• 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 saga of a phantom U-Verse deal

Just yesterday, I found myself calling the AT&T customer service number. The reason for that? The day prior, I was paying the U-Verse (AT&T’s internet option) bill and noticed that AT&T was offering a deal for the 1GB GigaPower network option — for just a dollar more than I was paying for basic internet service.

This is what the link took me to. As the U-Verse link showed, that deal was plain as day. Right?

This U-Verse deal looks legit, right?

The deal seemed like a no brainer. For 36 months, I could relish in the quickest internet option AT&T has to offer. As is my style, I had to have it.

So I called customer service attempting to upgrade the U-Verse service. Forty-five minutes later, I was hanging up up on the sales rep, angry and resentful over all the time I wasted.

Clearly, AT&T was ignorant of the U-Verse deal.

I wasted the first five or so minutes of my call attempting to figure who I needed to speak with by way of a puzzling automated service. My safest best was with U-Verse “customer service.” There, a foreign voice greeted me. She knew nothing of the deal I was speaking of and, after putting me on hold twice, elected to send me over to “technical support.”

The fellow on the other end of “technical support “ knew nothing of the U-Verse deal as well. He asked a ton of questions, to which I continually replied: I just want the deal that’s on the website. After placing me on hold, he prodded me along to “sales.”

My new phone companion could barely audible — interesting, considering it was a phone company I was connected to. That and he seemed as coherent as David Crosby circa Woodstock. The sales rep asked me to explain to him the U-Verse deal I was referring to, all the while insisting there was no such thing in a half baked kind of way. To which I assured him, it was on the website, plain as day.

Time dragged on and, while I was not finding any luck with the Internet, I was offered a discounted rate on TV twice and a more expensive internet with lesser GB – to which I responded by hanging up the phone. Probably not the nicest move, but I was heated.

At this juncture, a thought raced through my hot head: “I should just cancel and go with Time Warner.”

But then, “Time Warner is more expensive than what I have with AT&T.”

So I stayed put. Interesting, huh?

Despite the problems with U-Verse call, I stayed with AT&T.

Switching triggers are important in influencing purchases but they can only be effective if barriers are reduced. With my Internet, the only emotion driving me is price. Even though I was pushed around and made angry for an hour by an inept group of customer service reps, I decided to do nothing about. The idea of cancelling services to join another just seemed worse than what I just went through.

The factors that are driving my Internet choice are primal. My basic needs overshadow any willingness to affiliate with a brand. That’s because none of them hold any deep meaning with me.

Which leads me to this. Internet providers take heed: all you need do to steal share is make your brand emotionally worthwhile to the consumer and reduce barriers, and they’ll find the reasons to switch.

What retailers can do about Black Friday

It’s their own fault. As forecasts predict declining sales on Black Friday this week, the retailers only have themselves to blame. What was once considered a special event – a social one, even – has been diluted by sales before and after the day, while online sales continue to rise.

Based on a survey by retail consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, only 29% of women (the primary audience for Black Friday) intend to shop that day.

Now that doesn’t mean retailers are going in the tank that day. Black Friday will still exist, but it may never be the special day that it once was. The impact of online shopping is one reason, with 33% of women saying they will shop online (including 71% of Millennial women), which is simply the way of the world now.

Black Friday
Improve the experience and Black Friday may yet return.

The problem for major retailers is that a vast majority of those online shoppers will head over to Amazon, the single biggest threat to the brick and mortar stores that have long been the bedrock of holiday shopping.

But it was the retailers’ own greed that has done them in. In the rush to claim as much space in the holiday shopping market, retailers began Black Friday earlier and earlier. (That’s why our own senior brand strategist, Corbin Rusch, applauded REI for its no Black Friday promotion.)

In fact, one of the reasons why women in the WSL survey said they wouldn’t shop on Black Friday is because sales aren’t as good as they used to be (73%) and, more importantly, because sales are just as good before and after Thanksgiving (78%).

As a whole, retailers may make out OK this holiday season, although I suspect Amazon is going to eat up a large chunk of that market share.

How to fix Black Friday.

So what’s a retailer to do? For one, retailers need to stop trying to “out open” each other by pushing back the clock further and further until the sales start on Halloween.

For another, they need to face the biggest problem in retail: The lack of brand identity for the individual chains and brick and mortar shopping itself.

Black Friday has long focused solely on sales, getting the best price for a gift. That trigger has lost its impact now that sales start when the kids are trick and treating and last until Christmas Eve.

Instead, to re-build the category of Black Friday, retailers need to highlight the fun of the event itself. The social interaction (even though sometimes they lead to fights) should be improved as a whole so that shoppers feel like they are having fun.

Right now, Black Friday feels worthless because you fight crowds for prices shoppers can get elsewhere and at another time. But the day used to be something a little bit exciting. Market the day, not the low prices.

Paris terrorism and the brand of France

Paris terrorism and the French brand

Paris terrorismFirstly, I want to say that I am not a Francophile. I travel all over the globe on business and enjoy France no more or no less than I do the UK, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria and every other nation I am privileged to visit. Oddly though, France has a brand that certainly rivals the US in its values on liberty and freedom. The recent Paris terrorism attacks have upset me to no end. The troubled human beings from ISIS could have picked no better target than Paris when attacking freedom of speech and liberty. They also could not have been more mistaken in the outcome of such a tragic attack. They forgot the French promise of Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

I think France today enjoys the same world-wide sympathy that the US had after 9/11. Everyone feels for this city and country. All of us expect the French to exact retribution and never back down. Paris terrorism will not go unpunished or unresolved.

Paris Terrorism
Charles DeGaulle

We should remember that France has been a willing and exemplary symbol of freedom for immigration. Freedom has a cost and France has always been willing to fall on the sword for such deep rooted beliefs. In my lifetime, I remember the frustration that the US had for many years with Charles de Gaulle, the oft times President of France who seemed never willing to tow the line. He marched France to a different drummer and certainly represented the independent nature of the nation he represented.

Paris terrorism will leave the French undaunted

So what does the brand of France mean today?  It means that it will move heaven and earth to root out and bring to justice the perpetrators in this crime. It means it will take an active roll on the war with ISIS and it means the French will still pay strict adherence to their precept of liberté, égalité, fraternité. Count on France to lead the way in demonstrating how no bad apples will force them to give up its principles. In this, France continues to have my continual reverence. Vive la France!

For your consideration, I am including the lyrics from La Marseillaise the rousing French National Anthem. I have also included a recording form the legendary movie Casablanca when the French patrons at Rick’s Café drowned out the occupying Germans from singing about their fatherland. Even today, this clip gives me goosebumps.


Allons enfants de la Patrie,                      Arise, children of the Fatherland,

Le jour de gloire est arrivé !                    The day of glory has arrived!

Contre nous de la tyrannie,                     Against us tyranny’s

L’étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)         Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes       Do you hear, in the countryside,

Mugir ces féroces soldats ?                       The roar of those ferocious soldiers?

Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras            They’re coming right into your arms

Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !            To cut the throats of your sons, your women!


Aux armes, citoyens,                                  To arms, citizens,

Formez vos bataillons,                               Form your battalions,

Marchons, marchons !                               Let’s march, let’s march!

Qu’un sang impur                                       Let an impure blood

Abreuve nos sillons ! (bis)                         Water our furrows! (Repeat)

A healthy Taco Bell is not believable

If you look at the fast food marketplace, the brands – McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc., – are in chaos.

And that’s being kind.

They are fighting with every last bit of strength to reposition themselves in the marketplace as sales are dwindling.

McDonalds, for instance, is offering its breakfast menu all day. Now, you can get that Egg McMuffin as a midnight snack, which I’ve described as just a Band-Aid.

The new move by Taco Bell.

The new trend in fast food is to provide food that’s healthier for you than what chains normally offer, even though studies have proven that consumers usually still opt for the fatter foods. In fact, the main problem is that fast food chains don’t have the permission to be accepted as healthy by consumers. Even McDonalds failed to gain traction going that route, potentially damaging its brand.

Healthy Taco Bell
Yeah, cage-free eggs will make this healthy.

Taco Bell has now announced it is committed to using cage-free eggs in the menu items at all of its 6,000-plus restaurants by this time next year. Let’s just assume that cage-free eggs are healthier, does the Taco Bell customer care? More importantly, will the cage-free eggs get someone who thinks of Taco Bell food as worthless crap into the store?

I feel resolute in my belief that one will never believe in a healthy Taco Bell. No amount of cage-free eggs will change my assumption nor the assumption of many others.

When you order a Biscuit Taco Combo, does it matter what kind of egg you’re eating? Nope. Each bite of that 870-calorie monstrosity isn’t anywhere near being healthy. Don’t fool yourself.

Think about this: The fast riser in the industry is Hardee’s (or Carl’s Jr., depending on where you live). It has positioned itself as the opposite – “Eat it like you mean it” – and it’s doing wonders for the brand.

I’m not saying others should follow that example, except that the message is a brand one. Cage-free eggs is a menu item and chains that attempt to out-menu their competition will find themselves changing to something else down the road.

True to itself, REI is out on Black Friday

This is a guest blog from one of our strategists, Corbin Rusch, as a rebuttal to my own blog earlier this month, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, here’s Corbin:

Next week, the annual survival of the fittest shopping holiday, Black Friday, will begin and REI has opted to sit it out. While this move will undoubtedly cost REI a few dollars in lost sales, it is absolutely one of the best brand-centric moves I have seen in a long while.

REI Black Friday
Getting outside is exactly the point of REI’s brand.

REI sells outdoor gear. Its brand is all about getting outside. Everything that REI does and says is about getting outside because “a life outdoors is a life well lived.” REI’s philanthropic efforts are targeted towards conservation, upkeep and establishment of trails and wildlife habitat restoration. REI has authored the hashtag #OptOutside to not only promote the retailer opting out of Black Friday but to reinforce the core of its brand. Not only is REI closing its stores and delaying online purchases, but it is also paying its employees for the day to live the REI brand and #OptOutside themselves.

What REI Black Friday does for the brand.

What is so great about this move is that it directly positions the brand against anyone in the category that is encouraging people to forgo a portion of their Thanksgiving holiday to go inside, wait in lines and fight for merchandise. Going shopping is the polar opposite of the REI brand. REI is making its brand more important than Black Friday revenue. This will increase awareness for its brand and what it means.

Brand at its core is a system of understanding. It enables a company to precisely tell consumers who they are, who the brand is for and who it is not for. However, many of today’s brands fail to stay true to what they say their brand is, especially when money is on the line. Let’s be honest, REI will not change Black Friday by closing its stores for the day. The reality is that, for the vast majority of the shopping public, they would rather stay inside anyway. They are not REI’s customers and I don’t think this move will have much impact on REI’s sales. But that is exactly why this move is so refreshing. REI is staying true to its brand and I applaud them for that.

7-Eleven, KFC enter delivery

For almost all of retail – whether you’re talking about consumer goods or ordering pizza – delivery is the river from which all life flows. Because of that, retail stores are closing outlets, convenience stores can’t get customers to come into the store and fast food restaurants are almost solely focused on the drive-thru.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder 7-Eleven and KFC are entering the area of delivery – and I predict doom for one of them and success for the other.

7-Eleven wants you to enter the store by picking up packages?

The doom is for 7-Eleven, which will add lockers to 200 outlets in North America so shoppers can pick up their packages from UPS or FedEx. This is an obvious attempt to get those that simply gas up to come into the store and buy a Slurpee or some such thing.

7-Eleven has been under siege with greater competition, not just by the many local convenience stores you find in every town and city – but also by rising giant Sheetz, one of the few brands in the category with a unique brand and look. 7-Eleven has been a follower, also offering food like Sheetz and now believes that this shipping option will make it a leader.

Here’s the basic problem. Let’s say you do order something online. Why would you need to have it shipped to 7-Eleven when it can be delivered right to your door? Seriously. Why?

That’s not mentioning that Amazon, which its Amazon Prime membership, just about dominates the online category and can get you what you ordered next day without any additional cost. Why have it shipped to 7-Eleven?

7-Eleven and KFC are desperate.

The move feels desperate; as does KFC’s announcement that it will start delivering in a few select markets next month. There’s a difference here, though. The food will be delivered…what for it…to your door.

I’ve always wondered why other fast food chains haven’t done this before. The pizza brands figured out a long time ago that people would rather eat fast food at home (or in their cars) rather than go into the restaurant itself. It’s the reason why many chains make most of their money in the drive thru. There’s always a little bit of guilt in eating at a fast food restaurant that going through the drive-thru alleviates. Delivery is the natural progression.

Most fast food restaurants fear they will be left with expensive billboards – the restaurants themselves. But it’s already moving in that direction.

There’s no good reason why McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King can’t deliver. In a category that seeing sales drop across the board, delivery is a natural option – and it allows those brands to take on the pizza brands of Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s.

While KFC has its own problems, this is a smart, leadership move. Ordering packages to be delivered to 7-Eleven is just plain stupid.

The soul of Pixar is boundless

Pixar is one of the world’s most emotional brands.

Anyone who knows me can testify I am a curmudgeon.

There are movies, actors, foods, books, football teams — really, just about anything you can think of — that I will let my aversions be known. It’s why writing these blogs each day comes so naturally.

It’s also why when something special crosses my path, I can’t help but write on it.

Pixar is one of those special brands.

Pixar’s animated films have heart.

My dog Teddy wakes me up every night. That’s nothing new. He does that every night. He is an aging old boy needing a bathroom break every few hours.

Inside Out is another perfect example of the brand of Pixar.

I have a hard time falling back to sleep when I get up with Teddy as both family and business fill my mind. To pass the time, I normally throw on a movie. Last night, I found myself watching Pixar’s latest release, Inside Out.

Think about that. I”m a sixty year-old, cynical man. Yet, I willingly put on a Pixar movie.

Isn’t that strange?

Not really. Every Pixar film I have seen has soul. The stories are vibrant. They have characters with merit and struggles and desires, and, what’s more, the films are as must for adults as they are children.

Pixar’s brand is monumental. 

As I am constantly purveying markets, I’ve come to expect few brands as the champions of their respective industries. Apple and Amazon are two of those powerhouses. Starbucks is too. Walmart.

So too is Pixar.

All I need do is see the animated desk lamp at the onset of a PIxar film and a rush comes. I am filled with emotions like excitement and wonder, innocence and joy, and most of all, bittersweet sadness. I have come to expect these feelings. No other film company, not even PIxar’s parent company, Disney, can entice a viewer the way Pixar does.

Last night, as my eyes misted over with tears while watching Inside Out, love came flowing through me. Once I came to, I shook my head in wonderment and knowingly realized that Pixar had done it again.

Armistice Day not Veteran’s Day

Armistice Day was a day of Rememberence
Eleven million soldiers died in WW1

Its just a few days Away from November 11th so I have decided to jump the gun and publish my yearly rant on the loss we all suffered when Armistice Day became renamed Veteran’s Day.  I get more nasty comments from my blog on this subject than anything else I write in the course of a year. That is because people do not READ. If they do read, they lack the capacity to see past their own preconceptions. I am not anti-American and I do not disparage veterans. I am a brand man and I view the world through that lens. It is a lens of evaluating social and commercial happenings through the refracting lens of brand meaning.

Know this. The most powerful brands in the world have a focused meaning. The more dilute the message the less powerful the brand. The more we try to make a brand for EVERYONE, the less important the brand meaning (and power) become.

Armistice Day had deep historic significance

Armistice Day.Never Again
It was known as the war to end all wars

November 11 was a day of remembrance for the end of the First World War. “On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… all quiet on the Western front.” The deep scars and the immense loss of humanity during the Great War (it was no known as World War 1 until there was a 2nd World War) still makes the horror of this war difficult to comprehend. Wikipedia tells us that the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 38 million: over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

Armistice Day and the Civil War
Gettysburg, July 1863.

The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. In the battle of the Somme alone more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed. Contrast this with the casualty figures at the Battle of Gettysburg where there were 7,058 fatalities and another 33,264 had been wounded.

The horror of modern warfare came alarmingly home during this desperate conflict and Armistice day was celebrated, not just to honor those that died and served but also to proclaim the goal that this war, The Great War, was to be the war to end all wars. It was a day of remembrance of that horror and hoped to be a contemplative focal point to save the world from ever engaging in such madness again.

Armistice Day is a global holidayBut, Americans, in their desire to make everything as vanilla as possible has discarded this meaning and replaced it with a day to honor veterans. Something I support, by the way, but I think it needs to be its own day.

How did a day of remembrance and a poignant promise to try to find peaceful means to solving national conflict become so vanilla? Because we enjoy trite phrases and simplified ideas.

If this makes you upset with me, then you have no interest in our history and as George Santayana once warned ““Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” History should never be dumbed down. It should be remembered and honored. Warts and all.

We view the importance of Armistice Day through our own Bias

Armistice day is like calling Christmas just a holiday
Happy Holidays is to Christmas what Veteran’s Day is to Armistice Day

Does my upset over not calling Armistice Day Veteran’s Day annoy you? Everything depends on what you believe to be important. We all view these things based upon our own personal brands. Does any of the following upset you?

America has replaced Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday remembrance as Presidents Day. Municipalities’ want to remove the greeting of Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Greensboro NC (my present home city) renamed Lee Street to Gate City Boulevard.  Universities renamed Easter Break with Fall Break.

Armistice Day and Civil rights
Should we forget and sanitize our history?

We seem to do everything we can to strip our symbols of historical meaning from everything we do. What’s next? Should we rename Martin Luther King’s Birthday as Civil Rights Day? (By the way, Martin Luther King’s Birthday celebration was also celebrated for YEARS in Virginia as Robert E Lee Lee’s Birthday. (Celebrated since 1889. Jackson’s name was added to the holiday in 1904 naming the holiday Lee-Jackson Day. In another instance of watering down a remembrance).

Why don’t we care? Because political correctness prohibits student of history like myself from speaking about these issues because I am thought of as un-American. I guess we are OK with diluting any message unless it is an issue that we individually care about. For me, history should be celebrated and ANY dilution of that message is foolish at best and dangerous at its worst.

Let’s revitalize Armistice Day and reinvigorate Armed Forces Day as Veteran’s Day on the third Saturday of May. It is a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve the United States’ armed forces. Let’s allow the Holiday before Thanksgiving to be a time to contemplate the horror of war.

Here are two other blogs on the same subject.

Armistice Day 

Don’t Celebrate Veterans Day