how I feel about Google— that faceless and omnipresent tyrant of what we all see on the internet. No one would like to see BING and the idea of Bing succeed more than me. But I am pretty certain that ship has already sailed. Google won and we all lost.

My issue is not with Microsoft trying to promote its Bing search engine. It has both the right and obligation to do so. My issue is with the way in which it is grasping at straws.

Bing it does not roll off the tongue

It feels so unnatural to say “I’ll Bing it” that is screams of being contrived and smells very badly of being anything but authentic. Underdogs (imagine that I am actually calling Microsoft an underdog) need to be jarring to get their message and meaning across. We tell all of our clients that the price of clarity is the risk of offense but blatant marketing is not just counter productive as it is destructive.

No one watching the show and hearing the words. (By the way this is not the first time Microsoft has placed its Bing product in media using this convention. Bing was also featured prominently in Amazing Spider-Man.) It literally SCREAMS Madison Avenue and, as a result, feels contrived and unimportant.

All we feel when hearing the words is being offended that anyone would think we are so stupid as to believe the idea. This self-definition is the heart of brand equity and is exactly what Bing wants to avoid… unimportance.

Bing it on Uncle Buck
The TV rehash of the John Candy Classic

Bing needs to relaunch its brand and revisit its algorithms. It needs to design real differences between itself and Google in a way that meets our needs in a superior manner. This requires more than just an interface. It needs to think about how Google is failing us (like bringing paid URLs to the top of the search) and provide content legitimately based upon our search criteria.

Google can’t do this because it has built a model on this revenue. Bing is just a pimple on Microsoft’s butt and it could more than match its current revenue through acquisition of customers and selling ads on the page rather than purchased and favored search results pretending to be to be important.

Read more on Google, Bing and search engines below:

Bing in 2013

Google as a monopoly

My fickle relationship with Google

KFC goes from creepy to forgettable

I wrote some time ago that the new direction KFC took with its impersonations of Colonel Sanders was creepy. (Even Darrell Hammond, who played the first iteration of the fake Colonel Sanders, is flummoxed.) While the ads continue to be more of a joke than using any kind of brand equity, its new ad bothers me more than the others.

First, the ad fails to convince me that I should drop everything I am doing and run to KFC. The ad fails to convince me that KFC employees are somehow better trained or will go the extra mile in their quest to serve the best fried chicken.

The KFC ad was filmed deliberately but mistakes still happen.

The ad is plain silly but a note of caution here. When filming an ad (or a TV show or a movie), everything is deliberate. If you’ve ever been on a set, you see that each set piece, camera movement, piece of dialogue and action is planned out in advance.

In this ad, about 20 seconds in, KFC and its ad agency, the vaulted Weiden+Kennedy, have placed a microwave in the upper right corner.

The new KFC ad is silly, forgettable and has a small misjudgment.

The song is about how the KFC cooks make their chicken the hard way, breaded by hand with the “Colonel quality guarantee.” And then there is this ridiculous scene of a cook running uphill on a treadmill trying to grab a bucket of chicken with a microwave in the background. What about that conveys the idea of the hard way or freshness, as the ad purports? It was not placed there by accident, so what’s the point?

To be honest, I’m not sure many viewers will even notice the oven because the ad itself is forgettable. I also know that microwaves are used all the time but to have one so clearly in view in a commercial about the freshness and quality of food is a miscalculation.

Powerful brands have to care about everything. Nike, Widen+Kennedy’s most famous client, would have never let the agency get away with this. And neither should have KFC.

My fickle relationship with Google

Consider this — certain brand preferences are so rooted in us that it feels natural as breathing when we use one of these rooted products.

When I buy peanut butter, it’s always going to be Jif. When I buy something online, my go to is Amazon. When I buy spices, they will be McCormick.

And when I search online, I use Google.

Why is Google right for searching but not for being in your home?

Thing is, I recently wrote a blog blasting Google Home. For those that don’t know, the Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo: a stand alone, voice-activated speaker. It will play music you request, complete tasks rooted in its interface (like turning off your lights), and answer any trivial question you wish to ask it.

I remain steadfast in my claims about Google Home. I still don’t trust the tech giant because I feel like it is always collecting and storing information on me and housing it in its servers.

Surely, I am not paranoid to suggest that. Right?

But then my mind comes back to this:

Google is unrivaled when it comes to search engines. 

Admit it. It’s Google and everyone else.

When I find someone using Bing or Yahoo!, I feel pity for them. Don’t you feel the same? I wouldn’t be surprised if these noobs still had a Hotmail account and frequented AOL from a dial-up modem.

So then, if I don’t trust the intentions of the market leader, why the heck is it my preferred default search engine?


It always has the answers I need. It provides me the most relatable search options without the clutter. What’s more, it’s smart.

Therefore, being smart means using the Google search engine as I need it. It also means recognizing its power and not inviting it into my home imbedded in a speaker that’s always on. That’s not smart.

How LeBron went from villain to hero

How did LeBron James go from villain to hero? Maybe those are stark definitions, but I don’t sense the same nationwide satisfaction with the NBA championships won by LeBron with Miami as the one he claimed with Cleveland last night.

There’s a single reason why he is being more celebrated for this championship than any other: Because this one, from a brand message standpoint, was not about himself. It was about Cleveland.

This one feels better because it wasn’t about LeBron. It was about Cleveland.

It is easy to be cynical about it because, of course, LeBron wanted another championship ring. Any competitor would – and judging by the extreme effort he showed in this series, he was supremely motivated.

We’ve all but forgotten how much many of us roared when Dallas upset Miami in LeBron’s first season there. He was coming off The Decision, a stunningly misguided TV event that left Cleveland fans burning his jerseys in the streets. That was because it was seen as a selfish move by a superstar who left his hometown to play with another superstar, Dwayne Wade. Losing to the Mavs in the Finals felt like karma biting him in the ass.

The next two seasons saw Miami win NBA titles and it was all but assured that James was seen as a selfish superstar. Only those in Miami were truly celebrating those victories.

But his return to Cleveland and winning the championship in spectacular fashion has changed the narrative.

This LeBron championship was more than about the player.

Brands are always most preferred when they are about the customers they serve. Brands are forgotten and treated as afterthoughts when they are about themselves. Nike’s Just Do It is about the customer. CitiBank’s Citi Never Sleeps is about CitiBank.

The Miami version of LeBron James was about James. The Cleveland version of LeBron was about Cleveland, the longtime laughingstock of the major sports leagues.

Certainly, there’s more to it than that. Down three games to one, James (and Kyrie Irving) brought the Cavaliers back from the brink of extinction with grit, confidence and getting into Steph Curry’s head. (I like Curry. But the mouth guard-throwing incident had the tone of a spoiled child to it.)

But once the championship of homegrown LeBron (who grew up in 40 minutes from Cleveland) developed, it overshadowed the mercenary LeBron we saw in Miami.

Now he is beloved.

Are opinions changing on gun control laws?

The most powerful brands are the ones that align themselves with the belief systems of those they are trying to persuade. We tell clients that to go against a belief is often a fool’s errand and can only be overcome by throwing tons of money at the problem.

Or, a belief can be changed by a cataclysmic event.

I wonder if that’s what happened in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre when Sen. Chris Murphy filibustered for 14 hours last night and won promises from Republicans to look at tightening gun control laws.

gun control
Gun control laws are being given a closer look.

Filibusters are often showboating affairs (excusing Jimmy Stewart, of course) as politicians like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have proven in the past. They talked for hours, even reading Dr. Seuss, but nothing was actually accomplished by them.

Could recent events have changed the views of some on gun control?

But has the Orlando massacre changed the belief systems of those previously opposed to tightening gun control laws? It might have.

Even Republican senator Pat Toomey supported Murphy in his efforts as public opinion has shifted enough in the aftermath of shootings (and other shootings) to limit the ability of those on terror watch lists to buy assault weapons.

It seems logical enough. Those suspected of being terrorists, who are currently not allowed to fly in the US, should not be allowed to buy assault rifles that are built to kill people.

But the NRA is an extremely powerful lobbying group that can put the squeeze on just about any politician, Republican or Democrat. It has stated that it agrees that terrorists should not have guns, but added that those wrongly accused of being terrorists would have their rights damaged.

The response, including from some Republicans, is to put safeguards in place to protect those wrongly accused, but to go forward with a proposal – and a vote – to limit the ability of suspected terrorists to buy, for example, a Sig Sauer MCX or an AR-15.

gun control
What was used in Orlando.

There is still a long ways to go on gun control laws. Congress is a difficult, slow-moving beast. But real change happens when movements are aligned with belief systems – or, as in this case, those belief systems are shaken to the core by an event impossible to ignore.

Let’s hope.

Maybe eSports should not be ignored after all

Look. I’m an old man. So when I heard rumblings that eSports was a rising trend, I scoffed. When ESPN began telecasting those events, I scoffed even louder.

The rising trend of eSports may be more attractive to advertisers than I first thought.

Now I’m wondering if I’ve been having my get-off-my-lawn old man moment because it seems eSports is taking off – and with a crowd that’s more influential than you would think.

According to Mindshare Spotlight, which researched who attends these events and watches them on TV, most eSports fans are in their 30s, a third of them have an household income of $90K or more and even 38% of them are women.

Could eSports take off because it’s not just for nerds anymore?

Are eSports a fad or a revolution?

The difficulty in ascertaining the importance of a trend like this is in deciding whether this is a fad or a true revolution. Brands often wilt and die when they don’t keep up with the times. But they can also look too of the moment if they jump on every trend that comes along. Either way, they can become easily ignored.

The information Mindshare Spotlight has uncovered makes eSports more promising, but there is a better way for brands to understand if this sport (if you want to call it that) is something they should join.

The first step is to completely understand what your brand means to your audiences. What are those values? Who are your customers when they use your brand? How do they see themselves?

I’ve mentioned in the past that the successful merging brands are ones that have a brand meaning in common. The best example is the merger of FedEx and Kinko’s because they shared values about helping your business – and doing it quickly.

The same goes for deciding if something like eSports is an attractive marketing option for your brand. Does what your brand meaning align with what consumers find attractive in eSports? It’s an important question because it’s rare that a new venue opens up for advertisers.

The only way to answer these important questions is to be honest about what your brand means and discover the answers with difficult questions in quantitative research.

Even an old codger like me could be persuaded.

The massacre at the Pulse is too much to bear

I’ve been beating myself up all day for having not written about the tragedy at the Orlando nightclub Pulse until now.

But then, I haven’t really had the words needed to write about it until now either.

My heart is broken.

The Pulse massacre makes me wonder if attacks like this will ever end.

In the wake of this act of hatred (because it is just that), it’s hard for me to muster up an idea for a blog when the massacre of 50 innocent people is at the forefront.

That’s because when the chickens come home to roost, what we buy and sell isn’t important.

But love is.

In times like these I remember the words of the magnificent Martin Luther King Jr. He once said that, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Now, more than ever, we must embrace this wisdom.

If ever there was a time, we need to wake up because we’ve been sleep walking for far too long.

Must we wait for another Pulse catastrophe to kick start our hearts?

We have a pattern — monumental events shake us out of our day-to-day routine.

I look back at the course of my life and the events that served as an alarm clock for my state of being. 9/11 was one such event. (Reaching further back, Vietnam and Watergate also come to mind.) I can still recall the way the clouds looked that September morning, what I was wearing and what I ate for breakfast. I can see in my mind’s eye the expressions on the faces of those in my immediate life who experienced fear and fright with me, and the grainy newscast we watched on edge at work. I bet you can recall the details of your day too. That’s because we were awake and united, if just for a minute.

The Pulse shooting brings me right back to that place of seeking cultural unity.

I plead: How many more Pulse shootings do we need to have? Or like the one in Paris? How many Newtowns, Columbines, Auroras and Charlestons (just a smattering of the American mass shootings)?

When will it end?

I am reminded again of the words of King, whose prophetic vision rules the day:

“And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

               Free at last! Free at last!

                 Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”