The Tom Dougherty Blog
Now this Fiat Chrysler hack is a little scary. Fiat Chrysler is recalling its new Jeep Cherokees after the company found that its Internet connectivity can be hacked.
The uConnect system, which allows drivers to control their entertainment and navigation abilities while driving, is being recalled to update the software.
This is only the beginning. Auto sales are rising in 2015 for several reasons. Cars that most of us have kept going longer than we normally would have are now being turned in for newer models, consumers are getting savvier about buying online (and dealerships are getting smarter about how to transform that into on-lot sales) and new automobiles are being outfitted with new technology.
Sales had dipped over the last decade, primarily because the manufacturers gave consumers few reasons to trade in their own vehicles that were running just fine. Messaging, as we’ve seen in our latest automotive study, is all so similar that consumers can’t distinguish one brand from another. (Which is why there is little brand loyalty and some inertia.)
Technology, having a vehicle that’s as tapped into the Internet as your laptop, has been the driving force for new trade-ins. Now, consumers have a reason to upgrade from their technology-less vehicles.
The problem with all this new technology.
But there are two issues looming that automakers must consider. For one, as the Fiat Chrysler hack has shown, security will become an initial differentiating force as consumers want to make sure that their information and control are protected. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing ads in the coming months that hit on the idea of Internet security.
That’s all fine and good. But, eventually, technology and security will become table stakes, i.e., what you need to even play in the market. Pretty soon, all new brands will have up-to-date technology and powerful security. Those values will become as common as low gas mileage is today.
That means automotive manufacturers will be left in the same place they were heading into this year: Having nothing that provides a true choice among all the competition.
McDonalds has released an internal memo to its franchises saying that they should prepare for the possibility of an October rollout of a limited-breakfast all-day menu. It is no secret that McDonalds has been struggling the last few years as consumers move to other options in a never-ending sea of fast food and quick service options (as well as healthier options). McDonalds has, at least in my estimation, also done a poor job in marketing (anyone need more lovin?) and positioning its brand as both relevant and important.
This memo to its franchises, though not definite, just feels like McDonalds doing more of the same – grasping at anything with no sense of direction for its brand.
Based upon some success in San Diego and Nashville, the McDonalds all day breakfast menu will be offered, citing that “Our customers love it — they’ve been asking for it for years…”
McDonalds hopes this new menu will help its sagging sales but this kind of thinking is exactly why McDonald’s is failing to regain its lost traction. Think about what McDonald’s is saying when it rationalizes this step by saying, “Our customers love it — they’ve been asking for it for years…”
McDonalds is saying that people, its customers, have been asking for it for years – the people that already are choosing McDonalds. So I ask you, are those people who are asking for it going to a competitor for fast-food breakfast at lunch or dinner? Likely not.
Breakfast all day is a temporary fix.
Locally, Sonic is the only all-day full menu breakfast drive-thru restaurant and, while it has some success with breakfast items later in the night, its focus on lunch and dinner is certainly on traditional items with emphasis on shakes and beverages.
I guess McDonalds’ customers could go to a Denny’s, IHOP, Waffle House, Cracker Barrel or the like but that would mean no drive-thru. My hunch is that most of those asking for it are coming in at 11 am, trying to order an Egg McMuffin, or the late night crowd who want an order of fries and a breakfast burrito.
While a move like this will certainly give McDonalds a marginal boost in some markets, it will not rescue McDonalds from its sagging sales. When you throw in the operational complication, this is a recipe for failed expectations on the part of McDonalds management. The problems of McDonalds are deeper than offering breakfast at other day parts. The once vital McDonalds brand has failed to remain relevant, vital and important. Breakfast at lunch or dinner will not make the brand.
I’m one of those people who must have his music playing whenever I’m working, driving or lounging around the house.
I feel connected with the music I listen to; it makes me feel a bit more lucid and creative.
Spotify, Tidal and now Apple Music have all been a part of my listening experience.
As of now, I am sold on Apple Music. It’s fully integrated with all of the devices I use, the catalog is extensive and the musical suggestions it offers (playlists and albums) just keep improving the more I use the service.
Spotify once held the throne for me, but no longer. And my hunch is a lot of folks are starting to feel just like me with its services.
Spotify is making fear-based decisions.
This isn’t a left field statement. Yesterday, I read that Spotify was making a weekly, personalized mixtape for its users.
The idea behind the Spotify mixtape is to provide users with a tailored list of songs that will appear every Monday. The songs might be similar to those you are already listening to or they might be a slight stretch in a certain direction of your taste preferences.
This is a great concept, but I can’t help but think it’s in reaction to the wonderful preference algorithm Apple Music has in place.
Here is the problem. Spotify has 75 million users worldwide. Even with such lofty numbers, it hasn’t been able to pinpoint user preferences the way Apple Music has.
Fear-based decisions are often decided when one company is seeking share from the market leader. You would expect Spotify would envision itself as the market leader, but its actions suggest it believes that Apple Music is about to become the leader. Hence, the copying of Apple’s preference built playlists.
The writing isn’t on the wall for Spotify, but a re-thinking (a rebrand perhaps?) seems to be of the utmost importance in response to the market changes.
I’ve been avoiding writing anything about the Donald Trump presidential bid because I thought his run would quickly burn itself out. I still think it will, but polls suggest he is still leading the Republican Party nomination in this early stage.
Trump has always been a self-promoter of the highest order and his blustering comments (on immigration, the Iran deal and now John McCain) are part of his brand. What his son, Eric, recently said was that The Donald “is fed up with the nonsense.”
It’s easy to say that Donald Trump himself is nonsense, but fringe candidates (and, yes, Trump is a fringe candidate) appeal to a relatively small segment that are angry about being ignored.
Remember, Ross Perot? He was an independent candidate in 1992, a media darling who captured the attention of the economically disenfranchised who thought a billionaire could fix the country’s economic problem.
Eventually, he burned out and Bill Clinton won over incumbent George HW Bush because Perot’s appeal – while strong – simply didn’t appeal to enough people. (And many just thought he was a kook.)
The Republicans (and media) are at fault.
Trump’s advantages are that he is well known (even if not particularly beloved) and the race for the Republican nomination has an absurd 15 candidates. (Or is it 16 now? I lose track.) It is a scattered Republican market, if you will. That means few, if anyone, knows what the Republican Party stands for today. It looks lost with so many candidates running, suggesting that no candidate thinks the other is worthy of the nomination. There’s simply not one voice representing the party.
In essence, the other Republican candidates are trying to be for everyone, while Trump is saying who he is for and not for.
Trump then speaks to a minority (even if he says he represents the “silent majority) because there is no majority in the Republican Party. There’s just fractures of populations.
Trump is the loudest here, and his brand has always been about being the loudest and most extravagant. It’s there in his hotels, casinos and other real estate ventures. They are loud, with gold trimming and big lights with the name TRUMP blazed everywhere.
Sanity will eventually prevail and we’ll look back at Trump’s run as the mainstream media getting hoodwinked into playing his game. How many times can he go on the Today Show? Even The Huffington Post announcing that it will run Trump news in its entertainment section is playing into Trump’s hands so he can say that is nonsense and people are out to get him.
Trump will not win the nomination and his comments will continue to be offensive. But he’s doing exactly what he’s always done. Playing up to the brand of Donald Trump.
A new report states that live TV viewership has dropped 6% over the last year, which comes as a surprise to no one. Most of us just have to look inside our own homes to see that much of what we watch today is recorded, streamed or downloaded.
TV networks have joined the game by offering most of its shows online, either through on demand services or their own websites. The fact that those between the ages of 18-24 watched live TV 16% less than they did a year ago just proves that our entertainment habits are quickly changing.
In light of that, I’m beginning to wonder if streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are going to become the largest content producers in the landscape.
Hear me out. It’s not just that both streaming services are producing their own TV shows, but they are also getting into the movie business. Netflix has already announced that its first feature, Beasts of No Nation (directed by True Detective Season 1 director Cary Fukunaga) will be shown in theaters and on Netflix on the same day later this year. It is only the first of a slate of movies Netflix will roll out the same way in the future.
Amazon may be even more aggressive in the movie department. It announced yesterday that Spike Lee’s new movie, Chi-Raq, will be released in theaters, followed a month later on Amazon Prime. Like Netflix, it will be the first of many to come.
What interested me most about these maneuvers is what Ted Hope, who leads Amazon’s film division, told the Hollywood Reporter.
“We’re looking to make visionary work by visionary directors. I would say The Imitation Game, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel are all totally in the zone. Prestige titles, the kind of movie that isn’t for the teenaged audience.”
Hope explained that audiences interested in prestige films are also the ones most likely to buy from the Amazon website (and become Prime members) so the movie push goes hand in hand with its retail business.
Why Netflix and Amazon are becoming movie studios.
The trend of Netflix Amazon movies is a smart move for both for different reasons. For Netflix, its business model is all about acquiring and producing content to attract new subscribers. (And Netflix is apparently doing very well with that.) For Amazon, it’s to prompt Prime members to buy more products.
In addition, they fill a hole in the movie landscape. Superhero movies have taken over our movie screens. So much so that last week’s Comic Con was treated as an important industry event along the lines of the Oscars and this weekend sees the opening of another Marvel product few have ever heard of: Ant-Man.
To get people out of their homes to watch a movie at a theater, the studios have to make each movie an event. Just like when, in the ‘50s, studios trotted out a host of biblical epics to combat the onset of television.
That kind of thinking leaves many of us out. It’s not the big budget or, really, the low-budget movies that make up most of the classic films we adore. It’s the middle-budget ones that aren’t targeted to a 16-year-old boy.
That’s where Amazon and Netflix are coming in. We are fast entering the period, if we are not already there, where we can simply cue up just about anything we want to see, including original content, at home.
To be a powerful brand, you have to state who you are for and, most importantly, who you are not for. In that sense, Netflix and Amazon are becoming even greater successes.
And now the price wars have begun! Amazon is celebrating its 20th anniversary today with an unprecedented Amazon Prime Day sale that sees products like a 32-inch TV going for $75 and Bose headphones for $80.
It’s not only an anniversary for Amazon, but also an attempt to gain more Prime members (you can only take advantage of the sales if you are a member) and spike sales in a slow retail summer where sales industry-wide were down in both May and June.
That’s all fine and dandy, as at least Amazon has reason to hold the sale because it can pin it on its anniversary. That makes it seem like a one-time event.
But that is hardly the case because other retailers are joining the fray with their own sales as a defensive strategy against Amazon. Walmart is discounting more than 2,000 items on its website today, while Best Buy will be holding a two-day sale later this month. Kohl’s and Target have been in the price-slashing mode as well.
These sales are not going away.
For consumers, this is a boom. But, as most of you can guess, this means that July 15 (smack dab in the middle of the calendar year) will become the summer equivalent of Black Friday. The sales are here to stay.
The problem for retailers is that these sales are purely reactionary, doing very little to help them gain preference among shoppers. In fact, they are teaching consumers to wait on purchasing because the summer Black Friday sale will become an annual event.
Sales like this have always been a tactic to get consumers into the store (or, in this case, to get them to log onto the website) but it’s strictly a short-term strategy.
It’s also a steep slope to long-term failure. Fighting on price is always a loser’s game unless you are Walmart (industry leader that owns low price) or Amazon (with its large inventory and online leadership).
For the rest, they will have taught consumers to only choose on price and not for what the value of offerings or because their brands are coveted.
No, sale numbers in August and September will plummet industry wide as consumers simply wait until the real holiday sales at the end of the year.
Then those retailers will wonder why their yearly sales figures were so low and what value they actually own. The answer is that today’s sales just mean that retailers are to be only chosen based on low prices. That’s the only value.
A few weeks ago my oldest son pulled the trigger and bought an Apple Watch. I’ve been curious about it, but have had some reservations about picking one up: is it really something I need?
From what I have seen, the Apple Watch is at best luxury item that simplifies facets of your day-to-day. However, the Apple Watch is not an item of necessity.
With the watch, Apple stepped away from its heritage of creating products that enhanced life of its users. (That made us think different.) Its gorgeously designed computers and phones offer intuitive applications that even a Luddite could figure out. That is a thing of beauty.
The Apple Watch is just a sexy piece of jewelry that assists you from looking at the even nicer looking iPhone in your pocket. It’s just too small to function with any ease. The applications are so minuscule that I was constantly concerned about tapping the app next to the one I was attempting to open. What’s more, my son, admittedly, has confessed to me that he feels like a “bloody fool” speaking into his wrist to take a phone call. Wouldn’t you?
Is the Apple Watch a worthy investment of time and money for Apple?
Slice Intelligence has reported that Apple Watch sales has tanked by 90% since its introduction. The watch has sold more that three million units, but of late, those totals have dwindled. The Apple haters are feasting on this too. It’s like seeing the New England Patriots or the Duke Blue Devils lose. Everyone but the fans love the drop in sales.
As a fan of Apple, I expect the watch to be around for a long while and that revisions will be made to the device for many years to come. In the future, the Apple Watch must have connectivity outside of Bluetooth to an iPhone (wi-fi or cellular) and its applications must be simple to a fault and function as a series of notifications and reminders. History Here has already has already done so. With this well-executed app, you can receive notifications when you are near a location of historical significance and get a blurb about an event too.
When I returned the watch to my son I did so without a twinge of jealousy. That’s a new place for me to be as an Apple enthusiast. For that reason, I know the Apple Watch has a lot of ground to cover.
I can understand the outrage but I’m waiting until I read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman before I make a judgment.
As you may have heard, Lee’s follow up to her classic To Kill a Mockingbird will be released tomorrow amid reviews that state that the newest book, taking place years later after Mockingbird, portrays Atticus Finch as a racist.
When I first heard that I was aghast. Finch is simply one of the most revered characters in the history of American Literature. Portraying him as a racist is like turning T.S. Lawrence into a Turk. This cuts deeply.
There’s a simple reason for all the outrage. It goes against our beliefs.
To Kill a Mockingbird might be my favorite fiction book of all time. (I’d also put Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove right up there.) There are several reasons for it, among them being the love/hate portrayal of small-town Alabama that’s as vivid as anything put to paper.
And there is Atticus, who stands as the epitome of virtue and tolerance. Even when he loses to the case of defending a falsely accused black man of rape, a member of the black congregation tells Scout, Atticus’ daughter and the narrator of the book, to stand because “your father’s passin’.”
It’s one of the most moving passages I’ve ever read.
Betrayal or genius?
The anger toward the new book grows from a feeling of betrayal of our deep-rooted belief system (in Atticus Finch) by saying that belief was wrong.
When you think about that in terms of brand, that’s the reason why we say align your brand with an existing belief in the market. Trying to introduce a new belief that goes against what is already believed is a struggle that’s impossible to overcome.
That’s where Go Set a Watchman stands now. It is going against a belief that is among our greatest American myths.
In truth, Lee’s father, of whom Atticus is based, was a segregationist and only later became a supporter of integration, according to Lee’s biographer.
Go Set a Watchman, written years before To Kill a Mockingbird, was no doubt Harper Lee’s reaction to her father’s then-held beliefs. That its publication arrived decades after the success of Mockingbird makes Atticus’ original belief all that more shocking.
There’s a part of me that suspects the new book could be a strong statement against racism by using one of our most beloved characters to wake us up. That’s a fine genius.
But the outrage shouldn’t be a surprise to publishers and they were naive if they thought it wouldn’t spark an outcry. Go Set a Watchman is going against an American belief, and it’s hard going against that.