• 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 Bayer Monsanto merger needs your attention

The world of crop protection, if you’re not aware, is both important and cutthroat. And it’s something of which we should all pay attention.

There are a handful of main competitors who are either constantly battling the EPA or fighting environmentalists along side the regulatory agency, depending on your bent.

Bayer Monsanto
Growing crops is about to get a whole lot more expensive.

It’s also a changing industry. The main players, such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer, have long been under fire because their lead products were pesticides. Those chemicals raised the hackles of environmental groups and have spawned thousands (if not millions) of papers, editorials and books (started by Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring.)

Today, however, those manufacturers are increasing their investment in seeds, which are genetically modified to increase crop growth and stave off infection from pests and disease.

That is why Bayer is offering $62 billion for Monsanto, the largest seed producer in the US, for a Bayer Monsanto merger I can see happening.

The pitfalls of the Bayer Monsanto merger to you.

There are positive and negative outcomes of this proposed merger, starting with the benefit the companies themselves would receive. The battlefield now is over combined resources, especially worldwide, to increase research and development, and also to enter into developing markets.

The power of the seed market is that the next worldwide shortage is promising to be food. The population of the Earth is increasing but the amount of farmland is not. The only way to meet the world’s future needs is to make crops more robust and stir up agricultural production in those developing countries.

Leaving aside the potential negative effect of genetically modified seeds, the effect on the farmer – and the US economy – is potentially deadly. Mergers are becoming the norm in crop protection, with Dow and DuPont joining forces last year and rumors of Chinese companies interested in Syngenta still circulating.

Mergers mean less competition and less competition means higher prices.

Keeping track of the mergers in crop protection is not usually top of mind for consumers but they are important developments to notice. Seeds are seen as a healthier alternative to pesticides, but more research to needs to be done.

But sticker shock will soon be coming to your nearby grocery store. In the US, we take for granted what is available and what food costs. However, a Bayer Monsanto merger will change all that. Prepare to spend more of your dollar at the grocery store.


Russia. Olympic Doping

Olympic doping is a symptom not a cause

Olympic doping "I'm shocked"Olympic doping? Remember when Captain Renault (Claude Raines from the 1942 movie Casablanca) famously said “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

I’m afraid that is exactly my sarcastic response to implications that the Russian Olympic team doped during the Sochi Olympics and that that coverup was systemic to the Russian state.

Are you shocked? I doubt it.

However, I don’t think this stops with the Russian team. Let’s face facts: Doping and cheating in athletics is a global epidemic that, just like the Spanish Flu of 1918, it respects no boarders and infects the entire globe.

Does Olympic doping bother me?

Lance Armstrong and Olympic dopingYes. But I’m not appalled. Unlike almost all of my friends, I have given up professional sports (and the Olympics are PROFESSIONAL sports) and I am fast losing interest in intercollegiate sports as well. Did my malaise start with Lance Armstrong? Not really. It started when it occurred to me that athletic competition was becoming a religion where winning was embraced as a modern form of spiritual redemption.

The problem is the wealth that comes along with winning and, to borrow a term from Donald Trump, “trust me” fame is a form of wealth.

The cult of athletics is not one of humanity’s finer traits. It clouds judgment, suspends introspection and deludes accomplishment. Fans identify with their teams so completely that they ignore the facts that even in intercollegiate athletics, athletes are not the representative of the schools for which they compete. The student athlete for the University of Kentucky’s basketball team has as much in common with the students and grads of that university as I do with an NFL athlete. By the way, don’t think I am ragging on the Wildcats (although they are top-of-mind with me). You could insert almost any university brand in the sentence including North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma… etc. Only Temple University is exempt (check my bio).

Winning is all that matters

In a global culture where winning is a form of self-identification, it is not surprising that we have had scandals in major league baseball, football and cycling. The personal identification with the Manchester United’s of the world is overwhelming but that blind ignorance pales compared to the xenophobic nationalism of the Olympics. Do you think only the Russians cheated?

Olympic DopingMy God, this past week I heard allegations that the Kenyan long distance runners have been doping. You know these super humans? They are 6’4” (legs are 5’ of that height) and they weigh 58 kilos. Rumor has it that they have the hollow bones found only in birds so as to be lighter on their feet. These are the guys and gals that finish the marathon before any of those running the half-marathon come even close to the finish line.

As I think about it, I don’t watch much in the way of sports anymore because I don’t want to think of myself as a fool. Someone duped into thinking everything is on the up and up and athletic accomplishment comes solely from hard work and dedication. I’m not duped because everyone seems to be doped.

Earlier blogs about athletics and the Olympics

With the Olympics, NBC earned gold. Without it, struggling for bronze.

Lance Armstrong finally admits the truth about the NFL

 


Retail in a nutshell: Macy’s

Last week, Macy’s reported that same-store sales fell…again. This marks the fifth time in a row Macy’s has reported a negative number. The retailer cited declines in traffic, competitive pressures and a consumer base that is cautious (isn’t that just a restatement of the first thing they cited?).

Macy's
The problems at Macy’s are systematic of the retail space.

There are major deep-seated problems in the retail sector. When Macy’s cites traffic declines and increased competition, it is simply stating the effects of a larger problem – what does Macy’s (or most other department stores, for that matter) mean to the consumer?

Apparently not as much as Macy’s would like.

Macy’s was once a meaningful brand.

There was a time when Macy’s actually meant something. It was wildly successful at the turn of the century when Macy’s moved to Herald Square in New York City. By 1924, it was known as the world’s largest store. Through its successes were in a single store, it began to purchase other department stores in large metropolitan areas. As Macy’s profits grew, its desire to expand grew. Today, it is the nation’s largest department retailer.

There is meaning in scarcity. Humans innately place value on it. Scarcity denotes exclusivity. For a long time that is what the perception of Macy’s was – exclusive and scarce. It was a destination. But as it grew, those values dissipated with each retail chain it acquired. It became less scarce and less exclusive. Today, Macy’s stores are everywhere (870 stores) and each is just another department store.

As customers move to other channels and specialty retailers, there are fewer customers shopping in department stores in general. Since there are very few department stores that mean anything, there are fewer shoppers to go around. So yeah, Macy’s, you hit the nail on the head. Declines in traffic and increased competition are the reasons for the disappointing sales.

The problem for Macy’s is that it can’t stem the tide of declining sales by trying to out retail other retailers. That simply would degrade the Macy’s brand further. Macy’s has to rethink something it is probably very uncomfortable examining. Its brand.


The Amazon perishable effort will succeed

It’s not just retailers that are threatened by Amazon. Now, supermarkets will be too.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the online retail giant is slated to offer a new line of private-label brands, including perishable foods.

Amazon perishable
The Amazon perishable goods initiative will work.

As the report elaborated, these goods will first be available to Prime members as another nice perk to add to the $99 a year membership. (Thank goodness I have one.)

What’s more, the Amazon perishable initiative will join forces with brands like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear. Doing so will allow the company to offer cooking oil, vitamins, coffee, tea, spices and nuts.

The Amazon perishable effort will succeed because of its brand.

While I have only once bought perishable food from Amazon — I had an unyielding craving for coconut covered cashews — I bought a top of the line brand and I ended spending a bit more than I wanted.

Now, overspending on select brands doesn’t have to be the case. I can choose an Amazon select brand for a fraction of the cost and feel satisfied with my purchase. Because of the trust I have in Amazon, I have the confidence that the product will be of quality. A hunch that I am not alone in that thinking.

Granted, the offerings are slim for the moment, but so was the Amazon Music catalog when it first began, and now it’s one of my favorites to frequent.

It’s a known fact. If your desire is to influence preference and increase market share, then it is a given that you must have a better understanding of your target audiences. And the Amazon perishable move is a perfect example of that awareness.

How many times have you thought how nice it would be to order your food from Amazon, have it shipped and be done with it? I have a lot. This is Amazon dipping its toe in the water of that reality. Before we know it, this Amazon Produce (UK based) and Amazon Fresh (select US cities) will be available for all of us as one entity. When that occurs, supermarkets had better watch out.


Budweiser America is a cynical play

Beer drinkers, are you ready to drink some America? (I’ll wait until you mull that over.)

Yes, the Budweiser America campaign will be in full swing this summer, beginning later this month. Budweiser is changing the name of its brand to America through November’s elections.

Budweiser America
Why is the Budweiser America campaign even needed?

Sounds like a great pairing of brands, right? Not so fast. In fact, it’s a cynical, barely concealed move by a brand that is going the redundant route. Budweiser doesn’t need to be called America because, even though a Belgium brewery now owns it, the brand already means America. Doing this is like Apple changing its name to Innovation.

There’s a great deal of desperation within the Budweiser America campaign as beer sales of the major brands across the industry are dropping. The craft beers are eating market share and more drinkers are turning to wine and spirits. The major beer brands are beginning to feel they are becoming less relevant.

What the Budweiser America campaign does to the brand.

But Budweiser is still the market leader, especially its Bud Light brand, and those who prefer Bud are very loyal to the brand. You can ask a craft beer drinker what they want and they’ll ask, “Whadda got?” Ask a Bud drinker and they’ll say, “I’ll have a Bud.”

The underlying reason why Budweiser has been one of America’s strongest brands is because it is enthused with so much Americana without having to changes it name. Budweiser has already meant America.

What this demonstrates is that those at InBev (the Belgium company that owns Budweiser, along with Corona and Stella Artois) have little faith in the brand as it now stands.

Which is weird. Corona and Stella Artois are also powerful beer brands so you would think that InBev would have a great understanding of what makes brands work. The naked Budweiser America campaign is cynical because it suggests Americans will wake up and go, “Oh. Budweiser is for Americans. I never knew that.”

The campaign shows a complete misunderstanding of the power of the Budweiser brand itself. Maybe InBev doesn’t understand brand as well as we all thought.


Steph Curry has stayed true to himself

Steph Curry won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the second straight year, becoming the first unanimous MVP in league history. That feat was never accomplished by Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlin or even the great Michael Jordan.

Curry has played games this year where he could be shooting from the nosebleed section and you know he is just going to make it. His shooting style is a bit unorthodox, but he shoots with such confidence he makes it look as easy as throwing a rock into a pond.

Steph Curry
Brands could learn a thing or two from Steph Curry.

The NBA has been quietly looking for the new face of the league. As strange as it sounds, after Michael Jordan, there was a void until LeBron James showed up. While LeBron should be considered as one of the best players ever, the NBA has been in need of a refresh and Curry seems to fit the bill exactly.

He is young, scrappy, and has an adorable daughter who is as comfortable in front of the camera as her dad. Steph Curry has a wife he adores, has no off the court issues and has a refreshing appearance of little boy innocence and humility that is very seldom seen in the NBA, let alone in professional sports as a whole. He is in fact, the brandface the NBA has wanted to portray for some time. Kids see themselves as Curry and adults marvel in his performance.

Let’s hope Steph Curry keeps it up.

That is a heavy weight to bear for anyone and athletes have let us down before. But Curry appears to take it all in stride. His NBA successes have changed him little since his time at Davidson, a small private college in North Carolina. His fame and newfound money have apparently not altered his sense of himself. This is a lesson brands must always remember – stay true to who you are.

In a world where consumer tastes and desires seem to be constantly changing, brands are trying to reinvent themselves to keep up. What inevitably happens is that, as they reinvent themselves, they forget who they are and where they come from.

This does not mean that companies can’t grow and evolve. It simply means that they, like Steph Curry, should always remain grounded. I think of a company like Facebook, for example, that has become an Internet behemoth and have consciously made a decision to stay true to who it is. There are tons of articles and case studies about the company culture that Zuckerberg has created at Facebook and how he has successfully molded that culture of always working like a scrappy startup.

Continued brand success is a combination of many factors, some which are out of the control of the brand. But staying true to the fundamental principles of what made a brand successful in the first place is absolutely something that can be controlled. When brands don’t seize control, they fail.


Best Buy’s shopping experience is the worst

Just yesterday I was reminded — once again — that Best Buy is one of the most flawed stores in the retail market. Not to mention, one of my least favorite.

Which is a terrible shame because I am about the biggest tech geek around and, if the shopping experience wasn’t so annoying, I would frequent it much more. As it is, Best Buy just doesn’t understand what its customers want — to explore and not to be constantly “sold to.”

Best Buy
Best Buy is one annoying store.

It would be nice if, for once, I could visit the only electronic store in my hometown and not be haggled to join the Rewards Program or to get insurance on an item that cost $20. Really, is that too much to ask?

In fact, you can’t even check out from the registers without being ensnared in some type of Best Buy hoopla.

Best Buy tricks you.

On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped by Best Buy for a new phone case. I found one I liked and, what’s more, I managed to avoid three or four floor workers wanting to help me. One of my few wins at the store.

But that all tanked when I went to pay for my case. The gent in front of me took about five minutes to check out. What’s more, he complained to the cashier about needing to fill out his e-mail address and that he just wanted to get his “batteries”and go.

Next was my turn to pay. Immediately I understood why the guy in front of me was annoyed. There was screen after screen displayed on the credit card reader. Options were pre-selected for me, which I rushed through because there was a line of people behind me. I left with my case, which should have made me happy, but I was dissatisfied with my shopping experience and felt duped by the system.

I am not alone in thinking that Best Buy has very annoying practices. So annoying that it has turned me off as a customer.

The process has overtaken the experience at Best Buy. Until that gets fixed, it’s lost this gear hound for good.


Hulu ups the TV ante

Details are sketchy at the moment, but Hulu announced last week that it will unveil a TV streaming service next year that shows live programming, including sports.

Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed that the streaming service is negotiating with Fox, ABC, ESPN, FX and the Disney Channel for a service that doesn’t require a cable TV subscription.

Hulu
Hulu will unveil the next step in TV programming next year.

This is another crossing of the Rubicon in the changing environment of how we consume TV programming. Many of us have already cut the cord with cable TV systems as viewers grab control of what they are offered and what they pay for.

Unless you are a sports fan, it’s probably just easy enough to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and Amazon and be done with it. You don’t get live programming and Hulu shows day-old shows from the networks it has agreements with, but a new live streaming service is the logical next step.

The cable networks have responded by beefing up its On Demand services so that you get episodes of the network TV shows you subscribe to. But live programming from Hulu will trump that.

Hulu and sports?

The interesting part of this is Hulu’s inclusion of ESPN. Sports have been the key in cable TV remaining relevant because any sports fan needs cable TV or satellite TV to watch the major sports. (Or even the minor ones.)

Right now, ESPN does have a viewing app for its programming, but the app still tied into having a subscription to a cable or satellite TV service. It’s only a matter of time until it goes the HBO route and allows you to subscribe directly to the network.

Additionally, I would expect many networks to follow suit along with the streaming services themselves. What’s to keep Amazon, for example, from adopting a similar live programming framework? Or even Netflix for that matter? Or even NBC? (CBS already has something similar.)

In essence, the streaming services will become their own cable TV systems but at a lower cost. If there’s anything that has prompted the cable cutting more than anything it’s the high cost of cable and satellite TV.

Or at least the perception of the high cost. Consumers, even if they end up paying as much with all the streaming services, like the illusion of control that streaming services offer.

Cable and satellite TV fees feel imposed, while the streaming services feel ordered.

Just wait. It won’t be long until you will be able to watch the Super Bowl or the Olympics, the biggest sporting events, without subscribing to a cable or satellite TV service. Then what will Comcast and Time Warner Cable do?